Rent-a-Businessman and Aussie Cast-offs

By David

I don’t usually agree with the Yahoo sport’s reporter who uses the by-line, “Man in the Stand”. But this week “Man in the Stand” wrote a super commentary on the turmoil in Chris Moller’s cricket empire. How odd that the two most dysfunctional sports in New Zealand have Chris Moller in common. “Man in the Stand”‘s report included the phrase that is the title of this week’s Swimwatch blog. It seems that some of us involved in swimming are not the only ones beginning to identify the Moller and Miskimmin management formula. It seems that a Wellington suit or a foreign import is their answer to every problem. As an example, look at swimming in New Zealand. There’s a Canadian in charge of something at High Performance (excuse the irony) Sport. An Australian is now the boss at Pelorus House. A business suit is the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand. A Spaniard is responsible for High Performance (excuse the extreme irony) swimming.  And a pom called David Lyles has been asked to be New Zealand’s new National Coach. If he has any brains he won’t come anywhere near New Zealand. Certainly he should speak first to the procession of really good people, starting with Clive Rushton, who have come to New Zealand to be the National Coach. They have all struggled and left, sadder and wiser as a consequence of their brush with New Zealand sporting bureaucracy. Our message to those who love cricket is simply – we know what you mean.

The parody that passes as High Performance swim coaching in New Zealand assumed new heights this week. When you read about the chaos remember this is the sport that Miskimmin is running around the country telling everyone what a grand job he has done, reorganizing swimming. Well, here is a sample of the state of Miskimmin’s new swimming.

  1. After four years swimming at Cal Berkley; a program that must rate as one of the world’s best and most stable, New Zealand’s finest swimmer, Lauren Boyle, has had four coaches in three months. Boyle has had to accept instructions from the previous National Coach, Mark Regan, an unknown Spanish Coach at a high altitude camp somewhere in Spain, the expensive and seemingly elusive Bill Sweetenham and coaching newcomer Luis Villanueva. If David Lyles accepts the National Coaching job, he will be Boyle’s fifth coach and still inside three months. When Boyle signed up to join Miskimmin’s SNZ program, the organization had a duty to look after her. They have not done that. No one will convince me that having five coaches in three months is good for one of the world’s best swimmers. The “fruit salad” of coaching techniques she has experienced will be causing irreparable damage. Miskimmin and SNZ are in the process of losing another talented New Zealander. Just think about it. If the Committee of the Wairoa Swimming Club in Hawke’s Bay came up with five coaching changes in three months, parents of their ten year olds would be asking for the Committee to step down. But at Swimming New Zealand, Miskimmin is proud of what he has done. He keeps telling everybody how good it is. Truth is Swimming New Zealand’s performance isn’t up to running the Wairoa Swimming Club, let alone the country.
  2. Swimmers are leaving the Millennium Institute. Ingram has retired. Snyders has escaped to Dave Salo in Los Angeles and two others are planning to move across the Tasman. Would the last swimmer leaving please switch out the lights? Soon there won’t be much for the new National Coach to look after. David Lyles, go home, all the swimmers have left. Certainly a huge sum of money is being spent on a Miskimmin/SNZ extravagance on the North Shore that is rapidly becoming smaller and slower than a good club’s program.
  3. Bill has been found. Evidently the elusive Bill Sweetenham is being brought back to fill in until David Lyles is ready to tell his Club in China that he wants the New Zealand job. This is how Swimming New Zealand recently spun the story.

The CEO confirmed the appointment of the High Performance Coach commencing in early May. There remains a delay in announcing the name of the new coach until all contractual obligations have been fulfilled in China where the coach is presently appointed. Discretion was requested until this appointment is made public.

Bill Sweetenham will continue in the interim period to provide the consistency in program delivery until the arrival of the new coach.

I almost died when I read their last sentence; the bit about Bill Sweetenham providing “consistency in program delivery.” Swimming New Zealand wouldn’t know the meaning of consistency. Remember their record of five coaches and vanishing swimmers. Bill is hardly a model of constancy either. He abandoned the UK a year before his contract expired, a year before the Beijing Games and decided to skip the second half of this year’s New Zealand World Championship trials. That sentence in the Swimming New Zealand minutes isn’t accurate reporting. That sentence is just “covering-your-arse” spin.

  • And while all this has been going on Luis Villanueva has been standing in coaching the Miskimmin and Swimming New Zealand elite program; the program that’s costing us $3.2million a year. But Villanueva is not a coach. He’s an administrator, an aquatic suit, a swimming bureaucrat. He’s the guy who gets the Aqua Blacks to fill in forms about their emotions and feelings. I imagine, the CEO of NZ Rugby, Steve Tew, would not think it wise to start coaching the All Blacks. But this is not rugby. This is swimming. And in swimming if you worship St.Miskimmin, if you tow the party line, if you are foreign and can blow bubbles underwater, you’ll be fine to coach Lauren Boyle.

Swimming New Zealand has come up with one new initiative. Their plan is to introduce a zone based competition in which four zones around New Zealand compete against each other, representing their areas. The proposal will be discussed fully in our next Swimwatch report. However the problem with any proposal of this type is that it will always be seen as window dressing. While the core of the sport is rotten, while swimmers like Lauren Boyle are not being coached properly, while 80% of the country’s national titles are being won in times slower than the winner’s personal best, while a fortune is being spent propping up a socialist swimming empire, while the number of spectators at the Nationals would fit into a Mini Clubman, there is no merit in a promoting a huge advertising budget. Swimming New Zealand – you need to address the basics before you get involved in zone competitions. Otherwise, all you are going to display is the deficiency of your product. No new paint job is going to mask the fact that the swimming hull is riddled with rust.

Lydiard attracted 50,000 to Western Springs to watch track and field athletics. Some years later Dick Quax attracted the same number to Mt.Smart. They did this because the sport was genuine. It was not run by Wellington suits and foreign cast-offs. Colourful, privately coached New Zealanders were beating the world; were setting world records; were making news. People wanted to see them perform. Quax, Walker, Dixon, Snell, Halberg, Magee and Baillie were household names. None of those factors apply in swimming. The product does not appeal – and in those circumstances all the presentation in the world will not make any difference. Do not promote a product that is in its current state of disrepair. Most New Zealander’s know swimming is in a bad way. Don’t prove it by holding up what we’ve got now for all the world to see. Presenting a Communist era Lada as a new Mercedes will fool no one.