Archive for May, 2013

What Kind Of Men Are These

Monday, May 20th, 2013

By David

For those who have not read the Minutes of Swimming New Zealand’s 2012 Special General Meeting here, by far, is the most significant extract.

Chris Moller then addressed the Meeting

He congratulated those able to see the future of the sport.

He called for the Auckland Board and its Chief Executive to stand down, as they had requested Swimming New Zealand to do.

I have mentioned this example of Moller malice before. However, it would be remiss not to give his outburst a story of its own. You see Moller’s call shines a light deep into the soul and character of the men who control sport in New Zealand; who manage the direction of swimming. In particular it tells us much about their personal values. It tells us about Moller because he made the demand. It tells us about Miskimmin because it is inconceivable that Moller would call for the Board and Chief Executive of New Zealand Swimming’s largest Region to stand down without the approval, stated or implied, of his Sport New Zealand minder.

So why is the Miskimmin and Moller demand that Brian Palmer and the Auckland Board resign so despicable; so devoid of integrity; so full of malevolence? Well, to understand that it is helpful to understand the history that led to Moller addressing the Swimming New Zealand Special General Meeting.

Once upon a time Swimming New Zealand was run by a triumvirate known as the Coulter gang – consisting of the SNZ Chairman Murray Coulter, the CEO Mike Byrne and the High Performance Manager Jan Cameron. These three had been wonderfully unsuccessful in winning anything at Olympic level. They believed that the solution to their losing streak was to disband the sport’s federal system of governance. Byrne frequently referred to the SNZ Constitution as “unworkable”. In a plan they called “Project Vanguard” the Coulter Gang proposed stripping the Regions of the authority to control the affairs of swimming. Instead of a federal/regional structure, power would be centralized into the hands of the Swimming New Zealand Board.

A Coalition of Regions was formed to oppose Project Vanguard. Bronwyn Radford from the Bay of Plenty Region led the Coalition and Auckland provided substance and voting power. I can’t remember the other Regions that joined (Southland, Manawatu and Nelson were three) but there was, most certainly, a healthy majority of the voting membership. Project Vanguard was dead and the Coalition asked the Coulter gang and the Swimming New Zealand Board to resign. That was the least the insurrection that was Project Vanguard deserved. The stage was set. The Federal structure of Regional authority was about to be endorsed. A new Board prepared to work within a federal Swimming New Zealand was about to be elected.

For Peter Miskimmin, sitting in his Sport New Zealand office, this was a disaster. How could he control a sport where power was distributed around 14 autonomous Regions? He already had two hand-picked Institute of Director operatives sitting in on every SNZ Board meeting. And now the Regions were talking about not needing them as well. I suspect Miskimmin must have lain awake at night agonizing at the threat of a main stream Olympic sport slipping from his grasp. Defeat on this scale was not an option. What could be done?

And this is what Peter Miskimmin did. He made two phone calls. He called, Bronwyn Radford, the leader of the Coalition and he called Brian Palmer, the CEO of Auckland and representative of the largest member of the Coalition. Would they, Miskimmin asked, accept his invitation to come to Wellington, at his expense, to discuss the perilous state of swimming? Perhaps there was a better way of moving the sport forward.

At this point I would have declined the meeting. Without question and with no consideration of the consequences, I would have said no. I have little interest in seeking advice from someone whose Olympic record involves losing nine of fourteen hockey games, whose resume includes the management shambles at Surf and Bike and whose friend, Chris Moller, manages a sport that can’t score more than 45 runs against South Africa and 68 runs against the Poms. Federalism in the sport of swimming was non-negotiable. The future of swimming in New Zealand depended on that decision. If the cost of federalism was Miskimmin withdrawing his money then he could take his cheque book and bugger off. If Miskimmin wanted to challenge the Coalition of Region’s plans in Court – then bring it on.

But Bronwyn Radford and Brian Palmer are not me. They are reasonable people – even nice people. They agreed to go to Wellington. What went on down there we will never know. I used the Official Information Act to ask for the minutes of their meeting. Miskimmin declined on the grounds of commercial sensitivity. That was rubbish of course. He was just scared we might find a way of overturning whatever deal was done behind closed doors. Swimming New Zealand members would be well advised to remember that even in the face of an Official Information Act request, Miskimmin withheld minutes that discussed the future of their sport. It seems that Miskimmin’s idea of “a culture of trust, collaboration and discipline for the Sport;” – words that he has so carefully crafted into the new SNZ Constitution – does not extend to telling you and me what went on at the most important swimming meeting in a decade. Is Peter Miskimmin one of those guys that demand loyalty but give none in return?

What we do know is that the meeting resolved to have another Review of swimming. It seems that Miskimmin will propose and pay for countless Reviews until he gets the one he wants. This was at least Review number four. Chris Moller, from that winning sport of cricket, was appointed to lead the evaluation and dozens of meetings were held with interested parties. I was asked to go to Wellington for a meeting. When Moller’s Report was published it included a list of all his interviews except one – mine. I guess that’s the Moller version of trust and collaboration.

The Moller Report made numerous recommendations and proposed a new centralist authoritarian constitution. A Special General Meeting was held and Moller’s Report was accepted, the autocratic Constitution was approved. Miskimmin could sleep again. A shell shocked membership had given him more than he could have expected; Project Vanguard plus some.

And at that meeting Moller turned on Brian Palmer and the Auckland Board.

The call for their resignation was disgusting. It was putrid. I was insulted and ashamed. Why?

Well first of all the people who manage the affairs of Auckland Swimming are none of Moller or Miskimmin’s business. The membership of Auckland Swimming decides on the Board and the Board appoints Brian Palmer. Sport New Zealand – stay out of our patch.

Second, the critical point in the series of events that led to the new Constitution was Brian Palmer and Bronwyn Radford’s agreement to meet with Miskimmin in Wellington. I think they were wrong. They should never have negotiated with the enemy. Palmer and Radford did it because they are decent people. They did it out of a genuine concern for the sport and its members. The honesty and fairness of Palmer and Radford provided Miskimmin and Moller with all the opportunity they needed.

Third, even though Palmer and the Auckland Board opposed the new Miskimmin/Moller Constitution; even though they had a legal opinion that said portions of the new Constitution were illegal, Auckland did not vote against the proposal. They abstained. Moller and Miskimmin had their unopposed victory.

And Fourth, Bronwyn Radford, Brian Palmer and the Auckland Board played the major role in creating an environment for reform in Swimming New Zealand. Without that, change would never have happened. Miskimmin and Moller took advantage of an opportunity provided by Brian Palmer, Bronwyn Radford and the Board of Auckland Swimming.

Reality and justice would have been best served by Miskimmin and Moller extending a generous hand of thanks to Brian Palmer and the Auckland Board. Instead Moller turned on them; he demanded their heads on a plate; he called for then to stand down; he played the “hate-Auckland” card. Good people were vilified to build Miskimmin’s empire. It was disgusting. It took sport in my home to a new low.

It also said all we will ever need to know about the Moller and Miskimmin definition of “a culture of trust, collaboration and discipline for the Sport.”

Postscript: Some of those who currently enjoy a good job and a healthy remuneration working for Swimming New Zealand could do a lot worse than acknowledge the courage, application and persistence of Bronwyn Radford, Brian Palmer and the Board of Auckland Swimming. For it was the effort of this group – and not Miskimmin or Sport New Zealand – that provided David Lyles, Christian Renford and Luis Villanueva with the jobs they occupy today. One can only hope those three show more good manners and gratitude than Peter Miskimmin and Chris Moller from Sport New Zealand could manage.      


Saturday, May 18th, 2013

The Chief Executive of Sport New Zealand already knows that I am not his biggest fan. In my view he has used the government’s money to produce a sporting welfare state. Day after day I receive emails from people involved in sport; many who depend on Miskimmin to pay their wages. Their message is always the same – we know who the problem is, but what can we do about it?

The formula that Miskimmin has employed to impose centralized management on New Zealand sport is laughably simple. He appeals to the wish in all of us to see things done better and offers sport after sport a fully funded Review. The list of sports that have accepted a Miskimmin Review deal is now pretty long – Surf, Bike, Swimming, League and Athletics are just a few. Once the Review is accepted – and what reasonable person would decline the offer of free help – the Miskimmin trap has been set and the prey is already in the cage. A high powered “Institute of Directors” name, like Chris Moller, is employed to conduct the Review. The final report recommends a new centralized constitution. By this time members of the sport are tired and very aware that hovering in the background is the peril of no more Miskimmin money unless the recommendations of the Review are accepted. Anything is preferable to being caste out of the Miskimmin welfare state. A special meeting of the members accepts whatever is put in front of them. Coerced and beaten, another sport becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Sport New Zealand; another block in Miskimmin’s empire.

The path Miskimmin is taking New Zealand sport will not have a happy ending. Miskimmin has failed the test of the first instruction I received from the man who taught me coaching, Arthur Lydiard. “Always trust your athlete,” he said. Or in Miskimmin’s case – always trust your sport. Miskimmin does not do that. Miskimmin and his Institute of Directors friends believe deeply that they know best. New Zealand’s international results will decline. At the Olympic Games we will win less and less. We will depend more and more on independent athletes like Adams and Willis or minor sports for our success. Eventually, the problem will be exposed; Miskimmin will be replaced. A more liberal management model will be employed and sport in New Zealand will work again.

In the mean time I was interested in finding out how much the man who, in my view, is leading New Zealand sport into a dark place is costing. How much money is being spent on the source of something, I am certain, is wrong? Let’s add it up then.

We know Miskimmin’s wage is in the range of $340,000 to $350,000. So let’s call it $345,000.

We also know that in 2012 Miskimmin had expenses of $60,573.26. He spent $37,779 on airfares, $14,196 on hotels, $139 on meals, $4,792 on rental cars, $1,059 on parking, $1,571 on taxis and $1,077 on undisclosed sundry items. Believe it or not, I don’t think that expenditure on travel is out of the ordinary. It does mean that that in expenses and wages Miskimmin costs us all $405,573; almost exactly the same as the Prime Minister’s basic pay.

The one serious question that Miskimmin’s expenses do raise is – why is it necessary to do all that travel?

But before looking at that question there was one Miskimmin expense that was not disclosed on his expenses declaration. Evidentially Miskimmin incurred a $10,000 data bill and a $1,131 phone bill in September and October during two weeks in Europe. $11,131 for roaming costs is inexcusable. Since it’s clear that Miskimmin spent most of his time in the UK, I am sure he could have purchased some sort of prepaid data SIM and put it into another phone he could use a tethering device. Even if he bought a new phone over there, the savings using that phone and prepaid data would have been huge. It’s hard to comprehend the spectre of a $345,000 executive traveling the world these days with no understanding of international computer costs. Peter Miskimmin has certainly been very naughty.

But, back to the amount of domestic travel. During the year Miskimmin made 53 trips away from Wellington; 28 (53%) were to Auckland. Averaging a trip a week for twelve months is a high travel load by any standard. And it’s based on how Miskimmin sees his job. He told his political bosses and the New Zealand public that he was on a mission to improve the management of national sports organizations (NSO). He treats National sports organizations as though Sport New Zealand owns them. He behaves as though NSOs are his to manage, his to control and his to discipline. Just those NSOs mentioned in Miskimmin’s expenses report include Swimming New Zealand, Bike New Zealand, NZ Hockey, NZ Cricket and Football NZ.

Sport New Zealand’s influence is paralysing New Zealand sport. Obey Miskimmin or perish is a lethal venom. The essential quality of being a New Zealander that motivated the independence of Arthur Lydiard, Fred Allan, Arch Jelley, Duncan Laing, Justin Grace, Edmund Hillary and a dozen others is being lost. Miskimmin and his money are dumbing down talented New Zealanders. At every opportunity Sport New Zealand employ foreigners to fill vacancies in sport. Canadians, English, Germans, Spanish and a flood of Australians are being imported. If New Zealand has a dearth of talented sport’s administrators it’s probably because all the good jobs have gone to imports. Miskimmin’s idea of improving the management of NSO’s appears to be to introduce foreign management at the cost of domestic New Zealand talent. And when the foreigners go home, as they always will, New Zealand sport will be by far the worse for Miskimmin’s meddling. New Zealanders that should have been running the sport of swimming, coaching the national team and managing high performance are left discarded and untrained.

Miskimmin fails to understand that NSO’s do not belong to him. They belong to the membership – that’s you and me. Chris Moller, the man Miskimmin appointed to conduct a Review of New Zealand Swimming spoke to the Special General Meeting called to accept his Report. In his speech Moller called for the CEO of Auckland Swimming and the Auckland Board to be dismissed. The arrogance that allowed Moller to include a call for these sackings had to come from somewhere. It is impossible to believe that an agent of Miskimmin’s organization would publically call for the removal of the CEO and the Board of New Zealand’s largest swimming Region without the knowledge of his boss. Certainly Moller’s demand highlights a pretty sick culture in the fabric of Sport New Zealand. And for that we are paying the boss $340,000. Miskimmin is forever telling us he does not meddle in the management affairs of an NSO. How then does he explain his agents call for the Auckland Board and its CEO to be sacked? Perhaps it’s time to begin a foreign search for an alternative to Miskimmin.


The Cancer Spreads

Monday, May 13th, 2013

By David

Three disciplines make up the sport of triathlon. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in coaching in two of the three – athletics and swimming.

In athletics I helped coach three very good runners. Alison was a New Zealand and UK National Champion and is the current holder of New Zealand’s oldest Women’s National Record; 1000 meters in 2m 38.54s set on a lovely night in Berlin on the 17 August 1979. That time would still have ranked Alison fourth in the world in 2012. Sue was a UK National Junior 3000 meter champion. Peter was a National Champion of Wales and ran 13.20 for 5000 meters.

In swimming I have helped swimmers take part in one Olympic Games, three World Championships and two Commonwealth Games. They have won 24 National Open Championships, broken two Master’s World Records and broken 68 Open or Age Group National Records.

It is ironic therefore that I plan to devote this story to the third triathlon sport, a sport I know nothing about: cycling. In fact I only ever owned one bike. I bought it by trapping and killing opossums and selling the tokens for two shillings and six pence to the government. One thousand two hundred opossums died in order that I could become a bike owner. It was purchased from the Farmer’s Department Store in Auckland and delivered to the National Park Railway Station. I could not wait to get the bike home and proudly unpacked it at the station. I set off for home riding the black, gleaming machine along the station platform. My level of ambition however exceeded my level of skill and I crashed off the station platform on to the tracks of New Zealand Railway’s main trunk line. Bent, damaged and in need of serious repair I ended up carrying my new bike home.

Apart from that experience, my knowledge of the sport of cycling is limited to reading Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s not about the Bike”. I am sure you would agree that all this is not a substantial background on which to base a story on the sport of cycling. However let’s give it a go anyway.

I see in today’s New Zealand Herald that the Sprint Coach of New Zealand cycling, Justin Grace, has resigned. Under normal circumstances that news would mean very little. However the comments made by a guy called Mark Elliot, a bureaucrat who calls himself the Bike New Zealand (BNZ) High Performance Director, made me stop and take a closer look at the resignation of Justin Grace. Here is what Elliot is reported to have said.

Elliott said an overseas coach would replace Grace. He says they’ll look at a short term option before ideally having a fulltime sprint coach when the centralised programme begins in Cambridge next year. BNZ is leaning on a sports science approach, in highly controlled velodromes which supported that approach. BNZ has five sports scientists to analyse data and set programmes

Oh my God, “a sports science approach”, “overseas coach”, “five sports scientists, “a centralized program”, does that sound familiar? Surely, that has to be the dark hand of Miskimmin? Was the infection spreading? Was this another sport about to wither and die; paralysed by Sport New Zealand meddling? And so I read on.

It seems that Justin Grace has done a terrific job of lifting the standard of New Zealand sprint cycling. It seems that Justin Grace has also done it his way; from a garage in East Auckland with cyclists who all have keys to his open home. It seems that “Grace’s boys” have much in common with a group once known as “Arthur’s boys”. But that’s not Miskimmin’s idea of how things should work. He doesn’t want a garage, no matter how successful. Miskimmin wants a Millennium empire.

I understand deeply the way Justin Grace feels; the hurt, the confusion, the anger. Like Lydiard, Jelley, and Laing, Justin Grace knows what it takes to win. And he knows Miskimmin and Baumann are wrong. He understands New Zealand’s problem. Just read what he says.

I’m not prepared to lead a program that has a different strategic plan from what I think is needed. Lack of respect from Bike NZ is the main reason for my departure. In the right environment with a nation that respects me as a coach then yes, I would take it. At the moment, I don’t have that support or respect from Bike NZ. All the fun and success and learning is outweighed by the fact I can’t work somewhere where I don’t feel respected. The job is not finished and those guys are very capable of being Olympic champions in 2016. I’ve shed a few tears since Monday. Those riders are like sons to me and big brothers to our daughters. What we had was unique, not just in New Zealand but throughout the world.

What a mess. But not for the first time, it seems. Grace joins other coaches Tim Carswell, Andy Reid and Ken Cools in leaving Bike New Zealand for various reasons. Bike New Zealand’s coaching history mirrors the coaching changes that have beset Swimming New Zealand. And that’s why Swimwatch promotes a federal structure of control. Federalism is better able to accommodate the eccentric, the gifted, the winners. Lydiard, Grace, Hillary, Allen and Laing do not fit into Miskimmin’s centralist, bureaucratic mould. They never will. Miskimmin’s world has no place for the informality of Lydiard’s sitting room in West Auckland or Laing’s broom-cupboard office under the stairs at Moana Pool or Grace’s garage in East Auckland. Those three locations won ten Olympic medals though.

Miskimmin is building a Soviet style sports empire, based on rules, systems, reports, procedures and a word he even has engraved in the new Swimming New Zealand Constitution, discipline. A week ago Swimming New Zealand finally announced their latest coaching purchase – David Lyles. The chances are he too will fail. If he fits the Miskimmin, Baumann mould, then he won’t be good enough to produce Olympic champions from New Zealand. If he is as good as the reports say he will find the Miskimmin, Baumann environment impossibly suffocating and like so many before will head out through the Miskimmin and Baumann well-worn revolving door.

Justin Grace – go well. My knowledge of riding a bike does not quite extend down the length of the National Park Railway Station platform. However I suspect you are another victim of Sport New Zealand. Our country’s sport and cycling in particular have just lost a good one.


Friday, May 10th, 2013

By David

Regular readers of this blog will be less than surprised to hear that we do not approve of the management structure the Miskimmin crew has imposed on Swimming New Zealand. Whatever the sport, Miskimmin is committed to the centralist model of control. Swimming, in the form of the Coalition of Regions, did not want that form of governance. But Miskimmin and Chris Moller were better at the political game. They used a Review of the sport to outmanoeuvre the Coalition and push through a new constitution. That constitution is pure centralism. Miskimmin and whoever he appoints to run Swimming New Zealand own the organisation, lock, stock and barrel.

It is a huge irony that the centralist misbehaviour, called Project Vanguard, that spawned the birth of the Coalition of Regions was mild compared to the “autocratic” state Miskimmin and Moller have imposed. As so often happens, the vanquished end up in a worse position than they were at the beginning. Surrender was unconditional. Miskimmin and Moller won and exacted full measure.

The expression of their ownership took its final form in the publication of a new Regional Constitution. Every Region is compelled to adopt Miskimmin’s new Constitution. It can be rejected but the agreed price of rejection is expulsion from the organisation. A combination of three documents cedes control of swimming to Sport New Zealand and whoever they tap to be on the Swimming New Zealand Board.

  1. The new Constitution of Swimming New Zealand
  2. The new Constitution of each Region
  3. The Swimming New Zealand Code of Ethics

Clauses and provisions in these three documents consolidate power into the centre. Here is a small sample of clauses that transfer power from the Regions to Peter Miskimmin’s Swimming New Zealand Board.

Swimming Region is bound by, and must observe the rules and decisions of Swimming NZ.

Swimming Region must assist and support the operation of Swimming NZ

Swimming Region will work with Swimming NZ to support and deliver the Whole of Sport Plan including:

Implementing Swimming NZ’s facilities plan;

Complying with the policies and standards set by Swimming NZ;

Striving to achieve the KPIs for its Region set by Swimming NZ

Swimming Region shall support and work with the Board and executive of Swimming NZ to

Build a culture of trust, collaboration and discipline for the Sport;

Act consistently with the Whole of Sport Plan, policies, standards and KPIs set by Swimming NZ;

Work with Swimming NZ for the benefit of the Sport;

Comply with the Sport funding strategy;

Work with Swimming NZ as it sets the Region’s KPIs;

Pay any Amount owed by it to Swimming NZ;

Abide by all rules, lawful requests or directions made by Swimming NZ.

The following requirements must be met in regard to member’s conduct: To not speak to any media in a negative way regarding Swimming NZ Inc.

A member disobeying any rule of SNZ is liable to expulsion as the Board in its sole discretion imposes.

A Regional Association must adopt the Regional constitution prescribed by SNZ.

I am sure you get the idea. The Regions are obliged to accept a Whole of Sport plan they have never seen; KPI’s imposed by Miskimmin’s men; funding strategies set from above; a Constitution prescribed by SNZ; a facilities plan that may be wholly inappropriate for their region; and best of all pay any amount SNZ demands.

The prohibition on members speaking to any media is blatantly illegal. What else would you call the SNZ rule when Clause 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 says, “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”

Some readers may be thinking all this is pretty dull; the dry and esoteric stuff of lawyers and academics. You may even be asking, “What’s this got to do with swimming?”

Well, I guess the point is, there is usually nothing too bad about people like Miskimmin, Moller, Layton and Renford wanting to amass power. I prefer a federal structure but these four decided they wanted centralized power and that’s what they have delivered. The key point now is, how are they going to use their power? Power in itself is not a problem – the abuse of power is an assault on us all.

So, will those who have accumulated power at Swimming New Zealand use it wisely? Time will tell. No I mean that. Time really will tell us whether those who now control the sport are able to use their power wisely.

They must not be prejudged but the signs are not good. Do you know, in Auckland, we have a swimming official called Jo Draisey – she will be incensed at being mentioned in Swimwatch. Without Jo Draisey though I shudder to think how swim meets in Auckland would survive. She puts out the timekeeper’s chairs, installs touch pads and runs the results room. Jo Draisey is at every meet, from the most humble Level Three competition to the National Championships; there is nothing elitist about her contribution. Jo Draisey is exceptional but many Regions have people like her. Beth Meade from Hawkes Bay/Poverty Bay was one. Jeannie Sibun from Counties/Manukau fits the mould. I’m sure you know the sort of volunteer I mean. One of the first things the four men who now run SNZ did with their new power was to impose an annual membership fee on the Jo Draisey’s of New Zealand swimming. Anyone capable of that abuse is capable of anything. Shake their hand by all means but count your fingers afterwards.

The call to dump Brian Palmer and the Auckland Board, the demand to isolate me because I write a swimming blog and the history of altering meeting minutes suggest there are bad things ahead. At Swimwatch we will be watching. New Zealanders do not take kindly to bureaucrats who abuse power. When it happens we will write about it. We will use the Sports Tribunal, the Courts, whatever means we can to expose “malfeasance in office” or “official misconduct.” Swimming New Zealand – you have won power. Our advice is that you use it with caution and wisdom.

Would The Next SNZ Coach Please Stand Up

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

So Bill Sweetenham has saddled up and ridden out of town again. In Bill’s case, his saddle is usually a first class seat and his horse has names like B747 and A380. As he leaves town the interesting thing is the coaching chaos his departure represents. Have a look at this. Here is a list of coaches Swimming New Zealand, High Performance Sport New Zealand and Sport New Zealand have employed to coach a World Short Course Champion called Lauren Boyle.

  1. February 2013 Australian Mark Regan
  2. March 2013 Spanish National Coach in Spain
  3. March 2013 Australian Bill Sweetenham
  4. April 2013 Spanish SNZ High Performance Director Luis Villanueva
  5. April 2013 Australian Bill Sweetenham – again
  6. May 2013 Spanish SNZ High Performance Director Luis Villanueva – again
  7. June 2013 (possibly) Englishman David Lyles

In four months Boyle has had seven changes of coach. No one can survive that. Perhaps High Performance Sport New Zealand don’t realise that the number of coaches Lauren Boyle has is not a measure of how well she is coached. The swimmers in the circus they call the Millennium Institute must rapidly be assuming the character of damaged goods. I have said it before but it is worthwhile repeating. The members of any club, anywhere in the world who presented their swimmers with seven coaching changes in four months would immediately dismiss the management committee. But at the Millennium Institute, Peter Miskimmin wanders around New Zealand calling the whole thing a huge success. Pretty soon he’s going to be the only one who believes that’s true.

Well, in order that there is no misunderstanding, and for the record, I think the past four months are a disgrace. When an organization or a coach takes on the job of assisting an athlete, that job carries with it a huge responsibility. Swimmers like Lauren Boyle are expected to swim for twenty five hours or so every week. Their commitment is absolute. Swimming is their life. Pain is their constant companion. Their commitment must be revered.

Here is how I describe the responsibility of a coach in my first book on swimming, “Swim to the Top”.

“So a coach is someone with whom you travel, who is a means of conveying the student or athlete along a rough road to a difficult destination. There is a moral in the dry dust of the dictionary. If we think of coaching as a means of travel, we may perceive more clearly both the importance and the limits of the coach’s role. The coach has indispensable functions: to instruct, to motivate and to inculcate strategy, especially that long-term strategy which no young competitor can know by instinct. The coach should also observe clearly defined limits: not to intrude into the ultimate aloneness of the competitor nor to diminish the essentially individual satisfaction of sporting achievement. The coach’s achievement and satisfaction are equally real, equally valid, but different. The means of travel is not the traveller. I am made uneasy by coaches who speak of “we”, as if athlete and coach were a composite being.”

In the past four months, and in spite of Miskimmin’s outlandish claims, Swimming New Zealand have not measured up to that standard; have not performed their coaching duties; have let down New Zealand’s best swimmers and are in breach of their coaching obligation to a World Short Course Champion. The primary influence determining the standard of an athlete’s performance should be talent and work. Their results should be in their hands, in their control. But for Boyle and the other New Zealand swimmers at the World Championships in Barcelona that will not be the case. The primary issue influencing this New Zealand team will be Miskimmin’s coaching disaster. Responsibility for any performance shortcomings in Barcelona belong firmly in Miskimmin’s home, the AMP Building, 86 Customhouse Quay, Wellington.

Another aspect of Miskimmin’s management is highlighted by the Swimming New Zealand coaching circus. Everyone is a foreigner. From Spain, from Australia, from England – any casual observer would be excused for forming the view that New Zealanders just don’t know how to coach. In fact that is far from the truth. New Zealand’s best swimmers have been coached by New Zealanders. Or at least they were until Miskimmin came along. Hilton Brown coached Moss and Kingsman, Lincoln Hurring coached Gary Hurring, Bret Naylor coached Anna Simcic, Duncan Laing coached Danyon Loader and I coached Toni Jeffs when she won a bronze medal in what was then the World Short Course Championships.

The only way we will put Miskimmin’s immature love for things foreign right is to produce champions away from his Millennium Institute. Changing the future is in our hands. Miskimmin, Baumann, Sweetenham and Villanueva are wrong, but it is up to New Zealand coaches to prove it. We have not done that and we must. At least that’s the thought that happily gets me up at 4.30am every morning.

One final point – why has it taken so long to employ David Lyles? Swimming New Zealand won’t tell us. They never discuss bad news. But I don’t think the delay can possibly be completely explained by events in China. There has to be more to it that the spin coming out of Pelorus House. Their version of events is that Lyles had contractual details to conclude with his Shanghai team. That may be true but it does not explain away two or three months. My guess, and it is only a guess based on arranging for several foreigners to come and work in New Zealand, is that something has gone wrong with his immigration application. I wouldn’t put the house on it, but I’d wager a small amount that Miskimmin has had to go along Lambton Quay to his political bosses and ask for a waiver of some sort for Lyles to be allowed into the country. He will get it of course. Politics is his strong game. But I do wonder – what sort of waiver? The possibilities are a health problem, a family issue or a criminal problem of some sort. My guess is a health problem – only because, in my experience, that’s been the most common cause of a delay. If an immigration matter is postponing Lyles’ arrival it would be better for Swimming New Zealand to let its members know what it is. Otherwise our imaginations run riot. What have Immigration found? Should we be concerned?

PS – Dear Mr. Miskimmin,

Now that you have taken over responsibility for the performance of Swimming New Zealand could you please instruct your underlings to put the flyer and qualifying times for the 2013 Short Course Nationals on their website? A little less time spent on the North Shore of Auckland and a little more attention to the rest of us would go a long way. Many young New Zealanders want to know what they have to do to swim in Wellington. It would be a step forward if you could tell them.