Archive for July, 2013

So What Is Donna Bouzaid Going To Do?

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By David

The answer is no one knows. We do know she has been appointed as Swimming New Zealand’s first “Elite Youth Development Coach”. But what that means is anyone’s guess. The job specification calling for applications was vague and provided little information about what the successful applicant was expected to do between nine and five each day.

The appointment of Bouzaid has done nothing to provide further information or clarity. Swimming New Zealand’s press release tells us all about Bouzaid but nothing about what she is expected to do in her new job. I mean I’m pleased Bouzaid swam Cook Strait in 1985 and had two swimmers on New Zealand’s Beijing Olympic team. I’m delighted that Lauren Boyle won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, 2006 and that Daniel Bell won three gold medals at the 2008 world junior swimming championships in Mexico. But all that tells me nothing about what Donna Bouzaid is going to do as the “Elite Youth Development Coach”. Is her job going to affect my life in any way?

Even Bouzaid appears to be confused. In an interview with the Taranaki Daily News she is reported to have said, “It’s a new role so we’re starting off with a blank piece of paper,” I wonder what that means? Is that code for “no one has told me what I’m expected to do yet,” or “I know exactly what I’m going to do, but I’m not going to tell you because I know you won’t like it?”

In the same Taranaki Daily News interview Bouzaid tried to avoid telling us anything more about her new job by saying the things Swimming New Zealand types always say; phrases that everyone wants to hear but that mean little and tell you even less. Phrases like “helping New Zealand’s young swimmers realise their full potential” and:

“My role is going around the country coaching the coaches who have swimmers 18 and under in their programmes,” she said. This is part of Swimming New Zealand’s talent identification programme. The goal is to turn those coaches and their swimmers into high performance coaches and athletes.” This means giving them the skills and knowledge to compete at the top level; the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and world championships.”

New Zealand take note. There is nothing in there, apart from Bouzaid’s admission that she is, “part of Swimming New Zealand’s talent identification programme,” that suggests Donna Bouzaid is about to prowl around New Zealand looking for Millennium Institute recruits. However I would like to hear Bouzaid specifically deny that she was not a Millennium talent scout. Why?

Well in the past week, two prominent members of the swimming community have told me they are convinced that is exactly what Donna Bouzaid has been hired to do. If that is true and Bouzaid is a scout looking to recruit club swimmers into the Millennium Program then I would prefer her to stay away from our club. Anyone who recruits swimmers for the fiasco that is Swimming New Zealand’s centralized state programme is not welcome.

However if Bouzaid’s new role is to strengthen what our club does with West Auckland swimmers then she will be more than welcome. However, because there is confusion, it would be best for Donna Bouzaid to clarify this aspect of her role, before we assume the worst and have “Do not enter” signs printed in preparation for her arrival.

I would be surprised and disappointed if Bouzaid had accepted a job as a Millennium talent scout. For years she fought tooth and nail with Jan Cameron over this very principle. I was coaching in the United States at the time and so have little knowledge of the detail of what went on. But, from what I’ve heard, Jan Cameron did not make life easy for Bouzaid when they were both North Shore Club coaches. Cameron prevented Bouzaid from coaching older and faster swimmers. Understandably frustrated, Bouzaid moved to West Auckland. A few years on and she was coaching some very good swimmers. But even then, I’m told, she had Jan problems. In spite of two Bouzaid coached swimmers making the Beijing Olympic team, Cameron put all sorts of obstacles in the way of Bouzaid’s appointment to the Olympic team coaching roster. Eventually Bouzaid was appointed.

With this history of fighting Swimming New Zealand, in the form of Jan Cameron, it would be disappointing if Bouzaid was about to cross the aisle; the gamekeeper was about to become poacher. The personnel at Swimming New Zealand may have changed but Bouzaid needs to understand that we still feel the same about our best young swimmers as she did about Daniel Bell and Lauren Boyle. Our swimmers are not for sale to Donna Bouzaid any more than Bozaid’s swimmers were not for sale to Jan Cameron.

The concern that Bouzaid may have conveniently changed her allegiances is heightened by the conclusion to the Taranaki Daily News interview. Here is what Bouzaid is reported to have said.

The sport of swimming is taking some great leaps and bounds. It’s really an exciting time for the future of our sport. It’s really good to see the new people at the top of our sport now. Everyone’s on the same wave-length and it’s looking good for the future.”

High praise indeed. But is this the first salvo in a Bouzaid case that argues that, now it’s fine for club coaches to send their best swimmers to the Swimming New Zealand programme because the organization to full of nice, new people – not at all like the horrible ones Bouzaid had to deal with a few years ago. Are Swimming New Zealand banking on Bouzaid being the perfect saleswoman for the new regime because she fought so hard with the old one? She knows what real bastards are like so you can trust her when she says these new guys are great. It’s all changed from Bouzaid’s day. These good people will really look after your club’s best swimmers.

I have a feeling that’s exactly what’s happening and I’d like to hear Bouzaid deny it’s true. And if she doesn’t calm our concerns? Then, before any club coach opens his or her club to Bouzaid’s approach it would be worthwhile asking her the question.