Miskimmim & Renford Apply Parkinson’s Law

By David

Parkinson’s Law is the adage which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Miskimmin and Renford appear to enhance the maxim to read “work expands so as to fill the time and employees available for its completion. And that should concern every swimming club in New Zealand.

Unbelievably Swimming New Zealand have advertised for two Assistant Coaches; one to work at the Millennium Institute in Auckland and the other to work with Gary Hurring in Wellington. The new coaches are going to be paid $45,000 each plus the expenses that go with a swim coach’s job. The two positions will cost at least $110,000; an amount Miskimmin must have given Renford the okay to spend. After all, it is the government’s money; our money they are spending. I have said this before and every day it seems to be confirmed; Miskimmin and Renford are going to spend whatever it takes to prove that the 2012 coup d’état at Swimming New Zealand will work. If money can buy Olympic success, they will spend it.

I hope they are wrong. Olympic gold medals should not be for sale. Olympic gold medals are not for sale. Miskimmin and Renford have still to learn that lesson. I have just finished reading Bear Grylls autobiography. He is an amazing fellow. By age 23 he had been accepted into the elite British SAS and had climbed Mt Everest. On both occasions Grylls writes about the pride he felt in achieving tasks money cannot buy. Courage, sweat, skill, humility, endurance and character are not for sale. I think Jan Cameron thought money would buy New Zealand success in a swimming pool. If she did, she was wrong. Miskimmin and Renford will be wrong as well.

In the meantime it will be mesmerising to witness the extravagance of their ambition. Which brings us back to the two new coaches. What on God’s good earth are they going to do? The job advertisement says they will:

Support the Head Coach in the delivery and execution of daily training programmes in accordance with the annual and long term training plan. Run and direct workouts in the absence of the Head Coach. Provide input and ideas into the design of individual and group training programmes. Have involvement in running and implementing the dry land programme. Help to establish an environment that fosters positive team attitudes, encourages self-discipline, sportsmanship and responsibility. Attend competitions and camps as required.

Really? Two full time coaches in Auckland for eight swimmers. Even the most severe critic of Swimwatch must agree that is a stunning extravagance. I’ve just visited the Plymouth Leander swim club in the UK and watched the Lithuanian world breaststroke record holder and the UK national breaststroke champion at training. On his own, their coach, Jon Rudd, was caring for 25 swimmers in four 50m lanes. A ratio of 1:25 and no one was being neglected. Rudd’s attention to each swimmer was textbook. Some readers may remember the group of runners known as Arthur’s Boys. There was Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, Bill Ballie, John Davies, Barry McGee, Lawrie King, Ernie Haskell, Ray Puckett, Jeff Jullian, Kerry Williams, Merv Hellier; about a dozen world class runners. Between them this team won Olympic, World and Commonwealth gold, silver and bronze medals, broke World and Commonwealth records and dominated the running world. They were also coached by one man, unpaid and on his own.

Even Swimming New Zealand’s Wellington team only has thirteen swimmers. Two coaches for Gary Hurring’s thirteen swimmers? Gary Hurring’s father was once one of New Zealand’s best swimming coaches. On Auckland’s North Shore he coached a dozen of New Zealand’s best swimmers, including his son Gary. I hate to think what he would have made of the need for two highly paid coaches for thirteen swimmers. Lincoln Hurring was a colourful, larger than life character; it would fun to hear his opinion. True, Wellington is not as bad as Auckland but it is still a joke that sends the sport all the wrong messages. Messages of waste, largess and extravagance; of values that demand privilege ahead of work, massage oils ahead of sweat.

But is there a sinister side to these appointments? Perhaps Miskimmin and Renford do not believe eight Auckland and thirteen Wellington swimmers need four coaches. Maybe they know that a coach to swimmer ratio of 1:5 is ridiculous over-coaching. Could this be their preparation for the future? They already have Donna Bouzaid out and about scouting clubs, evaluating New Zealand’s best talent.

Perhaps the new appointments have nothing to do with the state’s existing swimmers? Possibly the new coaches are being put in place to coach the talent about to be taken from clubs around New Zealand. I would not be at all surprised. It’s the way every state/government agency works. Power and money install a deep belief in their invincibility; of their divine right to rule. They see the press-gang transportation of swimmers to Wellington and Auckland as a social service. They are convinced they can do it better. For sixteen years they have ruled over an Olympian desert, but of course they are better than you and me. They are the state. How could anyone want to stay in Carterton or Napier or Invercargill when they have Christian Renford standing on the Auckland Harbour Bridge with his arms and wallet open? Miskimmin has the less glamorous task of spanning the Mt Victoria Tunnel in a welcoming embrace.

Unfortunately, it’s not a joke. The signs look ominously like an organization preparing for an influx of new talent – your talent and mine. I’ve heard many coaches tell me that Renford, Bouzaid, Lyles, Layton and Villanueva are really good guys. That may be true. However beware – if their geniality lowers your caution it may make you easier to plunder. Remember Parkinson, “work expands so as to fill the time and employees available for its completion” and right now Swimming New Zealand is gathering plenty of time and employees. All they need is the “work”. And that’s where you come in.