Archive for November, 2013

Miskimmim & Renford Apply Parkinson’s Law

Monday, November 11th, 2013

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.

Top Dog Says No To High Performance Centre

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

By David

No one will be surprised to read that I view the Millennium High Performance Centre as a waste of time and money. The millions spent on facilities, coaches and support staff produce nothing. Without exception New Zealand’s best performers have been prepared elsewhere. Danyon Loader stayed at his home in Dunedin with his larger than life coach, Duncan Laing. Valery Adams trains in Switzerland. Her brother plays basketball in the NBA and honed his trade in the United States. New Zealand’s best male and female runners, Nick Willis and Kim Smith, also train in the USA. Lydia Ko has never needed the government’s Millennium largess. Scott Dixon, Russell Coutts, Dean Barker, Sir Mark Todd, Sir John Walker, Trent Bray (world champion swimmer) and a dozen others have never been anywhere near the state run institution.

And so we know several things for sure. We know that elite sporting performance does not require a state funded high performance centre. We also know that the statistics seem to support the view that an athlete’s performance is best nurtured in their home location with a coach of their choosing.

What I have never been able to find is a super star athlete who specifically makes a comparison between the Millennium socialist method of preparation and private enterprise care. Never that is until today. Ironically my example comes from Spain. Ironic because Luis Villanueva, the person selected by Miskimmin and Renford, to promote the use of the Millennium High Performance Centre in swimming, is from Spain.

One would hope that Villanueva would know the history of Spain’s best athlete. To be Spain’s best sportsperson is no mean achievement. Spain has been the home of sporting superstars such as golf Seve Ballesteros, cycling Alberto Contador, moto GP Jorge Lorenzo, football Cesc Fabregas, Formula 1 Fernando Alonso, Basketball Pau Gasol and football Andres Iniesta. But best of them all is tennis player, Rafael Nadal; ranked number one in the world, winner of thirteen Grand Slam tournaments, Olympic Gold medalist and career earnings of $US61 million.

I’ve just read his book. It’s a good read about a person who is clearly good in ways beyond his sporting achievements. As a young tennis player Nadal demonstrated a precocious talent for tennis. And soon the Spanish tennis federation’s version of Luis Villanueva came knocking; came wanting Rafael Nadal to join their High Performance Centre in Barcelona. Here is how Nadal describes the episode.

“Around that time I had a chance to break my ties with Toni (Nadal’s tennis coach).  I was offered a scholarship to move to Barcelona to train at the High Performance Centre of San Cugat, one of the best professional tennis academies in Europe.  It was another big decision for me and the truth is I am not very good at making decisions even now.  So at moments like this I listen to what other people have to say before trying to weigh up the arguments.  I don’t like to have opinions on things until I’ve got hold of all the facts.  On this particular decision it was my parents I listened to more than Toni and they had it very clear.  Given that we had a choice, being well-off enough not to have to take the scholarship, my parents view was, “He is doing very well with Toni and besides where is a boy going to be better off than at home.”  Their main fear, never mind my tennis game, was that I might lose my bearings in Barcelona alone without my family.  They did not want me to become a problem adolescent.  Avoiding that was more important to them than seeing me achieve success in my tennis career.

I was glad that was the decision my parents made because in my heart of hearts I did not want to leave home either.  And I am gladder still today looking back on it.  Grating on my nerves as Toni sometimes was I knew I had a good thing going with him.  I was not going to find a better coach or guide.

Success might have gone to my head in Barcelona.  It never would with Toni or my family around all of whom conspired to keep me grounded.”

So there you have it. Nadal had the wisdom to say, “No”. To say no for the reasons detailed in Swimwatch over and over again; detailed on these pages since the very day Jan Cameron first came up with the grandiose Millennium scheme. And Cameron’s academy was not one of the best in Europe or anywhere else. The real tragedy was that she worked at her High Performance Centre for a decade, she processed two generations of New Zealand’s best swimmers, she spent a royal ransom and at Olympic events she won nothing. Meanwhile Nadal stayed at home, with his hometown coach and certainly did better than that.

They say, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” That’s just fine as far as Swimming New Zealand is concerned. Let them pour millions into their North Shore void. Who cares? The really important thing is that the current generation of young swimmers do not to repeat the mistake of former swimmers seduced by a Millennium offer. When Luis comes knocking, read carefully again what Nadal thought of a similar deal and what he decided. Consider the history of failure that Villanueva is peddling. Reflect on the accuracy of Nadal’s warning. Ponder Nadal’s sporting success.

And in an unseemly rush don’t dash over to the North Shore like I hear one west Auckland swimmer has done recently. Instead politely ask Villanueva to leave; pack your swimming bag and head down to your old coach at your local pool and get stuck into the best training session you’ve ever swum. Then like a really good Spanish athlete called Nadal you too will understand the meaning of, “Grating on my nerves as Toni sometimes was I knew I had a good thing going with him.  I was not going to find a better coach or guide. Success might have gone to my head in Barcelona.  It never would with Toni or my family around all of whom conspired to keep me grounded.”

Better than that, you will have just made one of the most important decisions along the road to being a champion swimmer.