Consejos Vendo y Para Mí No Tengo

By David

I was reminded of this traditional Spanish saying when I read an article by Nik Simon in this morning’s New Zealand Herald. The Spanish phrase means, “Advice I sell and for myself have none.” It is intended as a reproach for the person who has advice for everyone except for themselves. Also, some people would do well by heeding the excellent advice they so generously extend to others. Swimming New Zealand employ a Spanish High Performance Director (even the title is a bit of a joke these days), Luis Villanueva, who would do well to heed this guidance from his homeland.

Nik Simon’s article begins with the headline “Commonwealth Games: Improve or pay price, warns swim boss.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, the article goes on to describe Villanueva’s position as follows.

There was no beating around the bush from Luis Villanueva as he reflected on the campaign in Glasgow; New Zealand’s swimmers had not been good enough.

Out of the 16-strong squad picked for these Commonwealth Games, only Lauren Boyle and Sophie Pascoe finished among the medals. Just once since Brisbane in 1982 had New Zealand’s men failed to pick up a single piece of silverware.

Villanueva may carry a harmless persona, but the high-performance director warned his swimmers to improve their performance or pay the price. There will be one last chance to impress at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships next month, before the Spaniard carries out a comprehensive two-year review.

“The team hasn’t performed as well as I expected,” said Villanueva. “It’s not about the medals, it’s about seeing progression. It’s not the point to make the team at the trials, then not improve the performance over the next 15 weeks. Some of the guys have seized their opportunity here, but the ones that haven’t need to step up in three weeks time.

What a contrast; what a turnaround from the lavish praise we heard from Villanueva prior to the Games. For example – when the swim team was announced.

Swimming New Zealand High Performance Director, Luis Villanueva said the swimmers who have earned selection have produced a standard to be competitive in Glasgow.

“We look to develop swimmers who can compete at the highest levels on the world stage,” Villanueva said. “The team is built around the nucleus of swimmers who went to the world championships last year and with further hard work in the next 14 weeks I believe they all have the capability of being contenders for medals in Glasgow.

The link is to a Google cache of the press release, as the Swimming New Zealand website appears to be going through a re-design and all of its old URLs are currently broken.

In the days before the swimming began Villanueva told Radio Sport.

“The three of them (Lauren, Glen, Matt) can be really high on every event they swim. I expect them to perform better than they did in trials. If they do this I’m pretty sure they will be in medals in some events. I’m pretty sure they are going to swim well here.”

And it was all a pipe dream.

With the exception of Lauren Boyle and Corey Main every swimmer on the Glasgow team and every relay team failed to swim a personal best time. When that happens blaming the swimmers is sad, cowardly, pathetic and wrong. When that happens, the bureaucrats and coaches guiding the team have screwed up – screwed up big time. One or two bad swims may well be the athletes fault. But when a whole team fails to fire, in my view, that failure is the responsibility of those in charge. And at the new 2014 Swimming New Zealand that’s Miskimmin, Renford, Layton, Lyles and you Luis Villanueva.

How dare they try and shift the blame for the Glasgow disaster on to the swimmers. Have the guys who run Swimming New Zealand no shame? Don’t they understand that our country gave them all the money they needed, gave them our best young talent, gave them pools, gyms, medical staff and state of the art video analysis equipment. And still they failed. No one will ever convince me that with the same resources and the same attention New Zealand club coaches from Invercargill to Whangarei could not have done better than Miskimmin’s Antares Place Mazda set.

The shame of it is SNZ appear incapable of admitting fault. At least if they manned up and acknowledged their shortcomings, their failure and their inability to prepare an international swim team they could leave the sport and the country with their integrity intact. As it is they will eventually depart as failures – failures with dishonour.

We included the bold text about how the swimmers were not to blame in Glasgow before we even saw Villanueva’s comments, blaming them. That was a really, really low – as low as anything I have seen from that lot. They have been told for years that they are breeding young people who won’t hack it, then when they don’t hack it in the exact manner Swimwatch and others stated, they blame the swimmers in the press. I don’t get how these guys get away with it.

Some readers may have missed this opinion piece on the Stuff website. It seems that the mainstream media are beginning to accept the Swimwatch position. This is a summarized version of what was said.

OPINION: Nearly nine million dollars spent in four years and two medals to show for it. That’s the meagre return on investment for Swimming New Zealand following a lean Commonwealth Games display that would have been disastrous if not for Lauren Boyle.

New Zealand’s four-medal haul in the pool harked back to similar low returns from the 1998 and 2002 Games. This country hasn’t won an Olympic swimming medal since Danyon Loader won two gold at Atlanta 1996, and only the most optimistic fan would predict that drought will be broken in Rio.

Swimming is one of 13 ‘targeted sports’ for High Performance Sport New Zealand, the organisation entrusted with distributing taxpayer-backed funding. Targeted sports are those identified as having ”the best opportunity for success at Olympic Games, and World Championships”. From 2011 through to the end of this year, HPSNZ have given swimming $8,651,674 – including $2,020,544 this year.

Yet Boyle’s 400m gold and 800m silver in Glasgow are the only concrete returns on money spent on Swimming NZ. Swimming has in recent years undergone a whole-of-sport review and the organisation has battled through multiple coaching changes and dysfunctional governance. But until Boyle can be joined at elite level by more of the squad, a harsh spotlight will remain focused on a sport failing to make a splash on the world stage.

Dysfunctional governance – well that’s still in place. And the chance of swimmers joining Boyle will only happen if the sport’s regional administrators can extract the sport from this centralisation mess and provide it with a strong, diversified federal region and club based structure.

  • David

    I see that Lauren and the team had practice at 6:15am the day after the swimming ended. They will say it’s because of Pan Pacs, to which they’re all going. Fair enough, but you KNOW that the early practice time is “punishment” for their performances.
    What a surprise – you treat them like twelve year olds who need “punishment” via training (which we all know is a really shitty way to coach) and they swim like twelve year olds.
    $2,000,000 a year and they come up with this stuff. That SNZ are bad to the core.

  • David

    I was discussing this post this morning with a West Auckland parent. He said perhaps SNZ are practicing the old Royal Navy phrase.
    “The floggings will continue until morale improves.”
    Seriously sad but true.

  • h2tk

    Que pesado Luis