Absolute Control Over SNZ

By David

Some Swimwatch readers may have noticed a pause in postings to this blog. For some that may also be cause for celebration. At the Wellington Short Course Nationals Neville Sutton, the boss of the New Zealand Swim Coaches Association described me as the “elephant in the room”. I am not quite sure what he meant by that, not so flattering, description. However, I am not concerned about Neville being upset that I have revealed his opinion. He also told me he never reads Swimwatch. It seems the national Swim Coaches Association is not being led by the most open minded of human spirits.

This “elephant’s” writings have been on hold partly because of the National Championships but primarily because the birth of my first grandchild seemed to be more important. My daughter Jane – some of you may remember her, she swam for New Zealand and held a few open titles and an open New Zealand 200 metre breaststroke short course record before taking up a four year swimming scholarship at Washington State University – and her partner Stephen, in the week after the Nationals, had a little baby boy, Samuel James. It’s not every day you become a grandparent for the first time. That did seem more important than Swimwatch or even the misbehaviour of Swimming New Zealand. And Jane, of course, had more important events to occupy her time than publish Swimwatch stories.

However I have been spurred back into action by a comment received today from a reader who signs him or herself as “Please”. This is what the comment says

“Please write an article about what you would do if you had absolute control over SNZ!”

Now that is a big subject. Sufficiently big that to discuss it in any detail would occupy many thousands of words. And so with all the failings wrapped up in generalities here is what I would do if I had absolute control over Swimming New Zealand.

  1. I would change the constitution. The current Swimming New Zealand constitution centralizes and protects power into the hands of a small undemocratic clique. I would favour a very federal democratic constitution where power is vested in the Regions. Right now the Chairman of the Regions receive a report from Layton and Renford each month; scraps from the master’s table. I would expect this to be reversed. Power must be vested in the membership. The regions should provide Renford with their expectations of his duties. The Swimming New Zealand Board would be comprised of democratically elected delegates from

    1. Otago/Southland

    2. Canterbury/West Coast/Nelson-Marlborough

    3. Wellington/ Wanganui

    4. Taranaki/Manawatu/Hawkes Bay-Poverty Bay

    5. Bay of Plenty/Waikato

    6. Counties/Auckland/Northland

  2. I would take Swimming New Zealand out of the learn to swim activity. This was one recommendation of the Moller report that I really thought made sense. The reasons outlined in the Moller report were good and well made. But, would you believe it, the current mob went back on their promise to a Special General Meeting and stayed up to their eyeballs in something that they are bad at and is not their core business.

  3. I would close the two government run swim schools at the Millennium Institute in Auckland and at the Regional Aquatic Centre in Wellington. Swimmers currently in those programs would be asked to find coaching at private club programs either here or overseas.

  4. Assuming Sport New Zealand funding stayed at its current level I would empower the club coaching structure throughout New Zealand. I would charge every club with the responsibility of producing international winning swimmers. I would visit every club in the country and ask for a business plan of the swimmers in their care who had the potential to swim for the country and what resources they required to see that happen. I would then support approved clubs with as much financial assistance as was available and I would hold them accountable for the performance of their business plan. New Zealand would be transformed from a privileged coterie of two into a team of 50 or 60 well supported coaches working towards the same goal; a structure far more likely to win than the centralized edifice we have at present.

  5. I would put more emphasis and importance on the relatively new open water swimming portion of the sport.

  6. I would abolish the membership fee currently charged to volunteer officials.

  7. I would abandon Swimming New Zealand’s coaches’ education program. I would sign an agreement with the American Swim Coaches Association to provide a comprehensive qualification program in New Zealand. This would mean every New Zealand coach would earn qualifications acknowledged around the world; something certainly not the case right now. The standard of education would be better and the qualifications more respected and recognized.

  8. I would reduce the cost of the Head Office. Abandoning learn to swim and closing the Millennium/Wellington swim schools would cause a significant drop in staff numbers. I would be surprised if the office function could not be run at about 20% of its current cost.

  9. I would return all the Mazda SUVs.

  10. I would sack Renford and Villanueva and replace them with two appointees who would kill me if I mentioned their names in this report.

  11. Lyles and Hurring would need to find or return to privately funded club coaching programs.

  12. I would bring on board an international sponsor who has already indicated support of $NZ1.6 million for a program including the principles detailed above; but not a penny for the state run monopoly that is currently competitive swimming in New Zealand. The amount of $NZ1.6 million is what it currently costs to keep the Millennium Institute in business. A diversified, democratic Swimming New Zealand would probably see Miskimmin take his toys home. But that doesn’t matter we can get the money elsewhere.

  13. I would introduce concepts totally foreign to the current organization; openness and honesty. I would publish the minutes of every Board, Management and Committee Meeting together with the voting record of all Board and Management members. Unless it was illegal to publish something discussed, every decision and every vote would be available on the website. No more “17 Antares Place, behind closed doors”.

And so that’s a list for my first 100 days in power. I’m sure there is much that I have forgotten. But even this would radically change the organization for the better. For too long the centralized structure imposed on the sport by Peter Miskimmin has raped and pillaged the grass roots resources of the sport. My alterations would see the enormous reservoir of talent and power held by the membership harnessed and used to produce winning swimmers in international competition.