What Is The Alternative?

By David

This is an edited version of a story that appeared on Swimwatch yesterday

It will be no surprise to learn that this blog does not approve of the centralist, socialist policy Peter Miskimmin recently imposed on Swimming New Zealand. For ten years, under Jan Cameron it failed. And Jan was better at it than the current lot. In all probability, another generation of swimmers; another $20,000,000 will be lost before we have the opportunity to change. A couple of years ago, Brian Palmer and Bronwen Radford almost pulled off something better, before they mistakenly did a deal with the Peter Miskimmin and lost us the opportunity of real reform.

Bronwen Radford is still the Chair of Swimming Bay of Plenty and was re-elected at their AGM in July 2014.  Brian Palmer however has gone from his position in New Zealand regional administration. He is now the CEO of Saudi Arabia Swimming. And New Zealand sport is a poorer place. Why Radford continues only she would know but I am guessing it has something to do with her passion for the sport in the Bay of Plenty. Swimming New Zealand probably wish she was in Saudi Arabia with Brian Palmer. She continues to make life difficult for Swimming New Zealand.  At the AGM, I am told, she was the only person that challenged their performance.

The Palmer and Radford mistake was expensive. It will cost a generation of New Zealand swimmers their swimming careers. The chances of Miskimmin’s socialist program working in international swimming is close to zero. However the Palmer and Radford decision to trust Sport New Zealand was not bad or malicious. It was a decision of decent and worthy people who wanted to see something good; something better. They were shafted. That’s all.

And if you don’t believe me remember how Miskimmin invited Palmer and Radford down to Wellington and told them how important they were to the successful running of swimming in New Zealand. Less than six months later, Miskimmin’s hired gun, Chris Moller, was calling for Brian Palmer to be sacked as CEO of the Auckland Region. If anyone wants to know what we are dealing with in Sport New Zealand and the new Swimming New Zealand, remember that story. With the exception of Jan Cameron, the old swimming New Zealand was incompetent. In my view, this lot are bad and good at it; a much more dangerous beast altogether.

Sadly, when I look around, I see very few Palmers or Radfords involved in the current administration of New Zealand swimming; very few courageous souls prepared to speak truth to power. The new President of Auckland Swimming, Willem Coetzee has a talented son who swims and I suspect would agree to just about anything to avoid upsetting those who currently have some say on the future of his son’s swimming career.

The President of Hawkes Bay / Poverty Bay stood around while two of my swimmers were badly treated in his region. He even apologized to me about one of them. The swimmer did not accept the apology; too little, way too late. I can’t imagine Bone standing up to those in power. Way too cautious for that I would think.

And then there is Wellington’s Mark Berge. The fact his name gets mentioned in Swimwatch will, I suspect be cause enough to send the next Wellington Region Board Meeting into Committee for thirty minutes and possibly will even see Berge dashing off to his solicitors. All that to stop Swimwatch, but questioning why the new Swimming New Zealand spend as much (almost) on Mazda cars as they do on swimmer’s scholarships? No I don’t think so.

And in the Bay of Plenty I see that Nathan Capp’s home club are planning a movie evening to raise $8000 for Capp to attend the World Short Course Championships. That news did puzzle me a bit. You see the selection document states quite clearly that SNZ will pay for the full cost of the trip for all of those selected and then based on the results from the Championships (as per Note 5) the athletes will be invoiced for their respective costs. Athletes who finish in the Top 8 will be fully funded, Athletes who finish 9 to 16 will be partially funded.  So does Nathan need $8000 to compete at the World Champs? He has posted one of the fastest times in the 1500m short course this year so is looking pretty good at not needing to pay, he simply has to swim the same time he posted at Nationals.

While I’m on the subject of costs, is it true that Nathan and his mates from the Millennium Institute were again accommodated and feed at no personal cost during SNZ Short Course Nationals. Yet the selection document said attendance at these Championships is user pays as it did for the Commonwealth Trials.  Obviously paying only applies to swimmers outside of the Millennium Institute because in both instances Millennium swimmers have been paid for by the taxpayer – that’s you and me.

One other anomaly that came to mind with the mention of Bay of Plenty and Bronwen Radford was something I read recently. In the SNZ’s Freestyle Newsletter I noticed a link to a staff vacancy advertisement; possibly Rebecca Turner’s job. The job description said how well swimmers have done at the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacific Games. At Pan Pacs, it said, New Zealand won 4 medals – 2 Silver and 2 Bronze.  But I thought Lauren won 2 Silver and one Bronze, Glen 1 Bronze and Kane 1 Bronze that equals 5.  Kane Radford’s Open Water Bronze has obviously been missed. That’s the second time SNZ has ignored that swimmer; has simply forgotten Open Water Swimming even exists. I hope Bronwen gives them hell. I hope Kane does not read the job position or this Swimwatch post.

So what is the alternative for young talented swimmers who reach the age of eighteen, who want to continue their swimming careers, who need to further their education and are being wooed by the Millennium Institute? Well my advice would be to avoid the Millennium Institute. It does not work. Dozens of New Zealand’s best swimmers have been sucked into its swimming pool and no one has won an Olympic anything. Whatever Lyles or Villanueva or Bouzaid tell you about free pool space, free gyms, medical backup and career advice – ignore the lot of it. Remember the advice New Zealand’s most successful Olympic coach, Arthur Lydiard, gave about selecting a coach or a coaching program, “Just have a look at the athletes he’s trained. If many have become elite you may also. If none have made it, that’s how you’ll end up!” At the Millennium Institute none have made it, that’s how you will end up.

About a year ago I got an email from a parent whose son had committed himself to the Millennium program. This is what it said.

“I bitterly regret that we did not have XXX go there – he was actively recruited by several.  By the time he broke free from the Staasi it was too late for him.  Now he is still studying and has underachieved in all areas in terms of meeting his real potential.  Thank you Jan Cameron.  We (including him) are left now wondering how good he could really have been.”

That is a story that has been repeated dozens of times. Do not add to the tale of hurt. Avoid the Millennium Institute.

However this old email also hints at a better alternative. In the first sentence the swimmer’s mother says, “I bitterly regret that we did not have XXX go there – he was actively recruited by several.” The recruiting she is referring to for her son was of course the possibility of attending a US University on a swimming scholarship.

Consider this option carefully. The success of swimmers who have attended US Universities on swimming scholarships in their swimming careers and in their post swimming lives far exceeds any product of the Millennium Institute.

Lauren Boyle is the most recent and most obvious advertisement for the value of a US swimming scholarship. But the list of those who have been successful swimmers and successful graduates goes back well before Lauren Boyle.

In the 1950s Lincoln Hurring was a student at the University of Iowa on a swimming scholarship. He represented New Zealand at two consecutive Summer Olympics, 1952 and 1956.

Gary Hurring was a student at the University of Hawaii on a swimming scholarship. He won a gold medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in the men’s 200 meters backstroke and a silver in the same event at the 1978 World Aquatics Championships.

Antony Mosse gained a BA (Hons) from Stanford University in 1989 and later completed an MBA at the same university. Mosse won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. He rounded out his career when he won the 200m butterfly at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland.

Paul Kingsman earned a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, where his swimming developed a sharply competitive edge under the tutelage of Coach Nort Thornton. He participated at the 1988 Summer Olympics, winning a bronze medal in 200 meter backstroke.

Simon Percy swam on a scholarship at the University of Arizona. He reached the final 50 back at the 1991 World Championships in Australia. Percy also came in third in the 200 back at the 1991 Pan-Pacific Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

John Steel was men’s swim team captain at the University of Southern California. Steel competed at two consecutive Summer Olympics, starting in 1992. Steel won two silver medals at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada.

Johnny Munro attended the University of Southern California on a swimming scholarship. Today he is a prominent Auckland criminal lawyer.

Anna Wilson attended the University of Arizona.

But perhaps the example that has had the most profound effect on my view of the value of a US swimming scholarship is my daughter Jane. She attended Washington State University on a swimming scholarship and graduated with a BA degree. The benefit of her experience in life, in travel, in knowledge, in growth, in education and in interest was superior to anything offered at home in Hawkes Bay or at Jan Cameron’s Millennium Institute. Her subsequent career in the internet search engine industry in Seattle and London would not have happened without the Washington international experience.

And finally this month Jessica Marston began swimming on scholarship at Jane’s old school, Washington State University. West Auckland Aquatics were delighted to help her win this opportunity. There is more to life than swimming. Jessica is off to see just how much more.

Anyone wanting some contacts I made with US University coaches during my seven years coaching in Florida should send me an email. I’d be only too happy to help. Anything to avoid the SNZ Millennium trap.