What A Tangled Web

I mentioned in my previous Swimwatch post that I have been trying to catch up with events in New Zealand. Of course just reading websites does not always give you a full picture. Although Mark Bone’s comments on Lauren Boyle, that were the subject of last week’s post, need no further clarification. If the New Zealand Herald has reported Bone accurately, in my opinion, he should never be allowed near a television microphone again.

And where, incidentally, is Swimming New Zealand in all this? I would have thought Bone’s comments should have been examined for at least four potential violations of the SNZ Code of Conduct (PDF file). For example does anyone believe Mark Bone’s comments comply with the following code of conduct rules?

Show concern and caution towards others who may be sick or injured.  

Respect the rights, dignity and worth of others.

Refrain from any form of abuse towards others.  

Members should recognise that at all times they have a responsibility to a duty of care to all Swimming New Zealand members.

I have seen people examined and punished for a lot less than what Mark Bone said in the New Zealand Herald. I have been examined for a lot less. Is this a double standard? Sure as hell looks like it. If SNZ was interested in the welfare of its best swimmer they would call Mark Bone to account. But they won’t.

And then I came across an article published in Swimming World a couple of months ago. This is a summary of what it said.

Swimming New Zealand’s new head coach Jerry Olszewski is publicly at odds with his federation’s Olympic strategy and his own advertised job description, saying measurements of success are unrealistic and changes need to be made in the sport.

The article then goes on to explain the changes Olszewski thinks are needed. And much of it is good stuff. I thought, “Well done Jerry. Here you are telling truth to power; a quality long overdue in Swimming New Zealand.” Has the real world arrived at Antares Place?

But then the let down. In the reader’s comments at the conclusion of the article, the new National coach of Swimming NZ, Jerry Olszewski, has this to say.

Just some clarification; I am not at odds with New Zealand, Swimming New Zealand, nor anyone else here in NZ. Many of these “quotes” were taken out of context. We are working hard, as a collective, to move NZ Swimming forward. We will continue to do so in the future.

Now I have to say that in my experience Swimming World is a highly reputable and respected publication. I have been mentioned in relation to several controversial events in its pages. Never once have I been misquoted or slandered. And I doubt very much that Swimming World has misunderstood what they were being told when they wrote and published this story. If the story is true; is this an example of another Swimming NZ Head Coach putting politics ahead of principle? Does Olszewski’s rush for cover raise questions about his fitness for the job? Turning the fortunes of SNZ around is going to demand a strong and fearless Head Coach. Olszewski’s clarification does not fill me with confidence. I doubt that you would find men like Schubert running away from an opinion that they thought needed to be aired.

Certainly the contradiction between the Swimming World story and Olszewski’s denial is very important. It needs more explanation than the “working hard as a collective” claptrap. An open debate about the important issues discussed in the Swimming World story would be good and far better for the sport than all that “moving forward” into “the future” nonsense.     

And my final item of bedtime reading was to try and make sense of these Wellington and National Squad times. Now I have never been a great fan all that squad stuff. I’ve preferred to look after my swimmers with their parents and have stayed well clear of the SNZ structured bureaucracy. Doing our own thing has meant my swimmers have gone off to Australia, or the USA or Europe to compete in World Cups and other meets whenever they wanted to, free from the controls of people with little or no understanding of our program. You don’t get any help that way. But you don’t get any interference either. Freedom is worth the cost.

My experience with squad camps and the like has not been good. When I was coaching Toni Jeffs I made her go to a Swimming NZ ID camp in Christchurch. Half way through the first day she demanded to leave. Because I was the one that, for political correctness, had made her go she insisted that I tell SNZ that she wasn’t coming back. I did as I was told and Toni went bungie jumping in Queenstown instead.  

However that is a personal view and I can understand those that find it rewarding to follow Swimming NZ’s structured path. What I cannot understand is how all these squad entry times and performance standards are worked out.      

Mark Berge is the Chairman of Wellington Swimming. His website tells me he is “valued for his wisdom, openness, honesty and relaxed manner; he is the quintessential consultant in jeans.” He seems ideally placed then to explain why the number of competitive swimmers in his region has fallen in each of the past three years. He must also have an explanation for Wellington’s much lower success rate at national championships than when Gary Hurring had a thriving Capital Swim Team. Is it correct that the Wellington All Stars team was last in this year’s Zonal competition? And can the “consultant in jeans” explain why a 13 year old female swimmer is talented in the national program but not talented in Wellington? Or have I got all that wrong? If I have not, you will understand why, in my confusion, I decided to opt out of the whole thing.