Locker Room Talk

This is my first Swimwatch post for several days. It has been a busy time. Eyad arrived from Saudi Arabia and competed in the New Zealand Open Championships. He did well. He swam in four races, achieved three personal best times and made a night time swim in the 50 freestyle. Given the difficulties he faces training and competing at home his results were more than I expected. Thank you, Immigration New Zealand, Swimming New Zealand and the Waterhole Swimming Club for making his participation possible.

Just as exciting for Eyad was winning the Ocean Series 500 open water swim at Takapuna Beach, competing in the Waterhole Club Championships, completing his first short-course triathlon, bungy-jumping off the Harbour Bridge, visiting Waiheke Island and enjoying quite a few Auckland cafes.

While all this was going on I received two oddly contradictory emails. The first was from the New Zealand Swim Coaches Association with feedback from eleven coaches to the request for views on the future of coaching in New Zealand.

The views expressed are exceptional. Better than that, the feedback is remarkably similar. In one form or another, the eleven coaches seemed to agree that:

  1. The status quo is a shambles
  2. New Zealand coaches should be responsible for putting things right
  3. The environment must be coach driven and coach managed
  4. A regional coaching structure would best deliver the coaching support and education required to produce international success.
  5. Swimming New Zealand role should be an administration vehicle only.

One other thought became obvious as I read the papers submitted by the eleven coaches. When New Zealand has local coaches capable of this quality of feedback why on God’s good earth are we running off to Arizona to employ an American age group club coach. It does not take a genius to read the thoughts of Clive Power, Gary Martin, Thomas Ansorg, Emma Swanwick, Glenn Hamblyn, Sue Southgate, Narcis Gherca, Oscar van Stekelenborg, Mike Lee and Brett Naylor and know for absolutely certain that coaching quality is alive and well and living in New Zealand. And remember this list doesn’t include coaching assets like Donna Bouzaid and Gary Hurring.

Swimming’s failures are the responsibility of Cotterill and Miskimmin. They have denied these talented coaches the freedom to fly. The talent, the ability and the knowledge are present, in heaps. It’s about time Cotterill and Miskimmin gave New Zealand coaches the opportunity to prove it.

My second email was an example of the effort Cotterill will go to in order to suffocate New Zealand coaches. The email is from Swimming New Zealand to all clubs. It says  

This is to inform you that Swimming New Zealand is running an HPC orientation for any interested year 13 students who want to investigate continuing their swimming and academic careers at the HPC. The objective of this is to give athletes, coaches and their parents the ability to make an informed decision on the environment that will best suit their needs moving forward.

The orientation weekend will give Athletes the opportunity to; meet Head Coach, Jerry Olszewski, train with the SNZ High Performance Team, both in the pool and the gym, meet with High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) Athlete Life staff to discuss options regarding tertiary study, and the process around applying for and obtaining Prime Minister’s Scholarships and meet with HPSNZ Providers for the HP Team – such as Strength and Conditioning, Physio etc.

So there you have it: Cotterill’s bid to steal status and income from New Zealand coaches and clubs. Every swimmer seduced by their smart sales pitch is a swimmer and income stolen from a New Zealand club. And remember this, for the fifteen years or so they have been luring swimmers to their program Swimming New Zealand has failed over and over again. There are a dozen clubs in New Zealand university towns that could do all and better than Swimming New Zealand’s Jerry Olszewski. The email is a blatant play by Swimming New Zealand to use its power and position to take business away from local coaches and clubs and into the Millennium Institute.

So what is the conclusion from all this? It seems to me that the quality, intelligence and knowledge of New Zealand coaches are as strong as ever. The contributions of Ansorg, Power and Swanwick are especially astute. But Swimming New Zealand and an age group coach from Arizona are going out of their way to make sure these huge talents are always second to their Antares Place white elephant.

On the subject of the Antares Place swimming pool, I was at the pool today. At the same time there was another group of Saudi Arabian swimmers training and competing in New Zealand. I was obviously interested, but ended the day a little sad. Someone responsible for those boys should teach them that discussing personal details of the girls they have been looking at under the water is not acceptable in New Zealand. Slutty, sexist locker room behaviour and talk may be okay for an American President but it is not okay here.         


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