Double Deal

The Swimwatch position on the Steve Johns and Gary Francis decision to continue with a Swimming New Zealand elite training squad was set out in this quote from a previous post.

“Because for as long as that program exists Swimming New Zealand will continue to be a threat to every club program in the country.”

Although the Swimwatch position is clear, it needs to be explained. Why does the existence of a Swimming New Zealand training squad represent a danger to a healthy national club program?

But before discussing the problems, it should to be said that, there is much in Gary Francis’ email to be pleased about. The following quotes deserve the support of us all. The principles described are right. They accurately define the proper role of a national federation in assisting club programs deliver champions. The job of Swimming New Zealand is to assist and promote a strong national club coaching program. It is not to own a training program that competes against the clubs. Here is the good stuff Gary Francis says about promoting a national club delivery program.

Firstly, let me say what the new role is not! I am not replacing the former Head Performance Coach, Jerry Olszweski.

The HP centre at AUT Millennium will now become the National Training Centre. The NTC will play a much bigger role as a training and testing centre for regional based swimmers and coaches and become the main hub for coach development, and I hope that coaches throughout the country will see the centre as a source of support.

What I can say now is that the role will help to develop better individual support for both the targeted swimmers and coaches, give more direction in what performance targets and standards are required to produce world class swimmers and coaches, help develop more integration and sharing of skills and knowledge, and I hope it will encourage our whole community to strive for better performance expectations at every level.

But a dark shadow compromises our delight at the direction described by Francis. Here is another series of quotes also taken from the email that undoes all of his good intentions.

Swimming New Zealand are not looking to seek a replacement for Jerry, or anyone in a similar role for the present time.

Not looking for a replacement for Jerry is of course appropriate for a program about to take off in a new and better direction. But Gary adds a killer qualification; “at the present time”. What this means is that Steve Johns and Gary Francis are leaving the door open to bring back in a National Coach. At any time Swimming New Zealand could begin recruiting foreign coaches to steal and coach swimmers from clubs all around the country. It is typical Swimming New Zealand – we are heading off in a new direction but we reserve the right to con you blind if we want to. At the presentations planned by Johns and Francis the clubs need to make it clear that the qualification, “at the present time” is not acceptable.

The Francis email goes on to say.

Mat Woofe will continue to coach the squad that currently swims out of that centre.

And so in two sentences we have been told that a National Coach could be recruited and that Swimming New Zealand is going to keep its training squad alive and well. Those qualifications make a lie of the Francis email. This is not a new direction. For as long as the Swimming New Zealand squad exists and the door is open to employ a National Coach the danger to New Zealand clubs and coaches remains real.

You can’t be a little bit pregnant. You can’t have a foot in both camps. Either Swimming New Zealand is in there promoting a national club program or they are into running their own swim squad. Fifteen years’ experience has shown every club and coach in New Zealand that when Swimming New Zealand owns its own squad the needs of club and coaches take second place. Of course Swimming New Zealand is going to put a priority on its own program. They have huge egos. While that squad exists, if Steve Johns and Gary Francis are faced with a choice between what is right for North Shore, or United or Capital or Aqua Gym and what is going to benefit their own program, what decision do you think they will make? Believe me their self-interest will trump your club program every time.

This is a Clayton’s new direction. It is a standard Swimming New Zealand con; a fraud. Sadly it is pretty typical of the moral bankruptcy in 14 Antares Place. While the Swimming New Zealand squad continues, Steve Johns and Gary Francis should receive no assistance from clubs and coaches around the country. No one should sign up for a program not in their best interests. As this program is described, it is in the best interests of no one – except Swimming New Zealand.

And finally Francis says.

There will no longer be a drive to recruit swimmers to a centralised programme that receives all of the funding and support provision. The National Training Centre (NTC) will still be a good option for certain swimmers, depending on their individual needs and circumstances.

Here again the Francis’ email is pure Swimming New Zealand deception. What it says is, we won’t be recruiting, but our swim program “will still be” a better option than any club program in the country. That sort of blatant dishonesty has had serious consequences for swimming. Membership numbers are down, income is down and, now that Lauren Boyle and Glen Snyders have resigned, competitive results are non-existent. And this email tells us why. It is full of double dealing. It comes from an organization that could not lie straight in bed.

And that’s why the existence of a Swimming New Zealand training squad represents a danger to a healthy national club program. That is why clubs and coaches should resist this initiative until Swimming New Zealand is honest and abandons their squad training program. They are either all in on the new direction or there is no new program.

When I first discussed this new initiative I conclude by saying that the portion of the plan that aimed at promoting a national club program reminded me of the Churchill quote, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

However the portion of the plan that preserves the Swimming New Zealand training squad reminds me of another quote by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

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