What Does Gary Francis Do All Day?

 Gary Francis was appointed to the position of Targeted Athlete and Coach Manager towards the end of January 2018. That means he is now approaching his six month’s anniversary. I don’t know what Gary Francis is paid but let’s be conservative and guess $130,000 a year. For six months work he has cost Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) in wages $65,000. There are other employment costs above that amount. In addition he will have incurred some operating costs. In total it is fair to estimate Gary Francis has cost SNZ members $85,000.

What have we got for that money? Has it been money well spent? When Gary Francis was first appointed the following point was made on Swimwatch.

The appointment of Gary Francis to the position of Targeted Athlete and Coach Manager is welcome. There is huge potential for the position and the person to benefit swimming in New Zealand. In a previous Swimwatch post we explained why that potential will only be realized if Johns and Cotterill get out of the way and let Francis do his job. To the extent that Johns and Cotterill define and control the way Francis goes about his job, to that extent Francis will fail.

Why? Because the people telling Francis what to do have no idea about swimming matters. No matter how good Gary Francis might be, if Johns and Cotterill order him to follow policies that do not work, then Francis will fail. For many years New Zealand swimming has seen what happens when good people try and make bad policies work.

At the end of six months what has happened? Are there signs that the “huge potential for the position” is about to be realised? Or is Francis another SNZ sycophant “following policies that do not work” and therefore likely to fail. The answer is we don’t really know. Why? Because in six months and at a cost of $85,000 Gary Francis has done so little it’s impossible to make a judgement on his success or failure. If you don’t do anything it’s impossible to be right or wrong. What has he done? How has he occupied his time for the past 182 days? Let’s look at what we know.

Well we know Gary Francis has produced a page of numbers. He says he worked with some University mathematician to come up with a set of times that are a uniquely New Zealand measure of the probability of international swimming success for both sexes and every age group. We don’t know much more than that because the revolutionary discovery has never been published. SNZ seems to be intent on keeping their discovery secret; afraid that USA Swimming may employ the CIA’s best to steal the Francis advance in world swimming.

Sadly the numbers mean very little. They certainly are not a definitive measure of the likelihood of international swimming success. I spent years and thousands of hours measuring the progress of swimmers, in training and in competition, trying to find a relationship between competition times and international potential or between training performance and international success. And there is none.  Every swimmer is different. They mature at different rates, they address the sport with an infinite variety of skills and strengths and weaknesses. There is simply no one number that can measure the probabilities wrapped up in the human species.

I would like two things. I’d like to see the numbers. So could SNZ put them on the website so we can see what we’ve paid for? And second I’d like to know what they cost to produce. How much money did we waste on this Francis Fantasy (FF)? It is a pathetic joke that only office-bound theorists could possibly think had any value as a predictive tool. A good coach with a good eye for talent is going to be far more successful.

In addition to producing the FF Gary Francis has attended two meetings, one in Wellington and one in Hawkes Bay. We have discussed these in previous Swimwatch posts. The purpose of both meetings was to explain what the Gary Francis position was going to achieve and how the FF would work. That might all be well and good but when is any of it going to happen. It’s taken six months to explain his role in life to two regions. At that rate the rest of the country won’t be told his plans for another three years. God knows what it means about his timetable for actually doing something. In six months and a motor car any reasonable executive could have personally visited all 165 clubs in the country.

And finally Gary Francis did an interview for the New Zealand Herald, Television New Zealand and TV3. That occupied another hour of the six months. Once again the interview was long on what Gary Francis was going to do and stunningly short on what had been done.

And that is it. In six months and at a cost of $85,000 the FF, two meetings, a television and newspaper interview is the public total of Gary Francis efforts. And really that’s not good enough. The members require a lot less time spent talking to Steve Johns in the Whole Foods coffee shop and more time actually doing his job; not talking about what he plans to do but actually doing it – whatever it happens to be. I do hope that very little of “it” involves that FF; because if “it” does “it” is not going to work.

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