Gary Francis In His Own Words

 In the last Swimwatch post I made it pretty clear I was disgusted by the attitudes expressed by Gary Francis about New Zealand coaching. In fact I’m getting up half an hour earlier in order to vent my annoyance for longer each day. For a person in his position and paid the money he receives, his attack on New Zealand coaches at the Wellington information meeting was a disgrace. I decided the subject deserved closer study. And so I listened to the Francis presentation again and transcribed word for word the portions that referred to New Zealand coaching and club programs. What I found is that Francis is simply “Jan Cameron Lite”. His attitudes and opinions are a carbon copy of all that Cameron used to preach; said with more guile but the same never-the-less. That of course is not surprising. For years Francis coached for Jan Cameron. It appears he learned much at the feet of the master.

Francis begins by making it clear that his opinion of a swimmer’s coach and club is an important criterion for identifying athletes Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is going to support. This is what he says.

The 2020 athletes, how do we identify them? I guess that’s quite simple really; world rankings, where they are tracking. Tracking means what are they looking like performing in a year’s time in two years’ time based on their results, based on their progress, based on their environment where they are.

The athletes for 2024 is very similar. Technically, where are they, what kind of program are they in, what kind of support and education are they getting from their program.

So having set up the coach and the club as important factors in deciding which swimmers get support and which don’t Francis then gives us his opinion of the current status of New Zealand coaching and clubs. His opinions are damning. It left me wondering, who the hell does Francis think he is? What mountain top of coaching excellence did he climb to make these judgements? Did the North Shore’s Club age group program really give him the experience and licence to denounce New Zealand’s coaches? This is what he says.

One of the things I’ve identified or it’s been pretty clear for a long time is we have struggled for a long while in terms of coaching.

They are all great coaches but they don’t have the experience and they don’t actually know what a high performance environment looks like in some cases, because it’s been a long time, if ever, that they have been around one or seen one.

In some cases it’s also going to be a case of saying look you are doing a fantastic job here but you have to recognise the limitations in your environment Perhaps this environment can never be high performance as it stands and there are lots of examples of that around the country.

We don’t have the amount of programs that are of good enough level to keep all of our swimmers here.

Our best programs are few and far between or coaches are inexperienced.

And so, having clarified the importance of clubs and coaching and having told us how badly they coach, Francis moves straight to sanctions. This is Swimming New Zealand at its best. This is straight out of the Jan Cameron play book. This is arrogant, short sighted bullshit; do what I say or not only will you be denied any support, I’ll take your best swimmers and send them overseas or to my fantastic Centralised Program in Auckland. For years SNZ have used this threat to demand obedience and it’s pathetic. Francis, in spite of his fawning manner, is no less abhorrent. This is what he says.

Already two weeks ago, in a discussion with an athlete and their coach, they felt the coach had reached the limit that they could take their athlete to in their program and they needed to move and they explored several options and in the end the option that I recommended to that athlete was to go to the Sunshine Coast.

If coaches don’t deliver their end of the deal then eventually I can’t afford to waste our world class swimmers. We don’t have a lot at the moment. So I will be advising those swimmers to do the right thing whatever that might be.

So there, in his own words, you have the Francis position. It’s a three stage assault.

  1. Coaching and clubs are important.
  2. In New Zealand good coaches and clubs are “few and far between”.
  3. If Francis thinks a club and coach are no good he will get swimmers to go overseas or join the SNZ Centralised Program in Auckland.

Make no mistake, in my opinion, Francis is no friend of New Zealand coaches or clubs. He is acutely aware of the source of his weekly pay cheque. That’s who he is working for and whose interests he is promoting. Considering his opinions in their best light, Francis claims that good programs in New Zealand are few and far between. Let’s assume that means there are say six coaches and clubs that meet with Francis’ approval. In 2018 the six clubs and their coaches that  rank highest on points in New Zealand and therefore probably pass the Francis’ test were:

  1. North Shore Swimming Club
  2. United Swimming Club
  3. Capital Swim Club
  4. Howick Pakuranga Swimming Club
  5. St Peter’s Swimming Club
  6. Neptune Swim Club

The rest of New Zealand watch out. Francis could well be saying to Raumati, Coast, Aquabladz, Aquagym and 155 other clubs that you have reached “the limit that they could take their athlete to in their program and they needed to move”. Take Francis at his word. He has said it before and it’s what he said he would do at the Wellington meeting. Remember Francis is turning out to be “Jan Cameron Lite”; and just as dangerous.

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