Half A Truth Is Often A Great Lie

 So is Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) moving away from their Centralised Programme towards a Targeted Programme? I know that’s what has been promised. In the Wellington information meeting Amanda White, the High Performance Operations Manager, said that after the World Championships a decision was made to “move away from a centralised program to a targeted program.” With that clear assurance there should be no need for us to ask the question. But is SNZ telling the truth?

You see I’m confused. We have White’s assurance but, this morning, at the pool the Centralised Programme was in full and lavish swing. Six swimmers spread across six lanes, a state-of-the-art underwater video camera and a 32inch LED screen recording every precious moment and all done with the insufferable arrogance that has always come with their Centralised Programme. It sure looked like a funny sort of “moving away from”.

So I decided to listen again to the speech Gary Francis gave to the same Wellington information meeting. Had Francis given the same assurance? I have listened to the recording three times and three features stand out.

First, Francis does not discuss the SNZ Centralised Programme. His talk focussed on his Targeted Programme. He revealed the wonders of the Francis Fantasy and explained how his statistician mate has invented a revolutionary predictive tool. Francis acknowledged he had become a “stats man in recent years”. I would have thought that was bloody obvious. Anyone who would promote the Francis Fantasy couldn’t be anything else. We are told FINA points are “merely arbitrary”. And the Francis Fantasy isn’t – yeah right.

Second, Francis has a dim view of New Zealand coaches. I find some of the things he said in the Wellington meeting disgusting. It is difficult to transcribe comments from a tape exactly but here, as accurately as possible and in his own words, is Gary Francis’ opinion of New Zealand coaches.

  • The New Zealand coaching environment can never be high performance as it stands. There are lots of examples around the country.
  • We don’t have enough good coaching programs.
  • Good coaching programs are few and far between.
  • New Zealand coaches are really inexperienced.

There are two things that stand out in those comments. First, Francis is clearly approaching his job with the same insufferable arrogance that has characterised Swimming New Zealand since the Cameron era. His every word smacks of “we know best and we will decide on who’s a good coach and who is not”. And second, it is simply not true. New Zealand is blessed with incredible coaches from Northland to Southland. Besides, I imagine Francis had some say in bringing Lyles back to coach the Commonwealth Games team.  So much for his judgement.

In my opinion there is no way anyone holding those views on New Zealand coaching should have anything to do with a national program. If you don’t like us, go do something else.

Mind you, the Francis opinion of New Zealand coaches exists because it has gone unchallenged. The New Zealand Swim Coaches and Teachers Association has not protected the country’s coaches from a twenty year SNZ assault on their reputation. For example, where was Neville Sutton calling out Francis on these comments? The real problem, and Sutton should know this, is that if you repeat a lie often enough it begins to be believed.  And Francis spent a lot of time in Wellington repeating the lie.

And third, Francis ended his speech with an ominous threat. He said something along the lines of, “If coaches don’t do the right thing then, we don’t have all that many good swimmers, I will be advising them to do the right thing.’’ That was a Jan Cameron-style warning at its finest. What it means is that Francis will be advising local swimmers, from programmes he doesn’t like, to shift to Auckland and SNZ’s Centralised Program. Besides the insufferable arrogance of the threat, it clearly means Francis has no intention of “moving away” from the SNZ Centralised Programme. The reality is that Francis has told us that the SNZ Centralised Programme will compete with private coaches and, when he decides he will promote SNZ’s coaching ahead of anyone else. My advice is, beware of Gary Francis.

So what did we get out if the Wellington meeting as far as the future is concerned? Well, we appear to be in the middle of a super-sized sting; a SNZ master con.

First of all hire the meek and mild Francis to sell the con. He’s the perfect salesman; does what he’s told and is so nice, who could possibly believe he was selling fake news. Then get efficient Amanda White to lead with an assurance that this was a change. SNZ was moving from a Centralised to a Targeted Program. SNZ had realized the error of its ways and was now going to involve every club in the country. Then bring in soft Francis to deliver the hard message. New Zealand coaching was a mess. Most club programs were badly coached, and he, Francis, was best placed to pick the winners. And conclude with the threat made by the softest voice in the room – act in accordance with SNZ rules or we will strip you of your best swimmers and provide them with our coaching up in Auckland.

Well, all I can say is don’t fall for the con. SNZ tried to expand their empire with Jan Cameron and the bulldozer approach. Now they are on the same mission by stealth. It’s all a lie, added to a growing list of lies. Remember when they told a new sponsor entry numbers in all the national championships were growing. That wasn’t true. Remember when they signed a world record form saying the KIlbirnie Pool complied with FINA pool depth standards. That was a lie. Remember when they assured me I would be given the report into the accusations made against me. That was another lie.  If the postage is a problem, I’m at the pool every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning.

This Targeted project is another example of the same behaviour. But instead of kicking down the front door SNZ is now sneaking in the back. But the goal is the same – to build their empire by tearing the heart out of New Zealand’s club programs. Just because the salesman is a nice guy, don’t fall for the con.

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