Archive for July, 2018

Performance Appraisal

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018



The views expressed here are genuine opinions of the reviewer. The person being reviewed has every right to discuss and contest their merits


Name: Bruce Cotterill                             Title: Chairman Swimming New Zealand

Dept: Administration                               Hire Date: 2012

Time in position: Six Years                     Evaluation Period: From 2012 to 2018


Name: A member of Swimming New Zealand

Supervised employee for: Six years


The Chairman is the leader of the Swimming New Zealand Board. As such he is ultimately responsible for the performance of the organisation. In his role as Chairman, Bruce Cotterill is expected to shape a successful, growing and financially viable sport.

Successful means winning medals at senior international events. In particular it means winning gold medals at Commonwealth Games, Pan Pacific Games, World Championships and Olympic Games.

Growing means increasing membership numbers in the categories of senior elite athletes, junior swimmers, coaches and administrators.

Financially viable means increasing income from members, HPSNZ, and commercial sponsors. It also means earning sufficient profit to accumulate healthy reserves for the purpose of funding the future of the sport.

RATING SCALE: Exceptional (E) – More Than Satisfactory (MS) – Satisfactory (S) – Needs Improvement (NI) – Performance does not meet expectations (NE) – Unacceptable (U)


Position Expertise

We note that Bruce Cotterill has gone to some effort on the internet to describe his own skills. Here is what he tells us:

“He is now a professional director and advisor, and is a highly regarded business communicator assisting managers, leaders and their organisations to improve their performance and profitability. In his “spare time” he is a husband, father, lifeguard, ageing triathlete, competitive ocean swimmer and frustrated golfer.”

Superficially that would appear to make his expertise ideally suited to the position of Chairman. Sadly that is not the case. The fundamental skill required to lead the sport of swimming is an understanding of competitive swimming, a quality called product knowledge. Bruce Cotterill’s involvement in lifeguarding, ageing triathlons, ocean swimming and golf have no relevance to international pool swimming. In fact experience shows that lifeguarding is often the opt-out option for failed competitive swimmers. So we know he probably has an intimate association with failure. 

Rating Grade: Performance does not meet expectations (NE)

Approach To Work

Bruce Cotterill’s approach to work clearly demonstrates his background and training. He is a talker. Once again, in his own words, he describes himself as “one of Australasia’s leading keynote speakers – a wonderful storyteller who adds humour”. It seems his actions do not match the hype. Experience suggests he is strong on talk but not so good on getting it done.    

Rating Grade: Needs Improvement (NI)

Quality Of Work

We are disappointed in the quality of Bruce Cotterill’s work in this period. We are especially disappointed in two features that we believe tarnish his performance.

First the decision of the organisation to investigate and subject a member to a three day trial and then deny the member access to the verdict. In our opinion, that decision was either inexcusable arrogance or incompetence. It should be noted that the case was brought to his direct attention recently without redress.    

Second, after the decision of HPSNZ to reduce their funding Bruce Cotterill told the members he was going to find out why and determine what swimming should do about the cuts. We have heard nothing since. Assurances given and not actioned are damaging for the sport and reflect poorly on those involved.

Rating Grade: Unacceptable (U)

Communication Skills

We understand that the quality Bruce Cotterill prides himself on most is communication. However, high quality communication has not been characteristic of this period in Swimming New Zealand. For example, in the period Bruce Cotterill has been on the Board, Swimming New Zealand has approved a resolution to stop publishing minutes of Board Meetings. Swimming information is frequently published and then requires correction. Information like the Francis Fantasy remains hidden. Swim meets are held in pools of doubtful legality and a World Record application was signed, making assurances of suspect honesty. The reality of Swimming New Zealand is not open and transparent communication; rather it is Antares Place behind closed doors. The organisation has not demonstrated the communication strengths for which Bruce Cotterill prides himself.

Rating Grade: Unacceptable (U)

Interpersonal Skills

No one could ever accuse Bruce Cotterill of lacking charm. He is a walking, talking charm offensive. We are unsure of the sincerity behind the friendly wave and cheesy grin. We have already mentioned the decision to withhold information from a member being investigated by the organisation. That was a bad decision and did suggest a lack of empathy and disregard for personal relationships and natural justice.

Rating Grade: Needs Improvement (NI)

Supervisory/Leadership Skills

We believe that leadership skills are best demonstrated by results. For the majority of the period Bruce Cotterill has been Chairman of Swimming New Zealand, and with the exception of Lauren Boyle, who learned her trade in California and then swam best for a coach Swimming New Zealand manoeuvred out of his job, international results from the sport have been dismal. The Cotterill organisation clings on to a centralised training policy that costs millions of dollars and will eventually fail. Good leadership requires a change of direction. And that still hasn’t occurred. The result has been the sport’s worst Commonwealth Games ever. Swimming today is an abandoned soul, wandering lost in a fog without purpose or direction; without leadership.

Rating Grade: Unacceptable (U)


Rating Grade: Unacceptable (U)


The rating grade of “unacceptable” may seem harsh. However it should be considered in light of the following table of key performance indicators. During the time Bruce Cotterill has been on the Board of Swimming New Zealand, either as a member or as Chairman every key measure of the organisation’s performance has declined. That is unacceptable and, as we are aware, the buck stops at the top.

Item 2011 2017 Change
Competitive Swimmers 6161 5,660 Down By 8.1%
Coaches 543 246 Down By 54.7%
Total Membership 25,467 19,118 Down By 24.9%
Clubs 180 165 Down By 8.3%
Government Funding 1,962,838 1,413,148 Down By 28.0%
Membership Fees 288,712 286,777 Down By 0.7%
Total Funding 4,158,493 3,546,861 Down By 14.7%


Resignation and replacement is recommended


Unable to provide at this time



What Does Gary Francis Do All Day?

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

 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.

Rugby Sevens World Cup Wins

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

 Didn’t they do well? Both the men’s and women’s teams are 2018 World Cup Champions. Everything was good about their performances. The way they played, the way they behaved off the field, the humility of their victory; there was much about the team’s behaviour that should give them and their supporter’s great pride.But I have one concern. Before the competition television made much of the decision to have the men’s team prepare in a centralised facility based in Mt. Manganui. Players trained in the same location, lived in the same houses and socialised together. As usual television needs one word solutions to everything. In this case the perception of television stretched to two words; New Zealand had won because of “centralised training”.

My concern is that bureaucrats like Miskimmin, Cotterill and Johns, whose sport’s perception is as limited as TV producers, could well use the success of the Rugby Sevens’ model to justify the continuation of centralised training in swimming. Remember they have kept the remnants of a centralised program going in Antares Place. That has not been abandoned. The centralised basis is there to spring it back into life at any moment.

It takes no imagination at all to visualise any of those three swimming bureaucrats saying, “Look, centralised training worked in Rugby Sevens; let’s follow their example in the swimming pool.” Those three, in my opinion, would clutch at any straw to build their empire. They like centralised training because having all those good swimmers training in Auckland, beside their offices, make them feel powerful and in control; makes them appear to be doing something. They don’t want New Zealand’s best swimmers training in Whangarei, Matamata, Hastings, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin or Invercargill. God forbid that a new champion was ever coached again in Carterton. If that happened we might begin to believe, as we should, that the Antares Place office and its twenty something staff were an extravagance we could well do without. Because always remember this. That office cost the membership $696,568 in 2017. Just imagine that $700,000 for what? One other stunning statistic; to keep the Antares Place elite in the life-style to which they have become accustomed costs every competitive swimmer $122 a year. It’s daylight robbery. Is it any wonder that they might want to see centralised training back as a justification for their existence?

However if they do attempt to use the Rugby Sevens success as a justification of centralised training; if they do start to praise the value of rugby’s Mt. Manganui facility, remember one important fact. There is an important difference between rugby and swimming; a difference that makes a lie out of the argument what rugby does swimming should copy. Rugby is a team game. Swimming is an individual sport.

The training that is appropriate in a team game is very different from training seven individual players. In a team game the performance of every player is of course important. But there is more to it than that. The quality of how the team plays is more than seven players individually playing well. The quality of the team’s performance depends on the team coming together to execute a team plan. All good team coaches know that a quality performance is greater, by far, than the sum of seven individual players.

That team unity needs preparation and practice. That’s why the Rugby Union’s decision to base its seven’s players in a centralised facility in Mt. Manganui was appropriate. It is also why their decision has no relevance to the sports of swimming or track athletics.

These are individual sports. There is no reason why a swimmer cannot be equally well prepared in Auckland, New Plymouth, Carterton or Dunedin. Previous Swimwatch posts have highlighted the benefits of a swimmer’s home program. Modern research is pointing to the statistical fact that smaller home-town programs are more successful in producing champions than programs that corral all the best swimmers in one place. Certainly the twenty years and $30million history of Swimming New Zealand failure seems to confirm the deficiencies of centralised training in individual sports. Mt. Manganui will not work in Antares Place.

And so the words of caution are: beware of Swimming New Zealand. They would think nothing of using any sliver of information to justify their hold on power. Are they prophets bearing false witness; are they wolves in sheep’s clothing? They have been both many times before. They could well be again.

Overcoming Adversity

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

Two of the most popular Swimwatch stories were written by Jane and deal with the difficult decision or retiring from swimming. Here is a story written by a different swimmer that tells us about her decision to come out of retirement and give the sport another go. We wish her well.

Overcoming Adversity

I reached a bit of an uneven portion in the road that caused me to get a damn flat tyre, and I know what you’re thinking, ‘Come on girl – a flat tyre? That can easily be replaced!’. I really wish that were the case, but for some of us something as simple as a flat tyre is not an easy expense. The car I drive symbolises my life, and I absolutely love it, but it has seen better days. The road that I follow leads to my potential future, and all the obstacles have become this uneven portion I must overcome to reach my destination. I want to think that if I push my vehicle hard enough it will reach the finish line without any casualties, but I definitely will not make it in this situation.

This is where my mother comes in. She offered to help me, but wanted me to make a choice first.

Mum: ‘I know how desperate you are, so I am going to give you two options: I can either buy you a new tyre with no need to pay me back, and you walk away with your car. Although, it will probably break down again in the next few weeks. Or, I buy you a brand-new car’.

And I immediately think ‘uhm the new car! Hello!!’, so then she goes on to explain,

Mum: ‘The new tyre will probably last you a few weeks at most, but the new car. The new car will get you places with much less problems to stress about’

We start going back and forth exchanging pros and cons, what-ifs, and other alternatives, and I start to feel put off by the idea of a new car. I mean I’ve had my old car for 2 years now and I love it. It might not be the greatest, but I am too comfortable to give it away. And a new car? That’s so great! But then the fuel is more expensive, it’s higher maintenance, the check-ups are more frequent, and so on. So putting all these things into account gets me a bit worked up.

Me: ‘I want to take the new car, but then the effort to maintain it will be even more frequent and expensive than the car I have now, so I don’t get how that’s supposed to help me’

Mum: ‘Think about it, with your current car there are more chances of it breaking down compared to a new car. The new car will be worth it if you put in the effort’

Me: ‘But that means higher maintenance and more work’

She looks at me absolutely stumped,

Mum; ‘Well what’s so wrong with that?’

And she was right. I hate to admit it, but my Mum was right. What’s wrong with putting more effort into something that will benefit me in the long run? There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just a lot of damn work. But that’s the point she was trying to make. It may be tough, but it will be worth it. She gave me the rest of the week to come to a final decision. It is now my last day to decide.

The truth is, there is no new car. There is no new tyre. But there are two options that I must choose from to seize the right life opportunity. I can either stay in my comfort zone and constantly hope for the best with life expenses, whilst slowly altering my future to match my finances. All done on a small ass budget. Or I can start fresh once again, and hop back in the pool, go for scholarships and other beneficial things that will get me much further in life. I really wanted to take the easy option out and just stick to my small budget i.e. the new tyre option, but it doesn’t cut it anymore. The choice of a brand-new car, or in this case putting back on my togs, absolutely terrifies me. I did not enjoy the last few years before I hung them up (or at least what I thought was) for good. But like mum said ‘the new car will be worth it if you put in the effort.’ Right? It was difficult the first time but maybe things will be better this time round. After all, this is the only way I’ll be able to reach my true destination. The togs certainly don’t fit like they used to, but I guess I’ll work towards that  – haha.

I have made my decision. I am taking the brand new damn car. I thank my mum for making me realise that this option isn’t a hindrance, but a gift. This is the only option so I’m hopping back in the pool. I am going to come back with a stronger, and mature mind-set. I will not go through the same bullshit I did in the past. I assure you, this time will be different. This will not be to regain some title or for gaining honour. I am not doing it to be a role model athlete. I am doing this to broaden MY horizons. I am doing this to benefit MY future. I am doing this to make MYSELF proud. I am doing this for ME.

I will overcome my adversity. I will reach my destination.

Wairarapa First

Friday, July 20th, 2018

One of the key recommendations of the Moller Report promoted the worth of amalgamation. Moller saw all sorts of value in Northland and Counties/Manukau being absorbed into Auckland, of Waikato and Bay of Plenty jumping into bed with each other. Manawatu was supposed to go somewhere else. I’ve long forgotten the details. But clearly Moller had the Super Rugby model in mind where four or five regions covered the entire country. The concept was based on Swimming New Zealand’s (SNZ) accepted policy of centralisation. High performance was centralised under a SNZ dictatorship and was doing so well – that’s a joke by the way – so why not subject the entire sport to the same centralised policy.

I went to Wellington during the Moller investigation and spoke to him for about three hours against the centralisation of elite swimming and of swimming in general. My views were rejected. Centralisation of elite swimming continued for another six years and Moller recommended the rest of swimming follow that shining example – that’s another joke.

In the end the only real change in swimming was the decision of Wairarapa and Wanganui to become part of Wellington. That’s five or six years ago now; time to determine whether this centralisation thing works. Has swimming in the Wairarapa bounded forward from success to success as a result of the amalgamation and as was promised by Moller and Sam Rossiter-Stead.

It will come as no surprise to hear that my views on centralisation have not changed. I can see no benefit of the policy in elite swimming. Even SNZ has had to creep away, with their tails between their legs, admitting the policy has failed. Gary Francis has been appointed in an effort to introduce some decentralised democracy. That hasn’t worked yet. But the good thing, so far, is that SNZ has had to admit they were wrong. They have wasted $30million and two generations of New Zealand’s best swimmers in the process. But finally they had to face the reality of their failure and pretend to do something different. It has been a total defeat; an unqualified rout.

But what about the rest of swimming? What does the amalgamation of Wairarapa into Wellington teach the rest of New Zealand about centralisation?

SNZ cling desperately to the remnants of power. For them amalgamation into a centralised structure has bountiful advantages. Best of all a centralised structure keeps decision making firmly at the top of the hierarchy; among the small authoritarian clique of Cotterill, Johns and Francis. They see it as easier to impose standard policies for the whole business, as preventing parts of New Zealand swimming following regional plans and as making it easier to control the amount and use of the region’s money. SNZ has no regard at all for the lack of authority in the smaller regions reducing motivation and enthusiasm and the fact that local members miss out on the speed and flexibility of local decision making.

During my meeting with Moller I argued against centralisation. Six years later I still feel that the amalgamation of Wairarapa into the Wellington region was not in the best interests of Wairarapa members. The points I made to Moller are summarised in the table below and remain valid today.

·         Because decisions are closer to the region the decisions made are better and more relevant. ie there is better customer service.

·         Administrators are better able to respond to local conditions and have more knowledge of regional circumstances.

·         Local administrators have more motivation to do a good job for their local region.

·         Local administrators have a better opportunity to train and motivate new administrators.

·         Administration of the regions finances is held and protected where the money was earned and where it should be spent.

Those are the points I argued with Moller. But has the reality turned out that way. I believe so. From my observation the amalgamation has done nothing for swimming in the Wairarapa. For example, since the handover, there has been no, specifically Wairarapa, financial accounts. Members in the region have no idea how much money they put into the Wellington bank account and how much they get back. Are they being ripped off by Wellington or is the larger area subsidising the Wairarapa? No one knows. My guess is that Wellington central is taking far more out of swimming in Carterton and Masterton than is ever being put back in.

For example no Wairarapa prize giving awards have taken place since the amalgamation. Seventy years of history obliterated in a moment. What was wrong with displaying a bit of local pride; of recognising the best swimmers in the area? Clearly Mark Berge and his mates thought it was an unnecessary distraction to their objective of building a kingdom. Certainly Wairarapa recognition has become a thing of the past. And that is a wretched disgrace.

The last Swimwatch post gave credit to the manner in which the Wellington Region had handled problems at the Masterton Swimming Club. The only criticism I have heard is the length of time it took Wellington to get off their behinds and do something. Local Wairarapa administration could well have reacted with more speed and avoided the worst of the fallout. Certainly Wairarapa people dealing with Wairarapa problems has many advantages.

I have long been a fan of swimming in the Wairarapa. The work that Coach Russell has done at the Carterton Club is an example to us all. I’ve not spoken to him about this subject but I doubt that he has benefitted at all from Mark Berge rule. But, hang in there Russell. I hear that all is not lost. Perhaps there is a lawyer in Wellington right now looking into whether the whole amalgamation thing was even remotely constitutional or legal. Good luck with that.