Rugby Sevens World Cup Wins

 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.

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