Archive for August, 2018

Playing Marbles

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

A few years ago I coached a swimmer who ended up as a national open champion, open record holder and national representative. I’m not giving away her identity. I’ve been fortunate enough to coach five female swimmers who meet that specification.

Before she was an international competitor she was among the top New Zealand age group swimmers in a number of events. One weekend she was entered in a provincial championship. She began the competition by winning one of her off-events, the 200 IM. However I was annoyed. The time was slower than her personal best. I thought she had deliberately done enough to win but no more than that.

When she came into the stands I demanded to know what she was “playing at”. Never one to take a backward step she said she had four more races to swim and thought doing enough to win was enough for the first race. I saw red and told her that if that was the way she was going to go about her swimming she would probably be better playing marbles. Swimming was a sport for grown-ups. The swimmer was about to launch into a suggestion that I should try five events in a day when I noticed a lady walk up behind the swimmer. She leaned forward and said to me, “I don’t think you should be talking to your swimmer in that way. The protection of swimmers is an important subject.”

Quick as lighting my swimmer spun around, looked the woman in the eyes and said, “And you can bugger-off too!”

You should have seen the look on the woman’s face. But she did as she was told and trotted away. It was also the end of our debate about the medley swim. We both dissolved in laughter. Later the swimmer explained that she didn’t mind debating her swim with someone like me who clearly had the best interests of her swimming career at heart, but was never going to allow some goody-two-shoes the same liberty.

I think that story shows that every champion has to handle bumps in the road to success. Less than honest officials, weak administrators, jealous parents and biased spectators at some stage will intervene to make the athlete’s journey more difficult than it should be. I think I have written before about the pool manager who demanded a $3.00 pool entry fee from Rhi Jeffrey who had just won an Olympic Gold Medal and was returning to our Florida pool to begin training. Her father lived in New York and was in the process of paying the training fees that included pool entry but because that had not been received the $3.00, Olympic Gold Medal or not, had to be paid. I paid the $3.00 and said to Rhi, “The money is obviously more important to the pool manager than it is to us.

For hardships on the way to success few athletes can match the career difficulties of Mohammed Ali. White America hated the man. At different times he had to put up with being refused entry into restaurants, having bullets fired into his training camps, having his car randomly ticketed and having his license to work suspended.

In spite of all this the champions find a way to survive. My marbles swimmer went on to win medals representing New Zealand. Rhi had an Olympic and World Championship Gold Medals. Mohammed Ali became history’s greatest and best known fighter. Champions find a way. They dig deep into their soul and draw on reserves that put hardships into retreat.

I am reminded of all that every night at about 6.40pm when mealy mouthed, salivating Abbey Wilson, from TV1 News, discovers another athlete complaining about their coach. So far she has “discovered” discontent in cycling, soccer, rowing and hockey. Wilson always follows the same line of attack – player safety is being compromised by aggressive coaches. Wilson loves the accusation of bullying. Hockey is the latest recipient of Wilson’s treatment. Truth is the players need to harden up. Clearly they have sat through too many sport’s psychology tutorials; enjoying more attention from TV for playing the role of victims than winning a game of hockey.

I am certain players now know they will get a sympathetic ear from TV1. In my opinion players are using Wilson’s bias to get rid of coaches who have told them to smarten up and do their jobs better. It is political correctness run riot. It is certainly going to weaken New Zealand sport. There is no way coaches can creep around scared of telling the truth because holier-than-thou Abbey Wilson might spread their names all over the 6.00pm TV News.

Janine Southby tried all that democratic niceness in netball and look where that got New Zealand; fourth in the Commonwealth Games. Show me a good coach that isn’t tough, even to the point of being unreasonable. I’ve been told by ex-Lydiard coached runners that he was a tough as an old boot. Arch Jelley is a much more reasonable coach, but also does not tolerate runners that waste his time. And neither should he. Jon Rudd, Mark Schubert, Dave Salo and Bob Bowman are all known as strict disciplinarians. I’ve known swimmers they have kicked out of training and told to go home and come back tomorrow if they are prepared to do the work. Abbey Wilson would have them all up on a charge. She would have me up on a charge as well. Playing marbles would be an abuse of power in the Abbey Wilson playbook.

There is every reason to believe that her crusade should be stopped before it does damage to New Zealand sport; before we begin to coach a bunch of whinging, pampered babies instead of the hard men and women who win world championships. I’m pretty certain my old swimmer would look Abbey Wilson in the eye and say, “And you can bugger off too.” And my swimmer would be doing us all, and New Zealand sport, a favour.

Consider The Auckland Annual Meeting

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

 I should not be writing about the Swimming Auckland, or any other Annual Meeting. They are as exciting as watching paint dry. They are attended by dull bureaucrats who revel in points of order and agenda items and whether the minutes of last year’s meeting accurately record the fact that the meeting ended three minutes after the last bus left the central Henderson depot. Usually there is great excitement before each meeting as make-believe Che Guevaras plot the over-throw of the kingdom. But seldom does anything serious happen. The establishment pushes through its agenda and survives for another year. The people they want are on the Board again, no difficult questions were asked; the coffee and savouries afterwards bought the revolutionaries silence.

Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) Annual Meetings always follow that pattern. For years SNZ has has got away with the most appalling financial and competitive performances and crazy Chairman Reports by delegates who sat there, like stuffed dummies, voting for anything Cotterill asked. This website has been critical of decisions made by SNZ. But the compliance of Annual Meeting delegates like Bone from Hawke’s Bay and Radford from Bay of Plenty and Berge from Wellington makes them just as guilty. They know some of the stuff SNZ has done is not right, is not good for swimmers or swimming. And yet once a year they sit at the Annual Meeting saying nothing. They know bad people get away with bad things when good people say nothing, and yet year after year they let it happen.

And so, at the risk of boring every reader to death, let’s consider the Swimming Auckland Annual Meeting. It was held on Thursday of last week. It appears Swimming Auckland is learning much from their masters across the Harbour Bridge. The autocratic nature of the meeting was a stunning copy of Cotterill at his best.

I have written before about the apparently deliberate decision of the Auckland Chairman, Coetzee, and the CEO, Green, to operate with an unconstitutional Board of five members. The Constitution requires six. I simply don’t understand why; especially when the Annual Meeting received three nominations from members wanting to be on the Board. Three new members, plus the two already there and the Chairman would have given Auckland a constitutional Board of six. But it was not to be. The Chairman, Coetzee, and CEO, Green, decided there should be an election to reduce the three nominations to two elected. In my opinion that decision was entirely because one of the nominations was from a person the two bosses didn’t like. And they lucked out. The one they wanted to lose lost. But the Board meanwhile was back to an unconstitutional five members; five controllable puppets.

What makes that all the more confusing is the inability of the CEO to write a consistent Annual Report and Audited Accounts. In one document the Board was elected and in the other document Board members were co-opted. Both can’t be right; especially when co-opting in the Swimming Auckland Constitution does not exist. The Constitution calls it an “appointment”. The Coetzee and Green autocratic rule is further advanced by the fact that I can find no record of the current Appointment Panel, required by the Constitution, being approved by the membership. It seems to me that Coetzee and Green have built Auckland Swimming into a cosy little dictatorship.

We’ve all heard that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, I don’t know whether there is corruption at play here but the fact that questions were not asked and answers were not given certainly makes me uncomfortable.

For example why did the Auckland Swimming cost of wages go up by $22,000 last year? There are only two people in the Swimming Auckland office; Green and an Office Manager, Griffiths. Last year’s budget said wages were going to be less. Instead there was a blow-out of $22,000. That needs to be explained. If it is what it seems Swimming Auckland has learned well from the practise of SNZ to reward itself at the expense of the membership; tin-pot bureaucrats paid like kings.

And finally why was no appropriate discussion allowed, at the Auckland Swimming Annual Meeting, on the Annual Report and Budget. What are Coetzee and Green trying to hide? I understand one club asked about pool hire costs. The reply was a dismissive wave of the hand and a terse comment blaming the West Wave Pool Manager, Alex Caldwell, and his Auckland City bosses. That could well be right. In my opinion Caldwell is among the worst pool managers I have ever had the misfortune to meet. But Caldwell’s shortcomings in no way excuse Green’s refusal to discuss the problem.

It is off the subject but I have also heard that Caldwell has decided to extend his learn-to-swim empire into junior and intermediate coaching. I can’t think of anyone less qualified to make that move. In my opinion, what Caldwell knows about coaching could be written on the back of a very small postage stamp. If you are a parent and have a swimmer looking for coaching, avoid the West Wave program like the plague. There are far better options available at Mt. Eden, the Trent Bray Swim School, Roskill Swim Club, the Millennium Institute, the North Shore Club or close at hand at the Waterhole Swim Club. You have plenty of options; don’t choose the worst one.

Follow The Rules

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

I have frequently written about the habit of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) to lie about what they are doing or to ignore the rules of the sport in order to get what they want. The New York Times has kept a count of the lies told by Donald Trump in his two years in office. I think he is over 4000 lies. Remember, on day one of his Presidency, he told the world the crowd watching his inauguration had been the “largest ever”. Clearly that was not true. Although I would never say SNZ could out-lie Donald Trump I’ve always thought it symbolic that some of their lies come from the same insecurity. Remember when they told an event sponsor that the entries for various championship events were growing every year. Last year was the “largest ever”. That wasn’t true either.

But today it is not so much a lie that needs to be discussed, but a chronic inability to comply with the organization’s constitution or rules. It seems Johns and Cotterill just don’t care; if they need to do something, to hell with the rules. Most of the breaches I observe I never write about. If I did this website would talk about nothing else. For example the National Secondary School Championships are about to be held in Wellington. SNZ rules clearly say that all swimmers must be members of SNZ. For some reason though SNZ has allowed meet conditions to be published that allow non-registered swimmers to enter. I’m all for non-registered swimmers being allowed to swim but I’m for the rule of law even more. Conflicts like that are unacceptable.

Just as the decision to sign Lauren Boyle’s world record form confirming that the Kilbirnie Pool complied with all FINA rules was both illegal and a lie. The reputation and honesty of the officials that signed that form and then argued for its validity will forever be stained. I sincerely hope the Secondary School Championships are going to start from the deep end of the Kilbirnie Pool.

Why do Johns and Cotterill continue to refuse to give me the Report into a complaint made against my coaching? This is clearly a travesty especially when the Constitution says, “21.1 The Board may adopt a policy to require adherence by Members to processes that it considers will assist with fair, efficient and timely resolution of  disputes.” There is certainly nothing fair, efficient or timely about this decision. In addition the SNZ Code of Conduct requires Johns and Cotterill to:

 Respect the rights, dignity and worth of others.

 Be fair, considerate and honest in all dealings with others.

 Be professional in, and accept responsibility for, your actions.

 Make a commitment to providing quality service and performance.

 Be aware of, and maintain an uncompromising adhesion to, standards, rules, regulations and policies.

 Refrain from any form of abuse towards others.

 Refrain from any form of discrimination towards others.

The decision to deny me access to this Report puts Johns and Cotterill in breach of the Constitution, these seven Code of Conduct rules and natural justice. I have not decided whether the Sport’s Tribunal or the Human Rights Commission should finally resolve this case. But SNZ should rest assured it will be pursued to the full extent of the law. Whether SNZ feel their current refusal to provide the Report is worth $10,000 in legal fees will be interesting to see.

But of particular interest today are two major SNZ regions, Wellington and Auckland. Both are either incapable of counting to six or chose to collectively offer the members their middle finger.

We begin in Wellington. Swimming Wellington merged with Wairarapa Swimming five years ago in July 2013. One result of the merger was an increase of one in the number of Swimming Wellington Board members; from six to seven. This was perfectly legal.

Today I see that the Swimming Wellington Board still has seven members. That was fine for the period 2013 to 2016. But after 2016 the Constitution required that the Board return to a maximum of six members. I thought, how come Swimming Wellington has operated in breach of its Constitution for two years?

It appears that at some time in the past two years the President or as he labels himself the consultant in jeans, contacted Swimming New Zealand and asked for permission to allow the Region to have seven Board members. I don’t know the content of their reply. However Swimming New Zealand must have approved because the extra Board member is still there.

If that is what happened, it is a disgrace. No one can trust a Board that ignores the organisation’s Constitution. And as for Swimming New Zealand giving their approval, that is just as bad. Effectively a backroom deal changed the Wellington Constitution. Swimming Wellington’s Constitution told them both what any change to the Constitution involves. Here is what the Constitution says.

Subject to Clause 15.2 and subject to the prior written consent of Swimming NZ, this constitution may be changed by Special Resolution at a GM for which such change has been notified in accordance with Clause 10.

As you can see only Wellington members can change the Constitution. For two years, it appears, Mark Berge has allowed an improperly constituted Board to govern the affairs of the Wellington Centre. The fact SNZ have done nothing to correct the breach is shameful.

And then we come to the Auckland Region. Their Annual General Meeting was held last night. As you would expect a new Board was elected. The Auckland Constitution requires a Board of six members. For several years, and for no good reason that I know of, Auckland has operated, contrary to its Constitution, with a Board of five. Here is what the Constitution says.

8.1 The Board comprises six persons, (except following a merger of regional associations when for the first three years after the merger, the Board shall comprise no less than six persons and no more than eight persons)

Three questions arise from the decision to re-elect a Board of five members.

Why did Auckland go to the trouble of holding an Annual Meeting that appeared to ignore its Constitution? The Constitution says six, after years of operating illegally why weren’t six members elected?

Does the fact that the Board has been unconstitutional for several years make null and void all decisions made by an illegally constituted Board? Certainly if Auckland Swimming was trying to fine a swimmer of mine for missing a race or something similar I would appeal their right to levy the fine on the basis that the Board was not properly formed. In fact the unconstitutional make-up of the Auckland Board calls into question every decision made by the Auckland Board for several years.

Finally why is it that Cotterill and Johns allow SNZ regions to operate outside their constitutions? It is ironic that at the time of the Moller Report SNZ insisted that all regions have the same constitution. The rules had to be the same for everyone. Having got that, the management of Cotterill and Johns appears to be so slack that regions can do what they like and SNZ will turn a blind eye. Well run businesses have rules and then ensure they are followed. I guess that means we can assume SNZ is not a well-run business.

Freestyle Newsletter

Friday, August 17th, 2018

 Earlier this week Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) published its newsletter. There were articles on the 2018 youth Olympic Games team, vital water safety skills lagging in primary school children, becoming a qualified swim teacher and a recap of the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. I’m sure that, like me, you will have noticed the omission from that list. Of course, it is obvious. So I rang Steve Johns and Bruce Cotterill and asked if I could correct SNZ’s error and publish a follow up Freestyle Newsletter devoted exclusively to announcing SNZ’s most exciting news. Johns and Cotterill seemed more than happy to accept my offer. In fact they volunteered the services of the SNZ Media Department to draft and post this bulletin.

SNZ is delighted to announce the arrival in New Zealand of a magnificent new swimming book. Titled “Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers”, the book is written by an old friend of SNZ, David Wright. A copy of the book already graces the SNZ Antares Place bookshelf. You may be asking, how did SNZ jump the queue and get their hands on this prized purchase.

Well, SNZ are smart, that’s how they did it. First, they opened Google and typed the name of the book, “Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers”, into the search engine. Immediately a dozen contacts flashed across the screen. Oh my God, this book is already a best seller. SNZ could buy the book from Platekompaniet in Sweden for 229 Kroner, or from Love Reading in the UK, or from in the USA, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It was even available from Whitcoulls in New Zealand. The best deal was through Amazon New Zealand. For just $A19.95, including postage, this treasure could be theirs. But SNZ decided to support New Zealand and got their copy from venerable Whitcoulls, slightly more expensive but, what the heck, SNZ was paying.

Not only is the book for sale around the world, Google provides a preview of the book’s first forty pages. I’m told it took SNZ no time at all to read and digest every word. Then they knew this was a book SNZ just had to have. A quick swipe of their SNZ credit card and the book was on its way. NZ Post would deliver it to their Antares Place door.

The next day was a bit of a riot as SNZ staff mobbed the NZ Post delivery van to catch a glimpse of the new literary jewel. Eventually Johns got the book inside and safely into the main office bookcase. A memorandum was posted on the office noticeboard listing the names, in priority order, of the staff allowed to read the new purchase.

Word quickly spread. SNZ fielded calls and accepted interviews from the NZ Herald, Radio Sport and both television channels. Even Dave Crampton called asking for an interview. He said he wanted to write a review for his ultra-secret, security clearance required Facebook page. Could SNZ send him their copy? Johns declined Crampton’s request. There was no way “Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers” was being sent to Wellington. This book needed to be reviewed by someone who knew something about the sport. Crampton would have to get a copy for himself.

And that’s how SNZ got this new insight into New Zealand swimming. You must know the satisfaction of a job well done; the contentment that comes from successfully completing a difficult task. Well that’s the way SNZ feel today. SNZ has in its bookcase an item of New Zealand swimming history; “Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers” from Whitcoulls or for just $A19.95 from New Zealand and Australia

Of course I’m being flippant. I have no expectation that SNZ or Dave Crampton will ever have an interest in reading “Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers”. I’m not sure why not. The book addresses a serious subject that should be of concern to the national federation. A teenage dropout rate from the sport of 80% is clear evidence of something wrong. For years waterpolo and surf clubs have survived on the fallout from competitive swimming. Good heavens, the SNZ CEO, Steve Johns, is a discarded product of the same waste. He, above all others, should be interested in why his pool career failed to progress and what could have been done better.

In addition, it is not every day that a book, based primarily on New Zealand swimming, is published widely around the world and achieves most of its sales in the United States and Europe. That must make it of some interest. Swimming New Zealand should get a copy. They will certainly recognise themselves in much that it says. The book contains many New Zealand examples of the problems that end up causing an 80% dropout rate. The solutions proposed may also lead to better Board decisions. We will see.

For any readers interested in the book, the table below shows the links to some websites selling “Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers”. I do hope you enjoy it, and the opinions expressed make swimming in New Zealand just that little bit better.

Name Link
Amazon NZ and Australia
Google Search….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..3.30.7719…0j0i131k1j0i22i30k1j0i13k1j0i13i30k1j33i10k1j33i21k1j33i10i160k1j33i10i21k1.0.x4jkXIfyprM
Whitcoulls NZ
Amazon USA
Amazon UK
Google Info
Boekwinkeltjes Netherlands
Book ExpressRomania,9781782551409
Platecompaniet Sweden
Amazon Germany
Amazon France


Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Today I received an email from New Zealand Post. It said, “A parcel or packet has been screened and assessed by New Zealand Customs Service as a commercial or business shipment and is now being held by New Zealand Post pending Customs release.”

The note went on to tell me what I needed to do to have the parcel delivered. I was happy to do that because I knew what the parcel contained. It was the author’s copies of my new book, “Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers”. When you write a book for German publishers Meyer & Meyer, the contract includes half a dozen copies of the final product.

The notice prompted me to go to the Meyer & Meyer website and see if the book was for sale. AND IT IS! For any readers that are interested here is the link to the books website page.

The page goes on to explain what the book is about. Here is a copy of what it says.

Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers Build a Foundation. Streamline Your Training. Create Winners.

For three decades, David Wright has coached international swimmers who began their swimming careers in his Learn to Swim program, and this book is based on his experience guiding these swimmers. Wright saw many pitfalls that resulted in the sport losing 80% of its participants in their early teenage years—pitfalls that resulted in swimmers ending their careers broken and disillusioned. Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers examines the nature of the sport’s early dropout rate and proposes steps to correct the problem. It discusses qualities that should be present in good conditioning and speed training programs as well as why these qualities encourage continued participation and championship performance. Also included are danger signs of poor programs that cause early dropout. In addition to important training factors are the decisions and behavior outside the pool that coaches, parents, administrators, and national federations can make and do to extend and improve every swimmer’s involvement in the sport. Swimming champions are the product of good care in and out of the pool, and using this book provides the means for that good care.

Pages 152
Print run 1st edition
Format Specifications 21,5 x 27,9 cm, Paperback / softback, 100 Halftones and Illustrations, b/w
Publication Date 1 Aug 2018

Because the book is published in Europe and printed in the United States its primary focus is on the American and European markets. My previous book “Swim to the Top” reached number seven in the United States on the water sport’s best sellers list. However I am particularly interested in finding out what New Zealanders think. After all, the book involves many events that happened in New Zealand. Therefore although I only have half a dozen copies I am happy to send them to any journalist, retailer, commentator, coach or association who would be interested in a read. There is just one condition. When you finish the book you must put pen to paper and write a review. It certainly does not have to be good. Your honest opinion is all I ask. Good, bad or indifferent. Then post the opinion on whatever medium you control.

If you would like and are able to do that send me an email to and I will send you a copy of the book.

Obviously I have two interests in making this request. First I want to see the book as widely known as possible. And second, I am particularly interested in hearing a wide a range of opinions on what the book says. Dropout from the sport of swimming is a serious problem. If this book can stir up debate on the subject, then swimming will improve.

If any retailer reads this report and is interested in stocking the book also send me an email and I can put you in touch with the appropriate wholesaler.

And finally I look forward to an early email from Swimming New Zealand. I know the subject of successful junior swimming must be close to their hearts. The New Zealand 80% dropout rate cannot have escaped their attention. I can’t imagine there are many books on the subject of swimming in New Zealand published internationally by New Zealanders. This book might just be a wise investment of Swimming New Zealand resources, a certainty for the Johns office bookcase. I certainly plan to keep one free copy in reserve waiting for Steve Johns’ or Bruce Cotterill’s email. We will see LOL.