The Ruin of Peter Miskimmin

 There is a very good article written by Dylan Cleaver in this morning’s New Zealand Herald. Here is the link:

Cleaver argues that the Miskimmin and Sport New Zealand policy of pouring millions into winning international medals is reaching a tipping point. Most resources and effort are going into the top. The base is becoming weaker and weaker. Soon it will fail under the burden of its own weight.

I agree with that view. The evidence is pretty overwhelming. A recent Sport New Zealand survey (Active New Zealand) found that the number of young New Zealanders playing sport had dropped by 7.7% between 1998 and 2014 and has fallen again between 2004 and 2018. Miskimmin’s policies are not working. The financial emphasis on elite medals is hurting the grass roots of New Zealand sport.

In the Wellington information meeting Steve Johns admitted that elite sport was their funding priority. Here is what he said.

I was just going to say, before you go onto that, I mean, in very simplistic terms, that money is linked to Gold medals. If we want more money we need more medals. Very simple.   

That obsession with money and therefore medals has led Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) to thousands of bad decisions. Twenty five years and $35million dollars have been spent for what – one Bronze medal at the last Commonwealth Games. Does that sound like an acceptable return to anyone? Believe me, every Millennium Swim School learn-to-swim instructor does more to promote the health of New Zealand swimming in one Saturday morning swim lesson than Cotterill and Johns have managed in two decades spending $35million.

While I agree with Cleaver, I actually think it’s worse than he says. He argues that overfunding elite sport at the expense of the base is causing damage because the base is gradually rotting away. I would go further. The millions spent at the top is bad for sport at that level as well. Overfunded sports become greedy, conceited, arrogant and dishonest. They act like royalty and deliver pauper’s results.

We saw the shambles that preceded the Commonwealth Games. Not enough accommodation was booked to house the Games training camp. A swimmer withdrew because of injury and an unqualified swimmer was added at the last minute. What a mess.

And the Pan Pacific Games, about to begin on Thursday, are heading in the same direction. For some reason Swimming New Zealand decided a month-long training camp in Japan was a worthwhile use of their resources. What a chronic waste. The swimmers would have been better off spending another two weeks in their own beds, training with their own coaches, in their own pools and eating their own food.

And then Steve Johns was off on a paid junket to sign a contract with the Mayor of Kobe, Japan confirming that SNZ would use the Kobe pool as their training centre before the Olympic Games. That was a glorious waste of taxpayer’s money, that’s you and me because we paid for it. The signing could have been done for free, on a computer.

And now I read that Emma Robinson has withdrawn from the team because of illness. That is not Emma Robinson’s fault or Swimming New Zealand. But it is another sign of the black cloud of misfortune that follows around behind everything that Cotterill and Johns touch.

In previous posts I have mentioned the arrogance that comes with HPSNZ’s overfunding of Swimming New Zealand. The table below repeats some of these examples.

SNZ constructed a stage on poolside at the National Championships for swimmers in the Centralised Program to sit above and separate from the masses.

The Commonwealth Games Head Coach had team meetings that excluded swimmers who trained outside the Centralised Program.

It is not uncommon to see Centralised Program swimmers training one person to a lane. Six swimmers, six lanes is more than Phelps and Jeffrey would ever expect. 

For years Swimming New Zealand promoted its Centralised Program on its webpage as the best in the country, offering more than any local program. It was a disgusting put down of every local coach.

Who on earth do Johns and Francis think they are? At information meetings and the like they pass judgement on local coaches and local programs. Where they get the arrogant idea that they are qualified to make those judgements, I have no idea. They have less knowledge combined, of what’s involved in good swimming, than a dozen New Zealand coaches I could name.

But it’s not only swimming that demonstrates the arrogance of Miskimmin’s money. Rowing is a classic. Just consider their high-handed and disgusting treatment of Tonks, Twigg and Jenkins, behaviour that is clearly the product of too much money and inflated egos. Like swimming they have lost sight of the fact that this whole deal is about a holistic approach to the people involved. But to Rowing NZ’s High Performance Director, Alan Cotter, it’s about keeping Miskimmin happy enough to sign next year’s five million dollar cheque.  

Basketball is no better. Sadly that sport has lost New Zealand’s best player, Steve Adams, because of the way he was treated as a junior. And all power to Adams. The lessons he is teaching the sport are long overdue. I hope they have enough brains to learn.

And so I agree that the disproportionate resources poured into elite sport is seriously eroding the health of the base. The fanatical push for medals combined with the shallow and badly trained mass of bureaucrats that prance around as sport’s managers is catastrophic for elite sport. Some of the most seriously inflated egos in this world belong to your average swimming pool manager. I exclude the Millennium Pool manager. He is brilliant. Most pool managers rule over their domain like third world dictators. Matching them for ego though is the CEO of your average New Zealand sport. For some reason the career of sports management has attracted those who can’t make it in real management jobs. Instead they run around pandering to every HPSNZ whim, pleading for next year’s funding. If you want to find out the cause of the problems in sport and in SNZ in particular – just follow Miskimmin’s money.

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