Don’t Tell Me The Policy Has Changed

Remember when Gary Francis was employed by Swimming New Zealand (SNZ)? We were told this was a new beginning. The old centralised training program had failed. Millions had been wasted on a fool’s mission. Dozens of promising swimming careers were lost. For ten years membership, income and medals had all declined. Finally, faced with sporting oblivion, SNZ had to announce a change in policy. Gary Francis was the answer.

That announcement must have caused Cotterill and Johns some embarrassment. What they said sounded very much the same as Swimwatch had been saying for years. Surely they were not agreeing with Swimwatch? Their sense of embarrassment must have been heightened by the realisation that the change in policy meant accepting ten years of waste and failure. But the really sad part is their abject refusal to accept responsibility for the hurt. The sport lost millions and dozens of young New Zealanders lost their careers and SNZ response was a shoulder shrug and a, “Too bad, oh well never mind, move on.”

Well that is not acceptable. The hurt caused by a policy that SNZ now admits was a failure needs to be addressed. Who was to blame? Was it Peter Miskimmin? Was it Bruce Cotterill? Was it other members of the Board? Was it a succession of Head Coaches like David Lyles? Was it one of the CEOs like Christian Renford? Someone had to be responsible; but not at SNZ. There they have no understanding of the importance of responsibility. They simply brush failure under the carpet and move on to something new.

There is no way it should be as easy as that. If lessons are to be learned from the past there needs to be an open and public enquiry into what went wrong. The scale of the waste was too great to ignore. Those responsible need to be held to account. Their irresponsible stewardship cannot be left unaddressed. SNZ cannot be allowed to shrug off the destruction they have caused.

Except, in this instance SNZ has not moved on to something new. They have simply hidden the old policy behind a fake new screen. Nothing has changed. If anything the waste is even worse. Take this morning for example.

Occupying six lanes of a 25 meter pool was the, so called, “SNZ centralised training squad”. Hovering around, watching their every move, were the Coaching Intern, Mathew Woofe, the Targeted Athlete and Coach Manager, Gary Francis, the High Performance and Operations Manager, Amanda White and a couple of hangers on that I didn’t recognise. There were close to as many people sitting around the pool as swimmers in the pool. And sadly we are paying for all of them. Every one of them, swimmers included, is living on the member’s dime. They need to know that I am not at all happy about paying for what I see in that pool. As far as I am concerned Francis lied when he told the world SNZ was about to embark on a new journey. We were entering a brave new world. That was not true.

If it was true there would be no centralised training group. Those swimmers would all be in the other pool training with North Shore or across in Auckland training with United or out west swimming with Waterhole or up north at Coast. They would not be wasting my membership fees training with SNZ.

But that is what they are doing. Every day at that pool, spending our fees like they always have, like there is no tomorrow. The dishonesty of it all is stunning. The waste is obscene. And as has always been the case – it will not work.

In my time involved in coaching I have lived and coached in six countries. I have met and watched world-class coaches at work; men like Arch Jelley, Arthur Lydiard, Duncan Laing, Mark Schubert. I have coached an Olympic Gold medallist (after she won in Athens), a masters world record holder, 5 international medallists and 24 national champions. In all that time I have never seen anything like the shambles that goes on in the SNZ centralised training group every morning. Believe me it is nothing like a world class swimming program; nowhere near. There is no chance that what goes on there will produce world class swimmers. Our money is being wasted.

I will resist the temptation to spend time here telling you the things SNZ do badly. However I have devoted a whole chapter in my new book, “Shaping Successful Junior Swimmers”, (Chapter Six, page 30) to the coaching faults I have observed in the SNZ centralised training program. If you do take time to read that chapter remember this is not the opinion of one person. These are concrete examples that the coaching world recognises as serious training faults. As you read the chapter and take in the incompetence of the SNZ program, remember that the joke really is still on us. The charade that promotes itself as an international training program; this SNZ swimming folly and is being paid for by us.

Sadly I don’t think those responsible are aware of their inadequacy. I don’t think they know that what they are doing is a waste of their time and our money. But I guess that when it’s all being led by an ex-club age-group coach and an intern we should not expect much more; the blind leading the blind.

No one would allow a bed-orderly to run Middlemore Hospital, or a maid to manage the Sheraton, or a boning-room trimmer to be in charge of an AFFCO meat plant. In my opinion that is exactly what SNZ does every day. Out of their depth they flounder around, costing us money, achieving nothing.

And so we were promised a new direction; a fresh start. Nothing like that has been delivered. It is the same old, same old. In fact it is worse than it has ever been.

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.