Well Bugger Me

Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has sent out an email today announcing that the centralised training group is about to be closed. That’s good news. It is twenty years and thirty million dollars too late. It is especially too late for the talented New Zealanders who put their trust in SNZ and were rewarded with incompetence and chaos. But I guess as they say, “Better late than never”. It will be interesting to see how long it takes SNZ to actually stop the program. Announcing the change is one thing, causing it to happen is another. They were all still there this morning. Through Swimwatch, I will let you know when they, thankfully, leave.

Today’s announcement does highlight the random nature of SNZ decision making. The way things are done leaves the impression of making up policy on the fly. Someone read or heard something today and that became the new plan. The way SNZ do things gives no impression that decisions are part of a long-term and well thought-out strategy. Johns calls it part of the “2018-2020 High Performance Strategic Plan”, but that’s hard to believe.

For example, a couple of months ago SNZ held their first meeting in Wellington to discuss the introduction of the new High Performance Strategic Plan. Johns, Francis and White were all there explaining, in great detail, their plans for the Francis position. One feature, made abundantly clear, was that the centralised training group in Auckland would remain in place. Francis explained that the centralised training group was needed for swimmers who were limited by what he thought they could achieve in their home clubs. At the time I asked what gave a club age-group coach like Francis the right to decide what a swimmer could achieve and how was anything done in the failure that is the SNZ centralised program any better? So there we had it. Word from the top; the SNZ centralised training program was here to stay. It was a settled part of the 2018-2020 High Performance Strategic Plan.

Two months later the centralised training program has gone. How does that work? The decision has to be a knee-jerk reaction to something. Clearly the squad was part of the plan two months ago. Why is it not now? I’m happy that it has gone. I just wish I could feel more confident that SNZ are not making all this up as they go along. A knee-jerk here, a knee jerk there. I guess we are lucky that this time the knee jerked in the right direction.

Perhaps I should also be pleased that the decision reflects so well the argument pushed endlessly on Swimwatch that the SNZ squad should be terminated. Remember when Johns wrote to me and said, “If you think your little blogs and constant attacks are helping swimming in NZ, then you are seriously mistaken.” It seems on this occasion Swimwatch may have helped. Certainly what Johns has finally done reflects the Swimwatch position perfectly.

Here is how Steve Johns told New Zealand about his new idea.

 I write today to formally announce that as part of our continued roll out of the 2018-2024 High Performance Strategic Plan, we will be ending the daily training squad programme currently operated here at the National Training Centre.  The move away from offering this daily training environment to selected performance athletes, will enable Swimming NZ to relocate the resources currently required to deliver this programme into other priority initiatives contained within the strategy including greater support for all targeted athletes and coaches and increased opportunities for coach development and education.

In ending the daily training squad programme, we acknowledge the commitment made by the swimmers in the squad, some of whom who have moved away from their homes to train, and the support provided by AUT Millennium in terms of the world class facilities provided, but believe that the time is right to move away from a centralised training environment to a system where Swimming NZ is able to provide support to a larger group of athletes and coaches regardless of where they live and train.  The introduction of the Targeted Athlete & Coach Programme at the beginning of this year has been a positive step forward but one that requires additional financial resource to ensure it can be delivered to a level and quality that means it will make a real difference to the swimmers involved, whether in NZ or overseas.  With a reduction in funding from High Performance Sport NZ in early 2017, we simply don’t have the funds available to continue to deliver a daily training programme and implement other priority initiatives contained within the strategy.

We will however continue to promote the Sir Owen G Glenn National Aquatic Centre and AUT Millennium facilities as our National Training Centre.  We have already increased the number of training camps and development opportunities available to both the Targeted Athlete & Coach Programme and the wider swimming community with the October National Squad Camp and December Senior Squad Camp and a further seven (7) on the 2019 National Squad Calendar.

We are currently working with the swimmers who have been training at the centre on their individual transitions into suitable club programmes and will continue to have a high level of interest and involvement in their swimming careers.

Should you have any questions relating to the above, please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss.  I would ask that you circulate this information to your clubs and members as you see fit.  For your information, we will be circulating the above to all coaches on our database today.

What all that boils down to is, “We needed more money to pay for our new idea of a dozen training camps. We don’t get enough money from Sport NZ so we’ve dropped the centralised training group to save money and will use the cash to pay for the camps.” Conveniently, I’m sure a chunk of the cash saved will be spent preserving the Johns and Francis’ bloated life-styles.

Isn’t that typical Steve Johns? It is all about money. No thought for whether the centralised training program worked or not. No discussion about the damage it has caused the people who swam there. No mention of the ever decreasing number of swimmers wanting to trust the training they got there. No swimming information at all; just money, money, money.

On this occasion we appear to have a got a good decision, made in unseemly haste, for purely financial gain; not a good way to run a business. The chances of getting a series of good decisions out of a repetition of that process are next to nil.

The next step is to convince SNZ that the camps and the Francis Folly’ squads are a waste of time and money. We will start next week by pointing out that both costs are likely to put pressure on SNZ to honor the Johns and Francis pay checks. That argument seems to have worked on this occasion. Let’s try it again.

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