The Johns’ Legacy?

Some months ago a Swimwatch post discussed the problems of Tennis New Zealand. This was of interest because two years ago the CEO Swimming New Zealand (SNZ), Steve Johns, was previously CEO of Tennis New Zealand. What happened when Johns left Tennis New Zealand? Were there elements of deserting a sinking ship or was Tennis New Zealand a thriving business bounding from strength to strength? It seems that sinking ship may be the answer. This is what the current CEO of Tennis New Zealand; Julie Paterson, is reported to have said.

“We’ve had to change things so significantly in the last 18 months and we’ve got to let that change bed in.”

One of New Zealand’s star former players, Marina Erakovic, added to the sense of unease by adding that, “Unity still remains an issue. While it’s less divisive than it used to be Tennis New Zealand was still too Auckland focused.”

A tennis journalist concluded his remarks about the difficulties Steve Johns appears to have left behind by saying that the problems at Tennis New Zealand were the result of, “A number of factors, including more than a decade of poor decisions by Tennis New Zealand.”

These reports suggest that Steve Johns did leave behind a sinking ship. The impression is that two years after his departure the fallout from a decade of mis-management is coming home to haunt the sport.

The legacy of Steve Johns may have just had further fallout. Journalist, Michael Burgess, reported today in the New Zealand Herald that New Zealand’s Fed Cup captain Neil Carter says “far-reaching issues” have led to his unexpected departure from the national tennis body. To be fair to Johns, Carter was appointed to Tennis New Zealand shortly after Johns packed his bags and shifted to SNZ.

However, whatever caused Carter to leave had nothing to do with discontent among the players. The Carter case was no Hockey or Cycling mutiny. All reports indicate that Carter had an excellent relationship with New Zealand’s best players. He had built a strong bond with Paige Hourigan, Valentina Ivanov and Erin Routliffe.

Something caused Carter to walk away. If it wasn’t the players then it had to be the organisation. Carter admitted as much in an interview with the NZ Herald when he said, “”I just feel this needs to be dealt with internally, initially. There are clearly issues — I am not going to lie — and some far-reaching ones but I want to see how the next few weeks pan out. Hopefully, there will be some steps forward and my successor won’t need to face the same issues. It’s a role I have worked all my life for, and I had almost given up on the chance of taking it. I’ve loved the job…so to feel like I have to resign is quite sad. But I will continue to help the players as much as possible — nothing changes from that point of view — it’s just that I am no longer Fed Cup coach.”

This appears to be a case of a good man committed to the sport, a good man who could no longer tolerate the bull-shit he faced in the organisation Steve Johns left behind. In my opinion there is a simple moral in all this for SNZ – beware, you have been warned.

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