Leadership On Show

Leadership is a strange quality; easy to see, impossible to copy. Leadership in swimming is currently on full display. Not, as should be happening, in the halls of FINA power but by the leaders and swimmers involved in the International Swimming League. ISL’s voice comes from the pen of the UK’s Craig Lord. When swimming is reformed, and it will, thousands of us will owe Craig Lord our thanks.

Sticking your head over the parapet is not easy. Even in little old New Zealand it has its dangers. But when, like journalist Craig Lord, you accept the challenge of reforming world swimming – wow, that’s a whole different game. Those in power, desperate to silence dissent, have two methods of response.

First they ignore the dissenter’s opinion. Their intention is to send a message that the debate is beneath their dignity. They are way above the insane rantings of the clearly deranged. Refusing to acknowledge the reformer’s existence will, they hope, lead the world in their direction.

And when that doesn’t work they attack the messenger. The message gets ignored. According to those in power Craig Lord is on a personal vendetta; he has always been a trouble maker. Even in New Zealand I have been accused of the same things. Every communication I get from Swimming New Zealand involves a personal insult to me and my blog. I love it. It means I have passed the “ignore him and he will go away” stage.

If my New Zealand experience is anything to go by I hate to think what Craig Lord has put up with. After all he is dealing on the world stage. The vehicles he writes for have huge international reputations. The stakes are immeasurably higher. But so, I guess, are the rewards for a job well done. And it is being well done.

All those thoughts came to mind when I read today a new post on Craig Lord’s Swimvortex Facebook page. Here is the link:


I recommend you read it. This is what leadership looks like. This is the meaning of reform. Lord’s comments begin with this paragraph.

“FINA Future can only be bright if the regulator submits to long-overdue independent review and reform that national federations should be pressing for on behalf of the athletes they serve and represent.”

There you have the problem summarised in one sentence. FINA needs to reform and swimming federations, like Swimming New Zealand, should be pushing for that reform. Instead of sitting around denying me a report into my coaching, instead of swanning off to the USA to inspect the work far more qualified people are already doing, Swimming New Zealand should be spending their time on what really affects the sport.

Consider the thousands spent sending Gary Francis to the USA this week. According to the Swimming New Zealand newsletter, “Gary Francis is currently in the USA visiting our NCAA based Athletes in their home programs.” Can you imagine that? What is that going to achieve? A North Shore age-group coach inspecting the Florida, Kentucky and Georgia NCAA programs. In my opinion another waste of our money. Thousands more to add to the millions Swimming New Zealand has wasted. When they consider the past decade how do they sleep at night?

Instead Swimming New Zealand should be addressing serious issues such as those being discussed in the Craig Lord post. Sadly I suspect Swimming New Zealand doesn’t have a clue what Lord is talking about. Even if they did I doubt any of them would have the courage to peek above the parapet and join the movement for change. Just read the Craig Lord report. World sport is on the move and New Zealand is getting left behind.

Sadly it is not Francis, Cotterill or Johns who are going to pay for that. Yesterday I was talking to the father of a girl about to leave for the Age Group Nationals in Wellington. Like a thousand Dads before him he was full of hope and expectation. It is always refreshing to share their excitement. I never disclosed the impossibly difficult path Swimming New Zealand has placed in front of his daughter. I suspect he would take my concern as the bitterness of old age. But it is confronting when you come face to face with excited expectation that has no idea of the reality of its future.

I hope the North Shore Dad reads this post – but far, far more importantly I hope he reads what Craig Lord has to say on Swimvortex. His daughter’s swimming career depends on it.

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.