See What I Mean

For years I have argued that chaos is an inevitable product of the centralised policy Peter Miskimmin imposes on New Zealand sport. Swimming was first. Followed quickly by rowing, cycling, hockey and canoeing. Miskimmin tried it in athletics but, thanks to the better sense and success of Willis, Adams, Walsh and the Robertson twins, Miskimmin’s centralised folly has struggled to get off the ground.

But in the sports where Miskimmin has held sway, chaos, especially coaching chaos, has inevitably followed. Swimming provided the first master class in coaching turmoil. Jan Cameron was their first Head Coach. She was followed by Mark Regan but in 2013 Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) had enough of him. He was a good coach but not good enough for SNZ. Regan was followed by two temporary coaches, Bill Sweetenham and Luis Villanueva. Then they hired another alien, David Lyles. He lasted five minutes before a “restructuring” saw him out of a job. A first class coach, Clive Power, resigned from the SNZ Board to stand in for two years. Another good coach, Gary Hurring, took the New Zealand team to the Olympic Games before American age group coach, Jerry Olszewski, was given the top job. He lasted twelve months before cutting and running back to Arizona. Coaching Intern, Matt Woofe, was promoted to the top job before the position was abolished and North Shore junior age-group coach, Gary Francis, was appointed to advise the unadvisable.

Consider that history. Ten people have headed the SNZ, so called, High Performance program in nine years. Just think of this. SNZ forced a swimmer of Lauren Boyle’s application and talent to live a huge chunk of her career through that saga of coaching turmoil. Lauren should sue the buggers for negligence causing injury. Do you know what the chances are of producing champion swimmers when ten names at the top change in nine years? The answer is zero, nil, none, naught, nothing. I’m sure you get the idea.

Rowing is showing similar characteristics. Especially egregious was the loss of master coach, Dick Tonks. But others have fled that sinking ship.

The portions of Athletics New Zealand where Miskimmin’s centralised plans have found fertile ground are failing. While Walsh, Adams, the Robertsons and Willis happily do their own thing, the pole vaulters and Jacko Gill are constantly injured in a story that will not have a happy ending. They show all the signs of another Miskimmin debacle.

And then we have cycling. They fired Justin Grace because he wasn’t politically correct enough to fit the Miskimmin mould. And then his replacement, Antony Peden, had to go because he stayed up late having a few drinks in France or Spain or somewhere similar. The hilarious result is that Grace and Peden have gone on to stellar positions in the UK and China. New Zealand’s loss, it seems, has benefitted our competition.

But the sport of interest today is hockey. Now that is a disaster approaching SNZ proportions. They effectively sacked a top, tough, old school head women’s coach called Mark Hager. Here again Hockey New Zealand towed the politically correct Miskimmin line that good coaching meant deep analysis of feelings and massaging fragile egos and holding counselling meetings. Hager thought that was rubbish. And so do I. However, when Miskimmin is paying the bills, Hager had to go. New Zealand women’s hockey was without a coach. And so Hockey New Zealand appointed Hager’s Assistant Coach, Sean Dancer, as the temporary Head Coach and set about scouring the world for a new permanent Head Coach. Like SNZ the only acceptable replacement had to have a foreign passport. Eventually they found a suitable alien. The Irish women’s head coach, Graham Shaw was appointed and begins his new job on Monday, next week.

Are you following the story so far? The original coach is forced out, his assistant takes over and a foreigner from Ireland is appointed to lead the New Zealand women’s team. But the news that lifts the Hockey New Zealand story to a SNZ level is the news today that Sean Dancer, the assistant, temporary coach has accepted the position of replacing Graham Shaw as the Head Coach of the Irish women’s hockey team. Talk about musical chairs. What a circus.

It means that in six months Hockey New Zealand has provided the entire British Isles, Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, with their women’s hockey coaches; Hager to coach Great Britain and Dancer to coach Ireland. Six months ago New Zealand had them both. That is a script that would challenge even the masters of the unbelievable that blunder through life at SNZ.

But do not be too tough on SNZ. The chaos begins with Miskimmin, survives because of Miskimmin and will only end when Miskimmin goes. At least that’s the way it seems to me.

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