For twenty-five years I argued against centralised training. Jan Cameron and Bruce Cotterill were the first to impose it on any sport. Why swimming drew the short straw I have no idea. After spending $26 million trying to prove their point, swimming was also the first sport to fail. Cameron and Cotterill were blissfully unaware that “The end was contained in the beginning.” But oh, what destruction had been caused in between.  

Finally, more enlightened minds took control of Swimming New Zealand. And a year ago Tongue, Johns and Francis relegated centralised training to the rubbish heap of history and restored a decentralised club-based structure. If ever there was one giant leap for mankind this was it. Of course, what took twenty-five years to tear apart is going to take longer than one year to put right. But patience and firm management will see the new structure work. The sport will develop into a happier, safer and more successful place.

BUT, there are dark clouds in the sky ahead. Swimming is still in a fragile condition and can easily be hurt by those without the knowledge or courage to know better. Who do I mean? Well, take someone like a guy called Craig Ashby who wrote this:

I guess when organisations have no money they make it easy on themselves …….

Destroying the hopes and dreams (and pathways) of the many who might just deliver

A Quax, A Dixon , A Walker , A Loader

Most sports do not provide a plan A, let alone a plan B or C.

Mr Ashby is clearly living in a centralised past. Relying on handouts from the granny state he wants Johns or Francis to provide a centralised pathway. He does not realize we have moved on from centralised, socialist control to a decentralised American club model. The task of providing a pathway is now his responsibility. It is not Francis and Johns’ job. We wanted that power back in the hands of clubs. Now that has been done, we provide the pathways. We do not blame Swimming New Zealand for not doing something we begged them for twenty-five years to stop doing.

Incidentally it is ironic beyond belief that Ashby should use as his examples, Quax, Walker, Dixon and Loader. If ever four men rowed their own boat with no programme from Athletics New Zealand or Swimming New Zealand it was those four. Yes, we do want to go back to how they did it – making our own plans without being suffocated by the granny state. Mr. Ashby should stop spending his time complaining about Swimming New Zealand and start delivering on the responsibilities he has recently inherited.

But sadly, Ashby is not the only obstruction standing in the way of Swimming New Zealand’s new and enlightened approach. For example, try this gem from Jason Hunt:

Now we know where Steve Johns get his ignorance from. Gerrard is misinformed of what is going on or just ignoring what is happening in club land.

Gerrard and Johns are not ignoring what is happening in club land. In fact, Gerrard’s Annual Report highlighted the most important success of New Zealand swimming in Tokyo. The three best swimmers came from decentralised club programmes – Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington. Clubland, Mr Hunt, is now your responsibility. Get on and make it work. Stop blaming Gerrard and Johns for your own inadequacies. Some of us fought hard to put you in charge of your clubland. So put your big boy’s pants on and act like an adult.

Finally, there is someone called Kiwi Swimming who is also hell-bent on dragging swimming back to the 1990s. For example, he or she, recently said this:

This is being overseen and observed by Swimming NZ and Swimming Welllington [sic], who are doing nothing at all about it except either ignoring or slagging off people who complain.

 Here again we have a Johnny-come-lately who wants Swimming New Zealand to take up arms and storm down the Desert Road to fix some club problem in Wellington. Again, it is worth reminding Kiwi Swimming that for twenty-five years we pleaded for Swimming New Zealand to stay away from our local affairs. The people who need to sort out a club problem in Wellington are the people of Wellington. That’s what decentralisation means. My advice to Kiwi Swimming is to stop being a baby dashing off to mummy in Antares Place every time things get a bit tough.

For what it’s worth, I hope dearly that Johns and Francis have the courage to stick to their guns and avoid the Ashby, Hunt and Kiwi Swimming dark clouds.         

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