A particularly knowledgeable New Zealand coach recently sent me a quote from the Athletics New Zealand website. Here is what it says.

Coaching – What do Dame Yvette Corlett, Sir Peter Snell, Sir John Walker, Tom Walsh, Dame Valerie Adams, Nick Willis and Eliza McCartney all have in common? They were all developed by grass roots domestic coaches who work within our network of 170+ clubs nationwide.

Exactly. For twenty-five years I tried to pass that message on to Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). Finally, SNZ saw the light and dropped its $26million obsession with centralised training. SNZ never said it, but the message was loud and clear. Bruce Cotterill was wrong. Swimming was going to find another, better way. That and the cost and casualties were too high even for Miskimmin and Cotterill.

But there are other Bruce Cotterills lurking, perfectly capable of destroying the progress made by SNZ. The Garden of Eden temptation of a centralisation sporting apple has not gone away. It will be difficult to hold firm to the truth of the Athletics New Zealand website. SNZ will be offered the delights of centralised control from many sporting serpents. For example.

High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ)

Do not think for a second HPSNZ has given up on its centralised sport ambitions. Elite centralised coaching requires lots of money. HPSNZ controls lots of money. Money gives HPSNZ the power to build empires. HPSNZ bureaucrats like building empires. Therefore, centralised coaching remains their preferred option.

Right now, swimming is the one that got away. HPSNZ put $26million into the SNZ slot machine and lost the lot. But beware, HPSNZ has not forgotten. Raelene Castle will be back. Controlling her Garden of Eden depends on it. We can only hope SNZ has the strength to turn the serpent away. The path taken by Athletics New Zealand is a better one.       

False Prophets

Sport in New Zealand is littered with “experts”. Usually, they are parents who follow their son or daughter into the sport. In no time at all they have the way forward for the sport nailed. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” was invented to describe this group. SNZ has a perfect example. The author of the Kiwi Swimming Facebook page. I doubt he has ever swum a length in anger. He has certainly only been around for five minutes. But he sure knows how Steve Johns and Gary Francis should run the sport. For example, a recent Kiwi Swimming post said this.

“Clareburt’s great performances were achieved in spite of Swimming NZ, not because of the federation.”

The implication is that Swimming New Zealand needs to get involved with Clareburt’s Olympic preparation. After spending 25 years getting SNZ out of coaching, SNZ could do without this Kiwi Swimming nonsense. Of course, the author’s zero knowledge of swimming is the problem. He never knew the destruction SNZ caused. He was too busy putting coffee where it doesn’t belong.

He complains about swimming winning no Olympic medals since Danyon Loader and then promotes the same system that caused that poor performance. Is that wilful ignorance or an IQ problem? Who knows? Perhaps it comes from a vacuum, “a space entirely devoid of matter.” Whatever the reason, beware of false prophets.

Greed for the Easy Buck

Good policy can easily be reversed. The best excuse is the lure of easy money. If I am right and the SNZ Board is on the prowl to extend itself into learn-to-swim, then this temptation is already real. I have no idea why any Board would follow a $26million dollar failure with a socialist effort to get involved in another activity that is none of its business. SNZ’s job is to facilitate an environment where private swim schools make more money. SNZ does not exist to line its pockets with other people’s money.

If centralised control of sport worked Saudi Arabia would be hugely successful. But for all their centralised power and money Saudi Arabia has only won two Olympic bronze medals. Tom Walsh has done better than that without going anywhere near a centralised coaching regime. I doubt that Arch Jelley or Arthur Lydiard ever received a centralised dollar. I remember Arthur showing me a letter he had sent to HPSNZ asking for help with paying the postage on the dozens of letters he wrote to athletes and coaches asking for his advice. HPSNZ’s reply was a flat refusal – nothing, not a penny. Let the pensioner pay his own postage. HPSNZ had SNZ’s inflated costs to look after.

For twenty years Arch Jelley has provided me and many others with coaching advice. Did HPSNZ assist his costs? Of course not. Not when there was $26million needed to pay for SNZ’s 22 staff, its cars and its failed attempt to coach a fast swimmer.

SNZ needs to learn from its recent history. The mistakes of the past are instructive. Those who inhabit Antares Place should read and learn from what has worked at Athletics New Zealand. You see, while SNZ was spending HPSNZ’s $26million for no medals, New Zealand track and field athletes were winning 8 medals, coached by local club coaches, who I’m picking were also paying for their postage.

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.