Archive for January, 2022

CRY THE BELOVED SPORT

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

It has been said many times that the author of the Facebook page Kiwi Swimming is full of BS. What he knows about swimming could be written on the back of a very small postage stamp. A New Zealand Court once described him in these terms:

“Having seen and heard Mr Crampton give evidence and being cross-examined over a range of matters including his harassment of others, the events of 23 April 2013 and the circumstances in which the warning letter was disclosed by him, our assessment is that he is a person who can see only one point of view (his own), believes he is always right and is quick to take offence. Having little capacity for objectivity his evidence was invariably self-serving and self-justifying. In these circumstances we find little weight can be attached to his account.”

At the same Court hearing, Crampton was accused of pouring a cup of coffee over a work colleague. I have wondered whether that atrocity had anything to do with his decision to call himself on Twitter, “caffeine-addict”.

With that description from a New Zealand Court, none of us should be surprised at the worthless 1174 words of rubbish published on his Kiwi Swimming Facebook page yesterday. Sadly, I suspect he lacks the intellectual capacity to analyse the sources and consequences of problems being experienced in swimming. Certainly the court’s description of, “having little capacity for objectivity”, make his opinions highly suspect.  

Here is a different view of where we stand:

  1. For twenty years Sport New Zealand appointed administrators like Layton, Cotterill, Miskimmin and Cameron who demanded that swimming follow a policy of centralisation. Coaches and administrators were brought to New Zealand from Australia, the UK, Spain and the United States.
  2. The result of this policy was that New Zealand swimming at the grass roots, died. Administrators no longer administered. Coaches no longer coached. The club and provincial scene became a wasteland. Swimming New Zealand assumed responsibility for it all. The destruction caused by that policy was catastrophic.
  3. Then two years ago Johns, Francis and Tongue either realised the error of their ways or ran out of sufficient money to pay for centralisation and returned responsibility to the clubs and regions. Their problem was clubs and regions had lost the ability to manage the sport. For twenty years Cotterill and company had demanded the right to do it all. Few of those involved in the regions and clubs had any experience in what they were being asked to do.
  4. Stripping the sport of qualified administrators and coaches had taken twenty years. It was not going to be fixed in two. And that of course is what we see today. Some regions and clubs make good decisions. Wellington, last weekend and Waikato next weekend are examples. HBPB and Manawatu are examples of regions where administrators are still catching up. Coaching is the same – a mixture of the good and the bad.
  5. The answer however is NOT to do what Crampton suggests and expect Johns, Tongue and Francis to do more. We asked for responsibility to be given back to the clubs and regions. We need to live with the consequences. We need to relearn. It is our job to fix HBPB and Manawatu. It is not Steve Johns’ job to do it for us. If membership numbers are dropping it is our job to fix the problem.  
  6. Like every good nanny-state New Zealander, Crampton wants the government, that’s Swimming New Zealand, to solve all his problems. Six times he tells me in this most recent Facebook post that all our problems are Steve Johns’ fault. That is a lie. We asked for responsibility to manage the business. Now we have it we need to learn quickly and get on with the job.
  7. And finally, in his 1174-word Facebook post Crampton spreads blame, like a rogue cup of coffee, all over Steve Johns and Swimming New Zealand. Nowhere is there a suggested solution. The regions and clubs are fighting back. Things are improving. Swimming is getting better. Sure, it will take time. Cotterill’s execution of the sport was a long and painful process. Johns, Tongue and Francis have done the right thing. Now Crampton should give their reforms time to work. He has been self-serving and self-justifying once. We can do without him repeating the error.

THAT WOMAN

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

I see New Zealand has been voted the 2021 Least Corrupt Country. That status is something for which we can all feel proud. Whatever our political persuasion it is in our best interests to live in a country where trust is not misplaced. We do not want to follow rogue nations, such as the United States where “trash” seems to drive their news. One Representative recently thought it was a great idea refer to another politician as a terrorist, prompting a reply, in all-caps describing her accuser as “TRASH.” 

Certainly, that is not the behaviour I want to see imported into New Zealand. However, we do need to be on our guard. New Zealand is not the place it was when the Prime Minister’s personal telephone number was listed in the phone book or when the Prime Minister could stroll down The Terrace in Wellington to work. There are those who take advantage of our good nature and use it to distort and corrupt. This past weekend I was party to a conversation where the current Prime Minister was being torn to shreds. The conversation ended with me being aggressively told, “I’d like to put a bullet through her head.”

An hour later I filed a complaint with the police. In another thirty minutes a police car pulled up outside the author of the threat’s house and a policeman and woman went inside.

I seriously doubt the person involved would be capable of carrying out an attack on the Prime Minister. However, whether Luxton or Ardern occupy that office, New Zealand cannot be a place where threats to the office holder are tolerated.

The incident did cause me to wonder, how on earth did she get the idea that threats like that are acceptable behaviour? Who led her to a place where she thought shooting the Prime Minister was a good idea? Had she been watching too much Fox News or was there a home-grown New Zealand version of Fox News that was subtly stoking hatred. Hatred that in the hands of the crazies becomes “a bullet in her head”.

Sadly, in News Talk ZB I think we do have a Fox News. Just like Trump encouraged the storming of the United States Capitol, News Talk ZB would never admit to encouraging “a bullet through her head” behaviour. But the hatred that spews from their station is potentially deadly, nevertheless.

On my way home tonight, I heard Heather du Plessis Allen interview the Deputy Prime Minister Robertson and conclude by calling him a liar and hoping the rest of 2022 would not be a repeat of that behaviour. Insult heaped upon insult can eventually become a bullet. The Broadcasting Standards Authority have already found du Plessis Allan guilty of racism. Was tonight’s attack on Robertson just the latest iteration of an opinionated and dangerous journalist?

Mike Hosking is no better. Everything Labour is bad and needs to go. Of course, he has, or I hope he has, the next election in mind. But Hosking should know there are crazies he is talking to who can’t wait that long. Perhaps he does not care. The lust for power is all that matters. Problem is one of those listening could well be my neighbour – unable to wait for the next election.

Even Hosking’s holiday stand-in, Tim Dower, could be accused of exciting violence. Last week, in an opinion piece on Jacinda Ardern, he said, “If I hear that woman say the word team one more time, I’m turning off the radio.” The contempt in his voice as he uttered the words, “that woman” was stunning, disgusting, and dangerous. What school of manners did Dower go to that taught him it was just fine to refer to any female as “that woman”? His opinion displayed utter contempt for women, for the Prime Minister’s office and for Ardern. I wonder if my bullet-in-the-head neighbour heard Dower’s opinion and arrived at her own solution.

Beware of News Talk ZB. New Zealand will no longer be the Least Corrupt Country if that lot have their way.  

DAYS LIKE THIS IN SCOTLAND

Monday, January 24th, 2022

A few posts ago I told the story of swimming in Wellington the day the SS Wahine sank. That was swimming’s worst weather day. Today’s post will describe my worst weather day training for running. I have been for runs in several countries – New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. In my last year at high school, I ran everyday through a Wisconsin winter.

That can be dangerous enough. Temperatures well below zero, snow and wind and frozen footpaths were normal fare. But even Wisconsin could not match my most dangerous weather run.

Scotland provided that memorable event. Alison and I lived in the Scottish village of Auchterarder. The town is probably better known as the location of Gleneagles Golf Club. I worked in the nearby city of Perth. My job was to supervise the building of Europe’s newest freezing works – known in Scotland as a slaughterhouse. It was a challenging job. Designed to kill 600 cattle and 3000 sheep a day it also included very modern features in those days, such as rapid chilling, aging, and preparation rooms that broke meat down to the small packs of chops, steak and mince sold in supermarkets. I am delighted to report that forty years later the plant is still there, churning out thousands of meat packs for the supermarket world.

Alison was a runner. She was the UK 1500m National Indoor Champion and had been selected to run indoors and outdoors for Scotland and the UK. Although she claimed to dislike cross country running, she was also a double Scottish National Champion at that event. Before transferring to run for the UK she had broken the New Zealand 1000m record at the home of Hitler’s 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Her time of 2.38 stood as the New Zealand national record for 36 years from 1979 until 2015. She competed for New Zealand in the 800m and 1500m in the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton and for Oceania in the 1979 Montreal World Cup.

Alison’s coaching was a combined effort. Arch Jelley, in New Zealand set her schedules and how they should be run, and I went to the track to time Alison’s track work. I also went for runs with her across the rolling hills of Gleneagles Golf Course. There was no way I could keep up, but the exercise was good for me and our two Labradors, Tweed and Kelso. Arch followed a distance-based training programme. Alison’s build-up preparation always involved 10 weeks of 160 kilometers a week. Her best ten-week average was 172 kilometers a week.

Clearly training in the north of Scotland involved periods of bad weather. Events that you do not find elsewhere were commonplace. Occasionally we had to stop training because Alison’s spikes could no longer break the rock-hard ice on the track. I used to have to clear the inside lane of snow before training could begin. On many days Alison would arrive home after her morning 14 kilometer run with frozen eyelashes. That was all normal. The bad one came on Sunday’s 16 kilometer run over Borland Glen.

The Borland Glen run was a circuit I had searched out when we first arrived in Scotland. I was looking for something that resembled the Waitakere Circuit used by New Zealand runners. And oh, what a gem I found – not as long as the Waitakeres but perfect in every other way.

I can do no better than copy a local tourist guide that describes Alison’s Sunday run.

“Takes a bitta finding this one. Best ventured to by going along the gorgeous, little-known Dunning Glen in the eastern Ochils, till you reach Littlerig house. Cross the road from there and follow the line of the burn and forest till it veers sharp left. Keep along the fencing until the marshland levels out and streams fall away both east and west. From here, walk uphill until you reach level ground, then, looking down the Borland Glen, zigzag downhill.”

Notice how the description says, “walk uphill until you reach level ground”. That is an understatement beyond belief. The uphill portion of Borland Glen was steep beyond belief. I am certain that stretch of road was in part responsible for providing Alison with the strength to run away with national championships and records. I don’t know how many times I have watched New Zealand runners today and thought they could benefit from a few Sundays “uphill until you reach level ground”.

This particular Sunday started fine and sunny. We climbed uphill until we reached the top of Borland Glen. Then in five minutes, the world changed. Black clouds covered the sky. Day turned into night. The temperature dropped twenty degrees and wind and snow lashed horizontally across our path. Sometimes you just know when something is dangerous. This was one of those times. We had to get off this Scottish mountain before confusion set in and in the darkness, we were unable to find our way.

We set off down the farm track, running as fast as we dared, unable to see more than a few meters ahead and cold, really freezing cold. And then I wasn’t feeling cold at all. I was aware this was even more dangerous. We had to push on to the safety of home.

Half an hour of stumbling and we made it. Safe in our well-warmed Auchterarder home. Even with the experience of Wisconsin winters, this run was a clearly the most dangerous. It changed my view of how quickly hypothermia could kill. The internet tells me death can come in less than an hour. A few minutes at the top of Borland convinced me that was true.

LAZY BUGGERS I HAVE KNOWN

Friday, January 21st, 2022

I began a previous Swimwatch post by saying, “There does not seem to be anything of interest rocking New Zealand swimming at present.” I did not expect an email telling me, “Oh come on.  There has to be a story in AK Swimming not being a competitive region.”

I decided to investigate. Sure enough my email correspondent was right. He said there were effectively no competitive swim meets in 2022 until the 19 March. He also said the reason was that the “coaches group supposedly wanted a complete cycle of training after the covid break, before racing.”  

Could that possibly be true? Sure enough 18 towns and cities will have swim meets before Auckland decides it is time to swim a swimming race. To be fair there is an Auckland junior festival listed as a possible meet and an Auckland secondary schools open water race in that time. But for regular senior pool swimmers it’s a matter of wait until mid-March or spend a fortune traveling the country.

Among the 18 towns with swim meets Christchurch is listed with 4 meets of their own. Hamilton and Wellington have 3 meets each. Dunedin, Invercargill and Rotorua have 2 meets each. They all clearly do not subscribe to Auckland’s requirement that we should, “complete a cycle of training after the covid break, before racing.” Even Bluff has a meet. Well done Auckland (population 1,657,000) – behind Bluff (population 1,797). Oh, and I missed Akaroa (population 624, that’s 300 people less than the Auckland suburb of Piha) who also have meet before Auckland.  

There are two thoughts about this ridiculous example of administration. First, it is not the “Auckland Coaching Group’s” job or responsibility to decide when swimmers should race. Perfectly good people, called coaches, like Andy, Igor, Paul, Sheldon, Horst, Phillip and me can decide for ourselves when swimmers should race. Many coaches may follow an acceptable plan of racing to full fitness. Many records have been broken after intense periods of racing. We certainly do not need some bureaucratic committee telling us how swimmers should be prepared. The Coaches Group should put on the meets and let us decide who will swim.

Even if the Coaches Group includes coaches they have no business telling other coaches when their swimmers should race.  

For too long in the past administrators have exceeded their powers. I must have been told hundreds of times that my distance conditioning programme was not the modern way. My reaction was always the same. “It is none of your business”. The same goes for making it impossible to race at home. “It is none of your business”. Put on the meets and we will decide whether to use them or not. If a full-on programme of racing is your thing, move to Canterbury. Auckland is not the place for you.

Second, I am concerned that motivation for the decision might be shear bloody old-fashioned laziness. Far be it from any of us to interrupt administrator’s two months soaking up the rays on Waiheke or the Coromandel. Don’t disrupt their daily cruise around Auckland Harbour or their lunch at Ahi Restaurant on the Auckland waterfront. Far better to make up a pathetic excuse and laze-about for ten weeks convinced they have done swimmers in Auckland a huge service. Did you really think ten weeks of no races was in the best interests of the sport, or were you just too lazy to do the right thing?

One feature I have found is true in sport. Athletes have to work hard. Coaches have to work hard. Administrators have to work hard. It is a hard team game. This racing example is not good. From what I can see swimmers have got back into training after the lockdown. Coaches are also pulling their weight. But Auckland’s administrators are sitting around doing bugger-all. That is especially galling when in some cases we are paying their wages. Come on you guys – get off your bums and do some work.  

PS – Brett and company must be enjoying the Auckland summer. We have just been told the one pool junior meet planned for Auckland has been postponed. They have used the new COVID variant as their excuse. Now there really are no pool meets. However, during Brett and the Coaches Group’s busy schedule I can recommend Ahi’s oysters and the Prophet’s Rock Riesling from Central Otago. They won’t be able to drink their Riesling down there. They are too busy running a local swim meet. Whether Ahi do takeaways to your meetings held on Bret’s boat, I don’t know.

What has swimming become?

MY MOTHER TAUGHT HIM TO SWIM

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

New Zealand is blessed with many hugely talented swim coaches. In spite of the effort administrators like Cotterill and Cameron made to destroy that vital infrastructure, we survived. And now with good people like Gary Francis around we have a chance to prosper.

But there is one aspect of coaching that is of concern. Most coaches are employed by committees made up of parents. Those parents include the good, the bad and the ugly. Believe me I have had as much experience of all three as any coach alive. I even ended up taking a case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal because of a very ugly member of a swimming club committee. But that is a story for another day.

This story is about one of the best coaches in New Zealand – Jon Winter. Over the years our paths have crossed on many occasions. It is true, my mother did teach him to swim in the Wainuiomata School pool. After a few lessons she had Jon diving for 50 cent pieces. For years as Jon went on to represent New Zealand at Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and Pan pacific Games, my mother told me it was her lessons that had honed his talent.

Years later Jon joined what became the Capital Club coached by Gary Hurring and me. I left the club but Jon went on with Gary to successfully represent New Zealand. In fact, the only independent swimmers on the Manchester Commonwealth Games team were Liz van Wellie, Toni Jeffs and Jon. The others were all members of Jan Cameron’s centralised squad in Auckland. Jan called a “team meeting” on their first day in Manchester and excluded the three independent swimmers. Only her Auckland exclusive group was invited. Ironically the three non-Jan swimmers were by far and away the most successful at the Games.

Jon went on to coach for 11 years at the Sun Devils Club in Hastings. He took that club from nothing to one of the best in New Zealand. I would have thought coaching a New Zealand champion and record holder out of that Hasting’s concrete bath, an impossible task. But Jon did it. Interestingly William Benson who followed Jon has done the same thing.

Then Jon went to Auckland and coached at the United Club for four years.

And for the last 11 years he has coached Raptors Swimming, both at their old rundown pool beside the beach and at their new facility.

Without question his career as a swimmer and as a coach has been stellar. I’ve watched him coach on several occasions. He has a talent for the job possessed by very few. Jon is a natural teacher. He is able to get swimmers to work hard and enjoy the experience. He employs a subtle use of games and hard work that is beyond my understanding. Most swimmers coached by Jon will end their careers well satisfied with the experience.

And he can produce results. In the past couple of years three Raptor swimmers have accepted scholarships to swim and study in the United States. Jon has given them much more than a successful swimming career. He has given them a head start on life. At West Auckland Aquatics I had two swimmers leave in the same year to study and swim on an American scholarship. One lunatic Board member asked me why our best swimmers “were leaving in droves”. What an idiot. I bet Jon is being asked the same thing by some intellectually challenged Board member.

Anyway, what the Raptors’ Board has decided to do is advertise Jon’s job. The Board say their decision is to make sure the Club has the best possible person in the coaching position. I have several thoughts on that suicidal action:

  1. Why would any committee decide to undermine the spirit and commitment of their most valuable asset?
  2. Do they understand they already have one of New Zealand’s best?
  3. Do the Committee realise that 99% of the membership are committed and loyal to their current coach?
  4. Has anyone ever listed anything he has done wrong?
  5. Do they have any idea of Jon’s depth of experience as a swimmer and a coach?
  6. Do they see the enjoyment their children get from swimming?
  7. Are they judging club numbers at the end of a nineteen-week lockdown? If they are, every coach in New Zealand would be for the chop.

For what it’s worth, for the good of Raptors Swimming, Jon should be reappointed. And certainly, NO COACH in New Zealand should apply for Jon’s job. With all swim coaching in New Zealand has gone through recently we can do without coaches eating one of their own.

Best wishes and God speed, Jon.