Take What These Two Say Seriously

October 20th, 2019

Today I saw Coach Rhi Jeffrey posted an article from “The Telegraph” newspaper on her Facebook page. The long title tells you most of what it’s about – “Children should not stop playing sport in run up to exams as it has no impact on results, study suggests”.

It is well worth a read and comes at a time when, here in New Zealand, we are about to begin the exam season. Here is the link.


I also saw that Rhi’s post had been supported by Jane Copland. Here is her comment – “100km (swimming) Exam: School Certificate English Grade: 96%. To be fair, I wouldn’t recommend quite that degree of insanity but yeah, I did fine that week. It made college (university) an absolute breeze.”

We should pay attention to what these two say. I know both of them pretty well and they know what they are talking about. Both of them swam for their countries, both held national records and both have brains. Jane swam through four years in a Division One American University program and Rhi won an Olympic Gold Medal. When it comes to matters swimming it’s tough to fault these two.

Coaching Rhi was an exciting challenge. You see she is intelligent and knows the subject very well. You don’t want to make too many coaching mistakes when Rhi is around. She will catch you out every time. Loyal, talented and tough. It is easy to see the qualities that made her an Olympic Champion.

I also remember the week Jane achieved one of New Zealand’s highest marks in the School Certificate English exam and swam 100 km in the same week. In fact I’ve always felt a little guilty about that week. Jane calls it insanity and she is probably right. There are few swimmers around who can swim 100kms a week, let alone get 96% in a national English exam at the same time.

Like Rhi and Jane, the swimmer I’m helping now, Eyad, is as bright as all can be. He is sitting his university engineering exams next week so I’ve reduced training to 40 km – easy street. Rhi and Jane probably think I’m getting soft. But you should see the sort of things those engineering students are asked to do. For example build a horizontal car park for 300 cars built directly out from the face of a cliff. It makes my study of Aristotle and John Stewart Mill look positively junior high school.

But back to the “The Telegraph” article. I agree with the benefit of a balance between study and sport. Over the years I’ve had dozens of parents come to me with the story that their children are having a month off training to prepare and sit school exams. Occasionally I’ve tried to convince them the importance of leading a balanced life, of how some physical activity will benefit their mental preparation. I’ve used the example of athletes I’ve known who have successfully mixed academics and sport – Dr Roger Bannister, Dr Thomas Wessinghager, Dr Jenny Thompson and, of course, Dr Peter Snell. But it never works. These parents seem obsessed with the idea that a couple of hours in the pool would be better spent reading another chapter of their geography text book.

What they simply refuse to acknowledge is that their fanaticism won’t work. It doesn’t work in academics. It doesn’t work in sport either. OAPs (over anxious parents) have never been a benefit to their offspring.

All that pressure must transmit itself to the children. If a horse can detect a frightened rider and swimmers can recognise an emotional wreck of a coach then children must know when their parents are over-the-top pushing too hard. I decided to investigate and went to the American Journal of Psychiatry for help.

Here is what I found.

A study looked at almost 900 families with adult twins to determine the effect of environmental influence on anxiety. Results showed strong support of environmental transmission of anxiety from parent to child, independent of genetics. In essence, this study showed that anxious behaviours can be learned and that a child’s anxious behavior can also increase the anxious behaviour of the parent. The good news from this research is that parents can take an active role in reducing their child’s anxiety by changing their own behaviour and modelling effective coping skills.

 So there you have it. Your behaviour could well be making your child’s academic results and their swimming training worse. With every nervous demand, the success you want most is getting less and less likely. Through this New Zealand exam season, parents need to relax and let their children enjoy the exams and their sport.

Accept the advice of some pretty knowledgeable sportswomen, Rhi and Jane. Study hard and swim well and enjoy both.

The Gospel According To Peter Snell

October 18th, 2019


Earlier this week I wrote a story on coaching rules I had learned from Arch Jelley and Arthur Lydiard. The story ended with a confession that I could not find a training interview with Peter Snell. A few minutes after my confession was posted I received a message from Arch Jelley telling me where to go to find Snell’s post. What Snell says is well worth a read.

Mind you, it should. I would think three Olympic track Gold Medals and a PhD in exercise physiology qualifies Snell as a knowledgeable source. Let’s look at some of the things he has to say. And as you read ponder for a moment the average training schedules handed out to swimming squads around New Zealand. If they break Snell’s rules, go find another coach.

Quote One – “Many coaches think that runners don’t have a kick due to lack of speed when it is due to lack of endurance.”

Isn’t that the truth? Even 50 meters is an endurance event. Toni Jeffs won 50 meter races all over New Zealand for 10 years because she could swim the second 25 better than anyone else. So often world class 50 meter races are won, not by the fastest swimmer, but by the person who slows down the least. And that’s endurance, not speed.

Quote Two – “All you need is a decent base, some leg turnover work and a lot of the scientific stuff is bullshit. At some stage after distance training you have to do high volume intervals and then as you approach your racing you have to do a bit of speed.”

So here is the simplicity of Snell’s coach coming through in the words of the student. Just consider the irony of a man who has three Olympic Gold Medals and a PhD in exercise physiology saying “a lot of the scientific stuff is bullshit”. I often listen to coaches talking about their training and don’t understand a word they are saying. A1 effort this and A4 effort that. As Snell says it’s scientific bullshit. Duncan Laing once told me a story of standing in for a local junior rugby coach. The coach asked Duncan to teach the team technical line-out calls. But when the ball was thrown in to the line-out no one could catch it. So Duncan dropped the line-out calls and took the team for an hour of catching practice. Just Duncan’s way of saying scientific bullshit.

Quote Three – “As a scientist I learned that the benefits of distance running are achieved after muscle glycogen depletion. So if you run for two hours a lot of the slow-twitch muscle fibers which were initially recruited run out of glycogen and cannot contract any more. Eventually you use the fast twitch muscle fibers which you normally only use when running fast, so that was a stunning revelation for me.”

So to all those people out there who say, “You don’t need to swim 100 kilometres a week if you only race 50 meters” or call distance training “garbage yardage” or like Dave Salo in his book, “Sprint Salo”, ask the question, “How does swimming slow for thousands and thousands of yards make them fast for a couple hundred?” Well now you have your answer – for all you doubters out there Snell has provided the reason. Long distance training makes you faster by exercising your fast twitch fibres.

Quote Four – “I tried to run everything evenly so we didn’t do those sessions where a runner gets faster as he progresses. I also didn’t do sessions where I went from 200 meters to 400 meters to 600 meters and back down. I think those are little tricks that coaches use to justify their existence. It’s all bullshit. The ideal training is the maximum amount of race related pace running you can do without overtraining.”

I could not agree more. Those fancy schedules are all tricks coaches write on white boards to impress parents with the complications of their trade. And it is all bullshit. One coach I see most Saturday mornings is a classic of confusion. He charges around the pool, stopwatches at the ready, screaming instructions on how to do his stunningly complicated sets and none of it works. Some parents love it. They can’t understand a word he says – It must be good. If your child is being subjected to all that stuff, find another coach. You would never see an Arch Jelley or Arthur Lydiard session look like that.

Quote Five – “There are some sport scientists in New Zealand who think it’s crazy to be doing lots of distance and I feel that they haven’t a clue.”

There you have it. “Miles make champions”. I was talking to Arch Jelley on the phone a few nights ago. We were discussing coach’s education. Remember, both of us have a university education so we are not against education. In fact Arch has spent a huge portion of his life in education. But Arch laughed and asked me if I knew of two people who never had a formal coaching education certificate? The answer is Arch and Arthur. That is not a comment against a coaching education – not at all. That is a warning that coaching certificates require the addition of experience and common sense.

Quote Six – The key finding is the understanding of why distance running works in terms of muscle fiber recruitment and glycogen depletion that occurs over time allowing a different population of muscle fibers to be activated when you run long enough and at a sufficient intensity. Finally, there is the idea of the relationship between endurance fitness and tolerance of high intensity training.

Back to the same idea. Distance training works because it exercises the slow twitch and the fast twitch muscle fibers. It contributes to a simple, clear, no nonsense balanced program. And those are the qualities that work best. I think Eyad is going to swim a better 50 meters freestyle at the 2020 Long Course Nationals than he has ever swum before. Why? Two reasons – He’s going to swim the Taupo Open Water 5K Championship and his 1500 swims are so much better. Just ask Peter Snell.

Take It Easy And Keep It Simple

October 16th, 2019

 Track coach, Arch Jelley, and I were talking on the phone las night. Arch asked if I had seen the news that Arthur Lydiard had received a coaching award from the IAAF. I said, no I had not seen that news. Arch said he would send me the report. A few minutes later I received this news.

Legendary athletics coach, Arthur Lydiard has been honoured with a World Athletics Heritage plaque.

Arthur Lydiard has been posthumously awarded a World Athletics Heritage Plaque in the Legendary category.

The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe announced the award in Doha overnight (NZT).

I am delighted to see Arthur recognised by the IAAF. His work and life certainly deserved no less. It is perhaps the greatest honour of my coaching life that Arthur included a chapter in his autobiography devoted to describing the way we had applied his methods to the sport of swimming. He called the chapter, “The Wright way to swim”.

New Zealand athletics and sport are stunningly fortunate to have two coaches like Arch Jelley and Arthur Lydiard guide the progress of sport. It got me thinking – what were the most important lessons I learned from these two coaches.

Interestingly both Arch and Arthur independently stressed the same qualities. Take it easy they said and keep it simple. Let’s look at each of these separately.

First – Take it easy. When I began coaching I operated on the idea that what I did MADE the athlete into a champion. I moulded and shaped the raw material into a champion. The athlete’s future was down to me. This led to all sorts of problems. I pushed too hard. I set ridiculous schedules. Nothing was ever far enough. Nothing was fast enough. If running around the Waitakeres in the morning was good, doing it again in the afternoon was even better.

Arch and Arthur changed all that. They made me realise I was not a bulldozer pushing athletes to their goal. I was more of a conduit, facilitating their journey. Key to this was not pushing too hard. When Arch began helping Alison with her running we were living in England. His first letter written on 18/10/1976 included the following thoughts.

Your build-up mileage seems very high for a runner with your background. I think it’s a bit high but on the other hand you may be able to cope.

  The other important factor to watch is to ensure that you alternate your work so that you have a toughish day followed by an easier day. Unless you do this you will not get your bady a chance to consolidate and recover.

When his letter arrived I could not believe it. Here was one of the world’s best coaches, instead of telling me how to make Alison run further and faster was advising me to back off. Clearly I would need to think about all this.

And so it has been in the 43 years since that first letter (almost to the day). Whenever I have called Arch or Arthur with a training problem their normal advice is the back off and take it easy. Several weeks ago, before the National Swimming Championships I was worried about Eyad’s form. I called Arch to see what he thought. “Give him a rest,” he said.

“Okay I’ll give him the afternoon off.” I said.

“No, have a whole week of easy swimming,” Arch said. And he was right. Eyad raced well.

And so facilitate, don’t force, be a conduit, not a bulldozer was my first lesson.

Second – keep it simple. The amazing thing about the truly gifted – and Arch and Arthur are certainly that – is they make the incredibly difficult look amazingly simple. Read Arthur’s books or talk to Arch. You do this and this and this and then you run fast – simple. In swimming I frequently read training schedules that are way beyond my understanding. All sorts of distances muddled up together. All sorts of labelled efforts that mean nothing to the layman. The schedules look like a mathematical formula for splitting the atom. You simply never see the mathematical formula approach in a Lydiard and Jelley schedule. You never see it in my schedules now – thanks to them. Their schedules are a warm-up decided by the athlete, one main set that is obviously anaerobic or speed and a warm-down, also decided by the athlete. And if aerobic fitness is the plan go off for a steady good long run. I swear your average swim coach make their schedules look like a computer program to impress parent’s walking past the squad white board. But to any parent reading this – if you can’t understand what’s written on the squad white board, find another coach. If it says something like this, smile – your swimmer is in good hands.

Warm Up 1500 Your Choice

Main Set 8×400 firm swim, 1×400 firm kick

Warm Down 500 Your Choice

Or maybe a favourite of mine

Swim 100×100 on 1.30

 I’ve been searching for an interview with Peter Snell but can’t find it now. But in the one I’m thinking of Snell stresses the value of tempo running (or swimming). What he is saying is that if you want to run a four minute mile, 60 second 400s must be second nature. You don’t get that from sessions that mix distances and speeds and drills. Simple works best.

And so thank you Arch and Arthur. I owe you both heaps.

Make Good Choices SNZ

October 14th, 2019

Copied in the table below is the official result from the Capital & Coast District Health Board elections held last weekend. What has this got to do with swimming, I hear you ask? Well, if you skip to the last result; the person who secured the lowest number of votes, the name that polled fewer votes that 22 other candidates, the name I have highlighted in bold print is Susan Turner.

The people of Wellington have spoken. Susan Turner is their last possible choice – bottom of the pile. But why is that significant to Swimming New Zealand (SNZ)? Well Susan Turner was the ex-President of West Auckland Aquatics who along with Nikki Johns, is the person who complained about my coaching at the club. She is also the person who was central to a $AU1.4million judgement against Queensland Health because of her “mismanagement”. But most important of all Susan Turner and Nikki Johns are the two people that SNZ has decided to spend $100,000 protecting from publication in the Marris Report.

Talk about, “make good choices”. Clearly Wellington voters have more brains that the Board of SNZ. In Wellington the voters would not even give Turner their vote. SNZ on the other hand are in the process of giving her privacy $100,000 of your money. Is that good use of your money? Certainly the voters in Wellington do not think so. I suspect Queensland health and their Court would agree. But not the Board of SNZ.

To SNZ the person who cost Queensland Health $AU1.4million and came last in a 23 person District Health Board field is well worth an investment of $100,000. It really is crazy stuff. As I have asked a dozen times what is in that Report that links Susan Turner to SNZ and Bruce Cotterill? What are they trying to hide? Why is protecting something about Turner more important to the SNZ Board than investing $100,000 in New Zealand’s youth? Why is your child’s swimming 100,000 times less important to SNZ than Susan Turner? What are SNZ scared of you finding out?

In Wellington, at least the people have spoken and, in my view have made a good choice. I can only wish the Board of SNZ had half the wisdom of the Wellington electorate.

Here then is the Wellington result – made by people who do know the right thing to do. The Board members of SNZ should read it well and ask themselves – why?

Capital & Coast District Health Board

2019 Triennial Elections


The preliminary result for the election of seven members of the Capital & Coast District Health Board is as follows.

Capital & Coast District Health Board (7 vacancies)

KEDGLEY Sue Green Party elected

KALDERIMIS Chris Independent elected

ADAMS Kathryn  elected

COFFEY ‘Ana Independent elected

VERRALL Ayesha Labour elected

BLAKELEY Roger Independent elected

SIMPSON Vanessa Independent elected

BROWN Eileen Labour excluded

HUGHES Glenda The Wellington Party excluded

FISO John Access, Action & Accountability Group excluded

MITIKULENA Alvin Independent excluded

HOLBOROW Janet  excluded

MARSH Simon (Swampy) Independent excluded

APANOWICZ John The Wellington Party excluded

GRICE Stephen Access, Action & Accountability Group excluded

ISA Letitia Independent excluded

CLARK Marion Independent excluded

SHAND David  excluded

CLARK Nathan  excluded

NG Shan Independent excluded

O’DWYER Letitia Independent excluded

PETERS John  excluded

TURNER Susan Independent excluded

The final absolute majority of votes (final quota) as determined at the last iteration was 9,030.45. There were 2,319 informal votes and 7,976 blank votes.

Warwick Lampp Electoral Officer Capital & Coast District Health Board

13 October 2019


Sadly We Are Not Alone

October 11th, 2019

In the “Swimming World” magazine you can read an interesting account of poor swimming administration. Here is the link.


The table below summarises the main points made in Craig Lord’s article. However reading the whole thing is well worthwhile. As the title to this Swimwatch report says, “Sadly we are not alone.” What that means is that poor old Swim England seems to be afflicted by the same grumpy old buggers we have in New Zealand. Colonisation was never meant to involve sending that lot out here to run swimming in New Zealand. Sure looks like that’s what’s happened. We asked for the Beatles and got Bostock.

Swim England Governance In Spotlight – Three Masters Complaints Upheld

Chris Bostock, former Chair of the Swim England Sport Governing Board, has been found guilty in a third misconduct case. An independent panel concluded that he was guilty of “rude and aggressive” behaviour in violation of the association’s Code of Ethics in a case brought by Professor Sue Arrowsmith, a masters swimmer and expert in law, over events that took place at a meeting she was to have delivered a presentation at.

Bostock has not issued an apology to Prof. Arrowsmith, the third of the three women whose complaints against him were upheld.

Many felt that poor governance had underpinned the crisis-striken 2016 London European Masters Championships: the event was a commercial and sporting fiasco, with huge financial losses, according to official figures and reports.

Close to 10,000 swimmers were crammed into facilities designed for 5,000, while organisers faced accusations of sex discrimination after the women’s races were allocated mainly to the “warm up” pool at the London 2012 venue, while the men, for the most part, got to race in the Olympic pool.

The governance problems were to have been discussed in a session led by Professor Arrowsmith, a Law Professor who is also an expert to the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport. However, with less than 48 hours’ notice, the session was cancelled by Jane Nickerson, Swim England CEO. The reason: Professor Arrowsmith’s paper was “too critical”, according to Verity Dobbie, who represents the federation in dealing with Masters.

According to the disciplinary findings, Nickerson then gave Bostock the job of shutting down any governance discussion, telling him that Professor Arrowsmith was seen as a “trouble maker”.

When angry delegates – many of whom had travelled hundreds of miles – asked to hear Professor Arrowsmith, Bostock intervened in a manner delegates described as “abusive”, “aggressive”, “intimidating” and “threatening”.

Many weeks have gone by and there has been no apology from Bostock. Should that change, we will bring you news of his apology.

Meanwhile, Prof. Arrowsmith has told Swimming World that she is not at all surprised that Bostock has not apologised but is disappointed at what she believes is evidence that Swim England is not taking on board the need for serious cultural change. She added:

“The board’s statement includes no expression of regret or even any indication that it accepts the criticisms. It is incredibly disappointing that three years after London our swimming federations continue to display the same contempt for stakeholders as before and still react to all criticism by trying to squash it rather than engaging with it.

How do these guys get these jobs? They clearly don’t do it for the personal enjoyment. They walk around with faces as long as a wet week. Perhaps it’s a power thing. Having failed to replace Boris at No.10 or Jacinda in the Beehive they turn the swimming world into their personal Third Reich.

Yesterday I sent the Swimming World article to a friend of mine. This is her reply.

“There is a photo of Chris Bostock – the Swim England moron – on Craig Lord’s article.  OMG – was he ever young? Did he ever climb trees for the hell of it? I haven’t found a bio of him – but – I will judge this book by the cover :)”

Isn’t that the truth? I guess Mr. Bostock must be about my age. What that means is he, like me, is a product of the 1960s – you know the decade? Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, flower power, going to San Francisco with flowers in your hair, leaving on a jet plane, California girls, good vibrations, peace brother, all the good stuff. Did all that pass Mr. Bostock by?

Did he miss the bit where our generation was supposed to lift the world into a chill and peaceful, fair and honest place? What happened to “a whole generation
with a new explanation” Sure seems like Bostock missed that message. Instead a younger generation, represented by Lord and Arrowsmith, have to fight the good fight. Well done you guys.

And as for Bostock, I have some advice that should help his sour temperament. Pick some flowers and go climb a tree for the hell of it.