Archive for July, 2011

Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

By David

I used to think this oath was too long and unnecessarily repetitive. A promise to tell the truth presumably included the whole truth and nothing but the truth. By saying, “the truth” weren’t the phrases, “the whole truth” and “nothing but the truth” made redundant? Then I came back to New Zealand and saw the works of Jan Cameron, Mike Byrne, Ross Butler and their leader Murray Coulter. Suddenly it became clear. The oath that has been a staple of English law since the 13th century was repetitive for a reason. Faced with devious buggers capable of manipulating and twisting the truth it is important to refer to the truth in all its aspects. “The truth” simply refers to the correct information. “The whole truth” is different because the addition of “whole” means nothing should be left out. And finally, “nothing but the truth” prevents the truth being embellished by opinion or spin.

It is just as well the Coulter gang has never been asked to swear an oath of honesty. Their reporting of Swimming New Zealand’s position is neither correct nor whole. And certainly it is always embellished with their opinion and their spin. Consider their reporting of the recent World Championships in Shanghai.

It means that this New Zealand team has become the most successful in terms of number of finals and semifinals. They have now qualified in four finals and six semifinals which bettered the previous best in 2007, although Danyon Loader’s lone haul of three medals in 1994 is the best in podiums.

It actually upsets me to report on this widely published paragraph. First of all it’s not true. At the Montreal 2005 World Championships New Zealand had a far higher number of final and semifinal swims – it’s hard to find the data but I think that team swam in thirteen semi finals and eight finals compared to four and eight so far in Shanghai.

However the worst aspect of comparing final and semifinal results is the meaningless ignominy of it all. The people of New Zealand have paid that Cameron woman sixteen million dollars over ten years to get us a result in a swimming pool. In that time she has appointed her son and imported a number of foreign coaches, one of whom is still here, to help her win a world championship swimming race. And none of them have delivered. They have all failed. Better than that – they even have the country talking about getting into a semifinal as though it was a gold medal occasion – a victory for Swimming New Zealand’s high performance program – a dazzling return on our combined investment. Jan Cameron and her imported foreign coaches have successfully lowered the swimming expectations of our proud little country.

Let there be no misunderstanding, in certain circumstances a semifinal or a final swim can be an important individual achievement; certainly something worthy of celebration. However as the culmination of a ten year program and a sixteen million dollar investment it is a scandal. To be using words like “most successful” and “outstanding” in this context stains the history of New Zealand swimming.

What is Cameron’s next claim to fame going to be? We had more personal bests than the Americans. We set more national records than the one swimmer representing the US Virgin Islands. Or perhaps she will claim that only the New Zealand team managed to set a new Auckland Regional relay record. Certainly we will be told that New Zealand’s “One Team” is on track to score big in the London Olympic Pool. We just need a little more work on some starts and turns and all will be well. The number of times Jan Cameron has banged on about the starts and turns of the New Zealand team, our swimmers should be the best in the world at that by now.

In another report Swimming New Zealand told us that “Lauren Boyle will drag her tired body back to the pool for one more big effort to cap off an outstanding 14th FINA World Swimming Championships in Shanghai”. The reality is that Lauren Boyle deserves better. So far she has placed sixth in the 400, twelfth in the 200 and eigth in the 800. That is good, that is progress but it is not outstanding. And Lauren Boyle does not deserve to be lied to by the organization she represents. That sort of misinformation has gone on for too long. Cameron and her Swimming New Zealand mates have lavished similar unearned acclaim on Daniel Bell. The error of that was finally exposed in Shanghai. Tell your swimmers the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They can take it and will respond far better than to a truck load of meaningless Australian spin. We can only hope Regan is not participating in the same deception.

Does anyone think for a minute that Michael Phelps’ coach would be reporting sixth, twelfth and eigth as an outstanding result? There is not one person on the American team, or the French, or the German teams that would call that result “outstanding”. Only Jan Cameron tells her sport and her financiers that losing is a victory. Faced with the same result the Americans would be looking seriously at what had gone wrong. Why had they failed to win their event? The problem with calling sixth, twelfth and eigth “outstanding” is that it reduces the edge to do better. If sixth is as good as it gets why push for more?

In a comment on last week’s Swimwatch article I recounted the following story about Arthur Lydiard.

When I was coaching Toni Jeffs we went to what was then the World Short Course Championships. Toni won a Bronze medal in the 50 freestyle. Toni thought she should have done better but I was pretty happy with the result. When we got back to Auckland I went around to Arthur Lydiard’s home to report on Toni’s success. He patted me on the shoulder and gently said, “A Bronze is not really good enough, David. Toni is right; we go to World Championships to win them.”

But then Arthur Lydiard and Arch Jelley and Duncan Laing are men who tell or told their sport the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; a scarce quality in New Zealand swimming these days.

Those Buggers Are Going To Reappoint Cameron

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

By David

Swimming New Zealand has published a “Proposed Staffing Re-alignment” report. You can read the whole thing at the conclusion of this article. I thought this report would be about the staff changes necessary to replace Cameron and Byrne. There is no question that their departure is long overdue. For six years Swimwatch has explained why they need to be replaced. We have even obtained legal reports of possible unlawful behaviour, nepotism and incompetence. However a close reading of the Proposed Staffing Re-alignment Report has convinced me there is no intention of replacing Cameron. In fact the Report seems to be setting the scene for Cameron to stay around until the London Olympic Games. Eighty three percent of those interviewed by Ineson think Cameron is not up to the job. But, for some reason, Swimming New Zealand treats her as an indispensable aquatic deity.

Here is what the Proposed Staffing Re-alignment Report says.

  1. Cameron’s, General Manager of Performance and Pathways job will be divided into two positions.
  2. One of the new positions will be called Olympic Campaign Manager and the other the Athlete Support and Development Manager.
  3. The Olympic Campaign Manager will do everything involved in preparing the team for the London Olympics. After the Games the job will disappear.
  4. The Athlete Support and Development Manager will be responsible for the non Olympic Games aspects of the High Performance program.
  5. Regan’s coaching job is being downgraded to the same level as Scott Talbot’s job in a classic piece of Cameron nepotism – promoting her son by demoting the opposition. That’s a real good “One Team” move. I hope Regan’s as mad as hell. I would be.
  6. Everything else pretty much stays the same, even the frequently repeated line that the new positions will report to Mike Byrne. That most certainly ensures the whole thing won’t work.

The position that the Report is preparing for Cameron is the Olympic Campaign Manager. Just look at the following facts. Existing staff can apply for the job. Cameron will certainly apply. Preference is being given to existing staff. In fact if a suitable existing staff member exists there is no need for Swimming New Zealand to even advertise the vacancy. And so Swimming New Zealand has built a “Berlin Wall” of employment protection around Cameron. Of course they have written the specification and employment rules exclusively to protect and appoint her.

What hold does this woman have over Coulter and Byrne? Is it her family’s access to Sky Sport? There has to be something. They have a Raleigh type loyalty to their Queen. They may find they pay a similar price for their obsession.

It’s all pretty obvious. They have done a deal with Cameron. They will appoint her to run Swimming New Zealand’s London Olympic campaign. In a year’s time, when all that is done, Cameron has agreed to go quietly; no law suits, no financial pain, no punitive Sky Sport reaction, no blood on the floor, no decapitated head preserved by a grieving spouse.

For months, long term swimming people have said to me that Cameron will survive. I have rubbished their pessimism. No foreigner who has spent ten million New Zealand tax payer dollars and has yet to win a world class swimming race could possible survive. No one who is disliked and scorned by eighty three percent of her constituents could continue to be employed. No one who moonlights for her husband’s television channel when she should be doing her job deserves further employment. Anyone who has created the meaningless elitism in a national sport team that she has should have been asked to leave years ago. But I was wrong.

Cameron will survive. In spite of the Ineson Report; in spite of the overwhelming wishes of the membership, Coulter and Byrne have prepared a cushy little $95,000 a year number for her to serve out her time. And it’s a bloody disgrace – it really is.

Here is the “Proposed Staffing Re-alignment Report”. We will be interested to hear what you think.

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Some Pain I Felt Recently

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

By David

Ross Butler is the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand’s new High Performance Governance Committee. I see he has just written a rather puerile comment on the Capital Club’s newsletter. But before looking at Butler’s little outburst it is relevant to consider the progress of his committee.

Initially I thought the High Performance Governance Committee was a good idea. It could act as a conduit to ease the transition between the Cameron, Byrne and Coulter era and whatever was going to come next. Things have not turned out that way. Why? Because nothing has come next. Cameron, Byrne and Coulter are still hanging around. I hope it’s not too rude to ask why Cameron. Byrne and Coulter are still there when Butler’s committee was charged with doing their work. I did see Byrne at the Division Two Championships in Rotorua last week. I was amused to see he arrived late to do some timekeeping. Perhaps he is unaware that the first responsibility of a good timekeeper is to arrive on time. When Byrne did take his seat I wondered whether his duty at the Championships made him the world’s highest paid professional timekeeper. I calculate his three hour stint probably cost Swimming New Zealand about $216.35.

It is serious though. The days and the weeks tick by since the Ineson Report was published and nothing has changed. No one has done anything to address the Report’s grim findings. How long are we going to have to wait? If the contents of Ross Butler’s little missive to the Capital Club are anything to go by, the sport of swimming is not yet in good hands; our wait could be a long one. Here is what he had to say.

It helped to more than balance some pain I felt recently in my new voluntary role on HPP, when I discovered some very sad and sorry people methodically leaking incomplete and deliberately untrue information about swimming people and swimming to the media and media commentators, and to other external parties. Their damaging motives in doing so were very clear, and their values, or lack of them, were obvious. So thanks for putting swimmers and our swimming community first. And for helping remove barriers to our success in and around the pool.

Have you ever noticed how the sport’s best volunteers never feel the need to tell you that they work for no pay? Beth Meade from Gisborne taught 1000s of children to swim (including me); she was President of the Hawkes Bay Poverty Bay Centre; she built New Zealand’s second biggest swimming club and never once did I hear her mention that she did it all for free. But then Ross Butler is no Beth Meade. In his first line he has to make the point that he is the recipient of all this pain doing a job he does for no nothing. Ross Butler, there is no need to shove your voluntary status down our throat. We appreciate volunteers more that you will ever know. We do not appreciate having your status used as a defence against informed criticism. You lobbied to do this job and you jumped at the chance to accept the position when it was offered. The fact you do it for nothing, does not protect you from normal critical analysis of your performance. Besides, it may be worth remembering that volunteers are an endangered species in the brave new Vanguard world. Coulter may well have handed you a poisoned challis.

Then Butler draws our attention to the following scourge. “I discovered some very sad and sorry people methodically leaking incomplete and deliberately untrue information about swimming people and swimming to the media and media commentators, and to other external parties.” Butler really needs to do better than this. Who are these “sad and sorry people”? Name them, if you dare, if they exist. Tell us about the “incomplete and deliberately untrue information” they are leaking. Tell us the names of the “media” and “external parties” that are being spoken to.

After all you are on the Board of an organization that has the following repressive rule as one of its guiding principles – “To not speak to any media in a negative way regarding Swimming NZ Inc.” If all these people that you know are lying about you and calling you names to all these media moguls, why don’t you do something about it? You have the rule. You have the process. Have a hearing and get rid of them. Do your best – cleanse the organization of dissent. The problem you have Ross Butler is that while you make these wild accusations without names or facts, we don’t believe you. We think you are lying to us. In fact we think those you choose to vilify are a growing band of patriots desperate to protect their sport.

Finally you tell us that, “their damaging motives in doing so were very clear, and their values, or lack of them, were obvious.” If their “damaging motives” and lack of “values” were so “clear” why don’t you let us know what they are exactly? They may be “clear” to you, but we don’t have a blind clue what you are talking about.

The deep, underlying problem facing Swimming New Zealand is a lack of credibility in its leadership. We do not believe a word they say. Cameron, Coulter and Byrne will shortly leave the organization. Their departure will be a most welcome event. They will take with them much of the suspicion and mistrust currently ingrained in the sport. Memos like the one that is the subject of this post will quickly see Butler’s name added to the list of the unwanted. There is no place in any organization for wild unsubstantiated accusations. That’s one thing no one can accuse Swimwatch of doing. We always name those we believe damage the sport. And we always list their sins. Butler does neither. His currency is a world of shadows and deception; of rumours and gossip. We do not want that sort of leadership.

Teach Yourself Jan Cameron 101

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

By David

For years Swimwatch has been discussing the disaster that is the Cameron era. A month ago the Ineson Report confirmed most of our concerns. To say, “We told you so,” would be extremely bad mannered. Between the time we began reporting her shortcomings and Ineson telling New Zealand we were right, millions of dollars have been thrown in Cameron’s direction. Millions of dollars have been wasted. We have won nothing – no Danyon Loader, no Antony Moss and no Paul Kingsman, nothing.

A month has gone by since the Ineson Report was published and nothing has changed. Swimming New Zealand created a committee – big deal. In every other way Swimming New Zealand are acting as though Ineson never existed. They are treating SPARC with contempt. Cameron and Byrne are still there; still making decisions. Coulter is still President, when any decent human being would have acknowledged his or her failure and resigned. But then Coulter’s behavior is not the product of a decent human being.
And now they have reverted to type and have attacked. While the New Zealand swim team leaves for the World Championships without their uniforms, while the Regions plan ways to take back their sport, Cameron, Coulter and Byrne plot ways to get even with David Wright and Rhi Jeffrey. But that has always been their way; especially Cameron.

Whenever she has been crossed or things have not gone her way, she knows only one response – attack and destroy. A generation of swimmers and parents has experienced the Cameron wrath. One parent called the Deaker radio show and complained about Cameron’s behavior. That was the end of one of New Zealand’s best backstroke swimmers. The current President of the Bay of Plenty Center has always spoken out strongly about the Cameron ways. One wonders whether her son’s selection problems have been the price paid for her honesty.

Cameron has always ignored Swimwatch. I guess my controversial past has offered her that option. But now that our readership has reached 1000 per day and includes a regular from FINA HQ in Lucerne, we can be ignored no longer. And so last week Swimwatch was attacked. Swimming New Zealand published proposed rule changes that included two new rules that were reported to me as the Wright and Jeffrey rules.

The Wright Rule says that no coaches can be on the pool deck during a Swimming New Zealand meet, coaching their team, unless they are members of Swimming New Zealand. Swimming New Zealand know that I have not joined the organization. They also know the reason I stay on the outside is because they have a punitive rule that says no one can criticize Swimming New Zealand. With the best will in the world I imagine Swimming New Zealand would view Swimwatch as a breach of that rule. Faced with a choice between freedom of speech and Swimming New Zealand membership, I chose freedom of speech.

Cameron, of course, recognized the Achilles heel. Force me to join Swimming New Zealand and I could no longer write for Swimwatch. If I did write, I would face suspension and disgrace. Alternatively I could refuse to join Swimming New Zealand and would be banished to the bleachers. It was classic Cameron. Instead of fixing her own performance problems there she was on the attack; trying to destroy another life. What would I do?

I could join Swimming New Zealand and ask my daughter Jane (who is no longer a registered swimmer) to write Swimwatch stories for me. Swimming New Zealand would regret that option. Jane is a far better wordsmith than her father. My criticism would be Mary Poppins in comparison. I could run the risk; join Swimming New Zealand and face their wrath. After all freedom of speech, restriction of trade and compulsory unionism are pretty well established laws on which to mount a legal defense. Compelling Swimming New Zealand to spend a few thousand on another waste of time might be fun. But the option I like best is to continue writing for Swimwatch and sit in the stands with my two way communication head set talking to Assistant Coach Kimberly on the pool deck. After all the New Zealand All Black coach does that all the time. The view would be better. The communication just as good. I could set a new trend in worldwide swim coaching. Even Scot Talbot might join me in the stands.

The second rule, the Jeffrey Rule, is another classic from the Cameron case book. It says that every swimmer who is a member of a foreign federation can no longer swim for a Swimming New Zealand club in domestic competitions. He or she could only be accepted as a visitor. This is clearly aimed at preventing Rhi Jeffrey from swimming for West Auckland Aquatics. The really funny thing though is that Rhi is not currently a member of US Swimming. Cameron took aim at Rhi, the Olympic Champion, the swimmer with the pink hair and strong opinions – and, would you believe it – she missed. So, Rhi will be swimming for West Auckland Aquatics at the next Winter Nationals. And there’s not a damn thing Cameron can do about it; try as she might.

However she may well have scored a bull’s eye on the likes of Hayley Palmer, Lauren Boyle, Michael Jack, Michael Mincham, and Cara Baker. They all have or are training outside New Zealand and have probably joined the Australian or American swimming federations. It will be fun to see if Swimming New Zealand insist they all swim as foreign visitors. Any New Zealand record that Lauren Boyle sets from now on will be suspect until her membership of US Swimming expires.

The important point of all this is fiddling while Rome burns. There goes Coulter, Byrne and Cameron, up to their arses in SPARC reports, lost uniforms, excessive spending and poor swimming results; spending their days plotting how to get even with a swimming coach and American swimmer from West Auckland Aquatics. They really are a most pathetic bunch. Oh, and before I forget, every effort should be made by New Zealand’s swimming regions to kill off these ridiculous and personal rules. They are not worthy of a national sporting organization.

Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

By David

A year ago the West Auckland Aquatics Swim Team swam in the Auckland Winter Championships. For American readers that’s a state championship and is swum here as a short course meters event. We didn’t perform all that well. Jane Ip won the team’s only medal, a bronze in the 50 meters breaststroke. We certainly needed to do better than that this year. A week ago the 2011 Auckland Winter Championships were held. How did West Auckland Aquatics get on?

Actually the week of the competition started pretty badly. The team’s only finalist in the New Zealand Summer Nationals, Jessica Marston, developed a sore shoulder. I talked it over with New Zealand’s best track coach, Arch Jelley, who said to take her out of the meet. Swimming at race speeds was just too big a risk. So while the other swimmers were given a few days rest poor old Jessica was toiling through another week of aerobic distance conditioning. A week later her shoulder is fine and Jessica has an extra hundred kilometres in her aerobic build-up account.

Over the years I’ve heard dozens of coaches proclaim that the race results of their swimmers have been especially good because their team is in “hard training”. Scott Talbot is forever using the “hard training” option. It is usually the sign of a coach who needs a pre-prepared excuse in case his charges don’t perform. Having said that, I am about to use the same “hard training” defence. West Auckland Aquatics do a pretty traditional ten week Lydiard/Jelley build-up; lots of long steady paced swimming – even the occasional 8000 meters medley and one 10,000 meter straight swim. The table below shows the distances swum by our senior swimmers through this season’s build-up. The Auckland Winter Championships were held during week nine. I think you can see that our swimmers were actually racing in the middle of “hard training”. The distances shown in the table are kilometres per week.

And so, with our excuses declared, here is how the West Auckland Aquatics swimmers listed in the table got on this year. Jessica, we have already mentioned. She laboured while the others played. This build-up has been pretty good for Jessica; averaging 85.3 kilometres through the ten weeks. She will be rewarded for that effort later in the season.

Nikki Johns is a remarkable individual. I have written about her on Swimwatch before. You may remember that in the past few months her large intestine became infected and she ended up having most of it removed. In spite of that she’s back swimming and has averaged 31 kilometres a week over the past ten weeks. In the Auckland Winters Nikki recorded a series of times close to her personal bests. After the summer she has been through it is impossible to believe that she is back swimming, let alone recording times that will see her swim in the National Winter Championships again this August.

Abigail just sneaked ahead of Jessica to record the team’s biggest build-up; averaging 85.8 kilometres. In spite of doing no speed work Abigail recorded an impressive five personal best times from five swims. Twelve seconds off her 800 freestyle, four seconds off her 400 freestyle and three seconds off her 100 breaststroke were especially memorable. All swimmers earn the progress they make; but Abigail perhaps more than most.

This weekend was Rhi’s first meet on her return to competitive swimming. In world terms the Auckland Championship is a lovely, intimate almost picnic style meet. Certainly it does not rival the Athens Olympic Games or the Barcelona World Championships where Rhi has previously mined for gold. However Rhi’s performance in Auckland rivalled her swims at those more illustrious events. She arrived in New Zealand five months ago. She was 30 kilograms overweight and couldn’t break 30 seconds for 50 meters freestyle. Last weekend she has lost the 30 kilograms and she swam 25.43, 55.50 and 2.00.99 for the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle. Only an awesome talent could pull that off. Beware America one of your best is on her way back.

Justin’s week leading up to the meet was full of drama. At the request of his parents Swimming New Zealand had suspended his membership and banned him from our club. He took his case to court and won. The news of his legal victory and friendship with Rhi circled the world. USA Today, London Metro, Sydney’s Morning Herald and Sky Sport all reported Justin’s story. I was concerned. How would all this affect his swimming? Nothing but good it seems; eight swims and seven personal bests. The best was probably a two second improvement in his 100 fly from 58.86 to 56.65. Although improving his 50 fly from 26.86 to 25.54 wasn’t too bad either. It seems the pressure of worldwide attention is not something that concerns this fine New Zealand sportsman.

Jane is fourteen and is the Club’s best breaststroke swimmer. She’s talented, she’s mature beyond her years and she does not like the long kilometres of aerobic conditioning. This build-up has been her best, averaging 38.1 kilometres per week. The distance does not seem to have hurt; twelve races for nine personal bests. My daughter Jane Copland was a pretty accomplished breaststroke swimmer, winning national open championships and setting national open and age group records. On a recent visit to New Zealand daughter Jane told me she thought Jane Ip was destined for good things in this sport. I think she might be right.

And finally there is Zane. Now he is talented. In fact, whatever the stroke, he’s bloody good at it. Unfortunately his early childhood coaches exploited his talent and stripped mined his potential. That sort of coaching is nothing short of abuse. I’ve spent a year working with him to rebuild the determination needed to succeed at sport. He has averaged 26.9 kilometres through this build-up. That needs to improve but is a huge step forward from where he was at a year ago. He swam four races at the Championships and managed one personal best time. I hope we see the best of this swimmer. It will be an impressive sight.

And was our medal count better than twelve months ago? Yep, we did improve. Our one lonely bronze turned into nine medals; three gold, three silver and three bronze. There is still a long way to go to match the deeds of the Ross Anderson led West Auckland Aquatics. But we are on our way.