Archive for May, 2012

Miskimmin Madness

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

By David

The sort of decision making madness that has brought swimming to its knees was demonstrated again this morning. The person responsible was Peter Miskimmin. His dark hand is clearly to blame for the current mess at Pelorus House. In my view the decision reported today is further evidence that Miskimmin is not up to his job. Here is a portion of the news item, written by Simon Plumb, and published on the internet Stuff website.

“Miskimmin rejected suggestions a condition of the review being authorised was that the Swimming NZ board had to accept whatever recommendations it produced – one of which is set to be a call for the board’s resignation. And he defended Swimming NZ’s decision to advertise for a high performance manager, saying the appointment did not need to wait until after the inquiry’s outcome.

“It’s a good decision, if you think it through,” he said.

“There’s no high performance manager in place at the moment, we’re a matter of days from an Olympic Games, and around the world there will be people considering their next stages.

“A lot of people contracted in high performance are on four-year terms, so they’ll now be looking for new opportunities, people who might consider a job here,” he said. Swimming NZ already has South African Rushdee Warley in a high performance role.

He was appointed its 2012 Olympic campaign manager eight months ago”.

Miskimmin is telling us that the decision to advertise for a New Zealand High Performance Manager is “a good one, if you think it through.” What planet is he living on? Can he think at all? Sixty three days before the London Olympic’s Opening Ceremony and Miskimmin is defending a decision to advertise for a High Performance Manager. When every person who meets the specification for this job should be focusing their full attention, their entire being, on what is about to happen in east London, Miskimmin thinks it’s fine to start a search for one of those coaches or administrators to come and guide New Zealand high performance swimming through the next four years.

I would have thought anyone who answered the Swimming New Zealand advertisement should be immediately excluded from consideration for the job. Anyone who has the experience to be the New Zealand High Performance Manager but thinks it’s okay to apply for a job in New Zealand sixty three days before an Olympic Games does not demonstrate the loyalty or application that is needed here.

Imagine how New Zealand would feel if, in four years time, Miskimmin’s High Performance Manager was out applying for jobs in Australia or South Africa sixty three days before taking the New Zealand team to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. That’s the sort of person Miskimmin wants to apply for the New Zealand job. That’s the sort of person he is actively looking for. But then I should not be surprised. The decision to look for someone with that self interest; with that “to hell with the athletes I’m abandoning” attitude says all New Zealand ever needs to know about Peter Miskimmin. As he says in the Stuff report, “A lot of people contracted in high performance are on four-year terms, so they’ll now be looking for new opportunities, people who might consider a job here,” Well, Peter Miskimmin, if you really do “think it through” this is a bad decision. It will attract individuals who put self interest ahead of their athletes and their coaching responsibilities. It will attract people like you and New Zealand sport and swimming in particular has had enough of people like you.

I’m currently coaching a swimmer who has a chance at representing the United States in the London Olympic Games. Her name is Rhi Jeffrey. She leaves New Zealand to swim in the American Olympic Trials on Tuesday week. At this stage of her preparation, even though it’s only one swimmer, if I was out applying for other coaching jobs, Rhi should get another coach. Preparing any athlete for an Olympic Games is not a time for coaching self interest.

No wonder swimming in New Zealand is in a mess. The guy funding the whole exercise has no idea of the application, dedication and loyalty involved in the preparation of an elite athlete. Miskimmin is out there looking for an individual who is prepared to apply for a job in New Zealand when they should be applying their full attention to those they are charged with helping win a swimming race in sixty three days time.

The whole thing is pathetic, sad and disgusting. The real problem is that someone like me or Jeremy Duncan in Invercargill or Paul Kent in Auckland or Jon Winter in Raumati is going to work like mad for four years to prepare swimmers for Rio only to find that the high performance boss thinks his career is more important that our athletes. We won’t be able to trust him. He abandoned his or her last team before the London Olympic Games. Why should we be surprised if he or she also abandons our swimmers as well? And this is the guy Peter Miskimmin wants to find; wants to recruit. It is going to take a lot to convince me that, a candidate recruited in these circumstances has the right personal qualities to have anything to do with an athlete of mine. When I ask young people to swim 100 kilometres every week for twenty weeks every year it would be the height of irresponsibility to put their careers in the hands of someone who applied for a job in New Zealand sixty three days before the Olympic Games and sixty three days before their current responsibilities are at their most important. But, that’s the guy Peter Miskimmin is after.

In case Swimwatch critics accuse me of always being negative. What would I do? Well, I’d wait until after the London Games and I’d get Mark Schubert to come to New Zealand – no matter what it cost. Without fear or favour he’d sort out this mess. If you really want to win in Rio that is one certain way it can be done.

Miskimmin And The Swimming New Zealand Board

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

By David

At last Swimming New Zealand is beginning to change. In the two years since I arrived back in New Zealand Cameron, Coulter and Byrne have gone. I am not suggesting there is any relationship between my home coming and the demise of those that led swimming into a dark place. This change is an uprising fuelled by years of hurt; a popular reaction to a decade of self interest. Eventually the good people involved in this sport were no longer tolerate the bad behaviour of their leaders. Eventually they would say enough. I’m just glad I was in New Zealand to witness it all first hand.

But before the sport of swimming can replant there are two weeds still to be pulled, two collaborators still to be culled. They are the Swimming New Zealand Board and the CEO of what was SPARC, Peter Miskimmin. In way more serious circumstance but with no less relevance America’s President Roosevelt once warned, “None who participated in these acts should go unpunished. All who share in the guilt shall share in the punishment.”

So why hasn’t the Board of Swimming New Zealand resigned. If the organization’s problems are sufficiently serious for Cameron, Coulter and Butler to fall on their swords why are those who approved everything that was done still there, hanging on to power. The two exceptions are Sutton and Spear whose Board membership is less than twelve months. The others however should be long gone; out the door with their discredited subordinates. Ross Butler, Alison Fitch, Mark Berge, Ron Clarke, Humphrey Pullon and Jane Wrightson are as guilty as sin. They sat and approved Cameron’s Millennium folly, her acquisition of unbridled power and her futile efforts to win an Olympic swimming race. Without question Cameron is a hugely able person. Without proper controls though, the most able are often the most dangerous. Butler, Fitch, Berge, Clarke, Pullon and Wrightson did not do their job. They failed to provide Cameron with the direction, balance and control she desperately needed. Her guilt is their responsibility.

The Board’s involvement in Mike Byrne’s undoing is no less stark. They signed off on the learn to swim expansion that is about to be abandoned. They approved the alteration of AGM minutes. They participated in the decisions that created the environment of fear and mistrust highlighted in the Inneson Report. Whatever happened to the buck stopping at the top? It is way too late for Butler, Fitch, Berge, Clarke, Pullon and Wrightson to act with any dignity. Their departure will be shrouded in shame and guilt. And so it should be. As each day goes by the desperate efforts to hold on to power look increasingly pathetic. All their subordinates, all those whose actions this Board approved, have resigned and gone. It is time the current Board followed that example. It is time this Board voted itself out of existence and handed their responsibilities to those charged with implementing the findings of the Moller Report.

I am particularly sad Alison Fitch has been involved in this mess. She has got herself involved in the best example I’ve seen of everything responsible directors should not do. Her reputation is damaged beyond repair. She was the sort of person the sport of swimming desperately needed. She knew the product, she worked hard and she was intelligent and bright. But she failed herself and she failed swimming. She rejected honesty, openness and truth and chose instead the forces of power. She sided with Butler and Berge when she must have known better. For that she will now rightly have to pay a big price.

And the other party who shares in the guilt and should therefore share in the punishment is Peter Miskimmin. He paid for every decision made by the Swimming New Zealand Board. He financed every action of Cameron and Byrne. His appointed subordinates sat in on every Swimming New Zealand Board meeting. He was the enabler. Without Peter Miskimmin, Cameron could not have created the Millennium white elephant. Without Peter Miskimmin, Byrne could not have expanded into learn to swim. Miskimmin asked for and got annual budgets and detailed plans. He knew about and approved every paper clip and staple Cameron and Byrne ever used. He is the guiltiest. He paid for it all. If things are so bad that Coulter, Cameron, Byrne and the Board need to resign – then Miskimmin has got to accept his guilt and leave as well. If it is good enough for him to bask in the reflected glory of Adams and Willis he must also take the fall when something he has taken hands-on responsibility for turns bad. And Swimming New Zealand under Miskimmin’s watch did turn real bad.

When the current Board and Peter Miskimmin have gone then the way will be clear for the sport of swimming to make a clean start. It is important swimming’s new beginning is not tainted by the presence of Peter Miskimmin and members of the old Board. They would bring with them far too much baggage; far too much hurt. They may be important and powerful people. They are not however as important as the athletes I will meet at 5.30 tomorrow morning. Because Miskimmin and the Board of Swimming New Zealand forgot that truth, they must now pay. There is no room for them in New Zealand sport.

At Their Dysfunctional Best

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

By David

It hasn’t taken long. Yesterday we predicted Swimming New Zealand would eventually launch a campaign to undermine the findings of the Moller Report. We never expected “eventually” would mean less than twenty four hours. Tonight SNZ dived into round one of their counter offensive. Chris Morgan, the SNZ National Learn to Swim Manager sent an email to everyone on the SNZ database pleading for New Zealand to overturn Moller’s recommendation that SNZ get out of learn to swim. The email included a four page submission “on behalf of the management and staff of Swimming New Zealand to the draft findings and recommendations of the Independent Review of Swimming New Zealand”.

Of course Chris Morgan thinks that getting out of learn to swim is a bad idea. His submission is full of the same mismanagement clap-trap that has come out of that Wellington office for years. If you want to read an example of why Moller’s recommendations should be implemented in full, read the Chris Morgan submission.

Here are examples of plain old fashioned bad management; examples of why we are in a mess; examples of the malaise Moller has set out to fix.

Quote: “All these people now have some positive awareness of and feelings towards the Swimming New Zealand brand.”

I’m not sure where Morgan has been for the past three years. Didn’t he read the Inesson Report? Eighty percent of the people interviewed for that document had a very negative opinion of SNZ. They thought SNZ was a shambles. The reason Moller was asked to prepare this report was certainly not because the whole of NZ thought the organization was wonderful.

Quote: “SNZ is a “one stop shop” for swimming. It has a pathway from learn to swim through to high performance.”

Here in lies one of the real SNZ problems. Morgan would not be the first person to believe that control of the whole process makes the organization better at the individual parts. Dozens of companies have gone under pursuing the dream of “one stop shop”. The organization may have a pathway from learn to swim to high performance, but it is a bad one. Since Danyon Loader’s Atlanta success SNZ has failed to win a medal at the Olympic Games. SNZ may be sending a largish team to the London Games, but consider this. If the dozen or so members of our team had been living in Australia only two would be going to London. Morgan needs to understand that the way he and his mates in Wellington are doing it now, does not work. The “one stop shop” has failed.

Quote: “It did not provide any evidence that the ‘teach the teachers’ programme impeded any of the other SNZ roles and responsibilities.”

SNZ’s primary function is to manage the affairs of competitive swimming. For ten years that job has been done badly. Generation after generation of swimmers have come and gone and, at an Olympic Games, we have won nothing. That is a poor return on the sixteen million dollars or so that Miskimmin has spent on this sport. The reason is not that the athletes have not been up to the job. The reason is that Byrne, Coulter, Cameron and the Board have managed the place badly. Like Morgan they wanted to rule the New Zealand swimming world. They knew best. Well they didn’t and failure has been the result. There is every evidence that the “teach the teachers’ program” has impeded other SNZ roles. It is certainly not the only reason but the diverse nature of managing learn to swim and competitive swimming has been too much for the skills available in the organization; too much for them to handle. Moller is right. Pass learn to swim over to someone who specializes in that field and concentrate on SNZ’s core activity. Perhaps then we will stop losing international swimming races. Perhaps the sport will become a fairer and more decent place. Perhaps then swimmers will not have to shift from their homes to receive the support of their country.

Quote: “To ensure the growth and success of competitive swimming in New Zealand learn to swim teachers and swimming club coaches need to collaborate to ensure that similar philosophies are encouraged. This will only happen if both LTS and competitive coaching sit under the national body.”

There is no evidence to support the view that the growth of competitive swimming depends on similar philosophies being followed throughout the organization. That socialist propaganda has been peddled at a hundred miles an hour by Byrne and his Board. It is an argument intended solely for the purpose of SNZ gathering power. The most successful swimming nation on earth has diversity and difference as its defining characteristic. Salo in Los Angeles is hugely different from Boweman in Baltimore or me in Florida or Schubert in California. There was little of no connect between what we did and the Red Cross program that ran the majority of the country’s learn to swim. Diversity, competition and the interplay of competitive philosophies work best. They offer parents a choice and that is good and successful. Morgan’s vision of a “whole of sport socialist regime” is Marxist nonsense. It is not good and in competitive sport will not be successful.

Moller has made the recommendation that SNZ should concentrate on its knitting for very good business management reasons. He has recognized that SNZ’s management has been stretched too thin and has failed as a result. In reaching that judgement Moller’s commercial experience has been vital. He will have seen the same malaise many times before. Instead of questioning his recommendation Chris Morgan would be well advised to look closely at the Moller decision. SNZ are getting the benefit of Moller’s huge commercial experience. Decisions like this one have been made from a background of sound business experience. In this case Moller is right. His recommendation is a good one. Understanding the reasons Moller wants change would help Chris Morgan become a better learn to swim manager; only not at SNZ.

Where No Man Has Gone Before

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

By David

The much used and abused internet reference facility known as Wikipedia tells me:

“Where no man has gone before” is a phrase originally made popular through its use in the title sequence of the Star Trek science fiction television series. It refers to the mission of the starship Enterprise. The introductory sequence, narrated by William Shatner is:

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

The report on Swimming New Zealand known as the Moller Report could well be introduced by the same text. Moller is the culmination of a five year mission. His report does boldly go where no man has gone before. But will it work? Right now it is all words – “full of sound and fury” certainly, but without action, “signifying nothing”. The real test of Moller is still ahead. His report has been written and presented and it is good. Surprisingly and bravely Moller has reached good conclusions. He wants the federal system of regional power retained. He wants the current Board and Mike Byrne gone. Of course, I am delighted. Moller has accepted many – perhaps even most – of the recommendations called for on Swimwatch. It feels like the last five years work, writing, writing and writing endlessly about the shambles created by Byrne, Cameron, Coulter and the others has been vindicated. Perhaps now some of the many critics of Swimwatch will see that I was not an out of control trouble maker after all. There is however no joy, no elation, just relief. Perhaps, after the false start of Inneson, we will see a better sport, a fairer sport.

You will notice that all this is prefaced with the ominous qualification, “perhaps”. Why perhaps? Well, if nothing happens, if no action follows, Moller is just a hugely expensive fairy tale. Right now Mike Byrne is still employed; the Board is still in place. Moller is just words. When I hear that Byrne has left the building, that Fitch and Butler, Pullon and Wrightson are no more: when I see a good Board of six put in their place – make sure Suzanne Spear is one of them – and a competent CEO replaces Byrne – Palmer with the Head Office in Auckland gets my vote – then Moller will have earned our praise, admiration and respect. Then Moller will have made a difference. The Moller Report must be actioned. It must be actioned quickly.

But beware; there are forces out there that will do all in their power to derail the Moller reforms. Do not underestimate their guile. Look at how they upset the findings of the Inneson Report. Members of the Swimming New Zealand Board are experts at holding on to power. They have made an art form out of dodging reports critical of their behaviour. Already they are following a well prepared and often used script. First, they accept without qualification everything Moller says; and thank him so very, very much for the effort and time he has put into his findings. Then they ask for just a few days to fully understand all that is in the report and to discuss its conclusions with a group they call the sport’s stakeholders. And then they wait as long as possible, certainly long enough for the press to lose interest before leaking rumours that Moller might have made mistakes, that he did not have an in depth understanding of the unique problems associated with swimming. After all, his real experience was in the team games of rugby and cricket. Miskimmin will offer his support to the current Board, just as he did after Inneson and Moller will be quietly shelved; another report gathering dust in the well stocked library of reports in Pelorus House.

All that is not the product of an overactive imagination. It has happened before. I’d be prepared to bet that it is a plan Butler and Byrne are considering. To be effective the Moller Report needs to be actioned quickly and decisively. For the love of God, this time, do something and do it quickly. Pay Byrne whatever it takes. Demand that the Board holds an early Special General Meeting. Arrange for the next generation of Directors to be on hand to take over the management of the organization. And importantly stop current discredited Board members taking actions that commit the organization for years ahead. I heard today they may be looking to recruit and employ a High Performance Director. This person will need to work closely with the new Swimming New Zealand CEO. In the current circumstances it is impossible to believe the current administration would be preparing to recruit a person to fill this vacancy. Mind you, just about everything they have ever done has been impossible to believe.

Implementing the Moller recommendations will only be the beginning. Moller wants to see the organization well managed. People doing my job want to see Moller’s governance changes bring about changes to this sport. We have to see our swimmers share in the privileged life style currently only available to swimmers at the Millennium Institute. The organization responsible for swimming throughout New Zealand has to ensure that a Danyon Loader born in Greymouth has just as much access to funding and advantage as Snyders and his mates on the North Shore of Auckland. Those that take over as a result of the Moller Report have a duty to the swimmers that the Byrne and Cameron regime marginalized. Gray put it like this

Full many a gem of purest ray serene

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

But the person who is really responsible for seeing that the Moller Report is actioned with integrity is Peter Miskimmin. He funded, supported and protected the discredited regime that has run swimming in New Zealand for far too long. He must now correct the error of his ways. That will in no way excuse the mistakes he made in the past. They have caused incalculable pain. With his atrocious record the least we can expect from Miskimmin is that he actively sees that the Moller recommendations are put into effect quickly and in full. Miskimmin has not behaved well in the past. Perhaps this time will be different. We will see.

Comments Not Working!

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

A quick note: the comment section doesn’t appear to be working. We apologise for the inconvenience and are looking into a solution. Thanks for your patience!