Swimming New Zealand Management

By David

Swimming in New Zealand has recently experienced major surgery. There is a new constitution, new management, new coaches and new responsibilities. Most New Zealanders involved in the sport want to give the new structure a chance. I certainly do. Swimwatch readers may have noticed that this column has avoided the harsh criticism justifiably piled on the old guard in Pelorus House.

But, as each day goes by, preserving a diplomatic silence is becoming more difficult. Swimming seems hell-bent on providing the most benign observer with an endless assortment of case studies on how not to manage an organization.

I mean isn’t it ironic that the guy Miskimmin appointed to sort out the problems in swimming is the same guy in charge of the biggest shambles ever seen in New Zealand sport – the chaos called cricket. Chris Moller was the author of the Moller Report on Swimming New Zealand and the five star general in charge of pushing through the Miskimmin constitution that now governs Swimming New Zealand. And as the Chairman of New Zealand Cricket, the buck for what goes on there stops with him.

Today the “Stuff” website portrayed Moller’s cricket empire in these flattering terms, “There are accusations of lying by the top brass of New Zealand cricket from former skipper Ross Taylor.” Sounds just like the sort of thing that used to go on in Swimming New Zealand. Sounds just like the sort of thing that was used to con and bully the Regions of Swimming New Zealand into accepting its new totalitarian constitution. Sounds just like the environment that is a speciality of the Sport New Zealand style of management. Sir Walter Scott must have had New Zealand sport in mind when he penned the proverbial lines, “Oh! what a tangled web we weave. When first we practice to deceive!”

There is little doubt that Swimming New Zealand remains specialist in the art of the monumental cock-up. A week ago the organization published a document called, “Swimming New Zealand Draft High Performance Strategy 2013 – 2020.” The plan is as unimpressive as it is badly timed. I will consider the deficiencies of the plan in a minute – but first the timing.

Swimming New Zealand has just made a most important appointment. On the 8th December they announced that, “Luis Villanueva, the Technical Director of the Spanish Swimming Federation, will take up the role of High Performance Director in New Zealand.” And then, positively frothing with excitement the Swimming New Zealand press release went on, “We wanted someone with a technical and coaching background but most importantly with the skills in planning and directing the implementation of a world class high performance programme,” said Swimming New Zealand Chair, Brent Layton. “We wanted someone who also understood the resources and challenges of a programme of New Zealand’s size within a global sport competing against nations with many more swimmers. We also wanted someone inspired by this challenge.”

Well Mr. Layton, if you have found someone in Spain with all those skills; with vision and resume expertise why on God’s good earth have you, three days before he is appointed, published a document telling him and the rest of us how the High Performance portion of Swimming New Zealand is going to be run for the next eight years. For ten years now Swimming New Zealand has demonstrated their inability to win an Olympic swimming medal. Then they appoint someone who they feel can do that task. And at the same time publish a strategy document telling him how to do his job. Good management and good manners demands that Mr. Villanueva should have been given the freedom to plan his own strategy. But oh no, not in good old Swimming New Zealand. Here we appoint an expert but before he gets here publish a set of rules that tells him how the Miskimmin gang want him to behave. It is a comedy of “Monty Python” proportions. Sadly, though it is also another generation of young New Zealander’s they are in the process of wasting.

Mr. Villanueva has no option but to accept the High Performance Strategy Document. No one lasts long in New Zealand sport if they openly defy the word according to Miskimmin. So what’s in this, his most recent trumpeted missive? Well it’s the same old, same old. It’s all about how good things are at the centralized Millennium Institute and how it must be the blue print for the next eight years. Of course the High Performance Strategy Document doesn’t put it like that.

What it says is that, “Swimming New Zealand is recognised as having one of the leading high performance programmes in New Zealand.” A program the report says, “Athletes, coaches and support staff aspire to become part of.” Miskimmin can’t possibly be serious. The Swimming New Zealand program hasn’t produced an Olympic swimming medal ever. The medals of Loader, Kingsman and Moss had nothing to do with any Swimming New Zealand high performance program. If the Millennium Institute is Miskimmin’s idea of a leading program he should join Cameron, Byrne and Coulter doing something else.

The Swimming New Zealand website says that, “Swimming New Zealand has a group of world class swimmers from which to build for Rio in 2016, led by Lauren Boyle, Glenn Snyders, Gareth Kean and Matthew Stanley.” Well, those four swimmers would do well to look into the Millenium mirror and inspect the swimming lives of Ingram, Bell and Kent; lives that offered so much but never quite delivered. Talent used and wasted in the New Zealand High Performance Program. Theirs is a tale that will be repeated if Boyle, Snyders, Kean and Stanley stay in Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance Program.

I’ve heard Snyders is on his way to train with Dave Salo in Los Angeles. Now that is a smart move that could very well yield gold in Rio. The remaining three swimmers would be well advised to get out of the Miskimmin Millennium trap while they can. And others considering a move to Auckland should stay in their home program. Face it; home programs have produced all of New Zealand’s Olympic swimming medals. That’s better odds than Miskimmin, Regan, Moller or Layton can offer.