A Good Friday Message

By David

On the weekend when the Christian world believes mankind received forgiveness for all their sins there is obviously a portion of the New Zealand swimming community who are not so generous towards the primary author of Swimwatch. I received an abusive email today that I think merits further consideration.

Off the subject a bit, but can anyone explain to me why so many people who are about to tear me apart insist on calling me “mate” first. However, back to the main point of this article. The problem with addressing something like this is that it gives the abusive message more importance than it deserves. Of course even abusive messages should be posted in the comments section. Free speech demands no less. But discussing their contents implies they are worthy of discussion. And I don’t think they are.

However, here is the message sent to Swimwatch today.

Urswimmerswudleaveiftheycould (Guest):

David your arguments are pretty flawed. You can’t compare the Millennium’s results to those of the last 50 years mate, that’s not fair. It was started in 2011 – give it some damn time you bigoted old fart. And it’s the swimmer’s choice to leave their clubs. They aren’t being blackmailed or recruited by David Lyles as you seem to think. They come to him okay, get it through your skull. Why don’t you turn some of this hateful worthless criticism into suggestions as to how they can do it better? You sound like a broken record. Also don’t call me out for being aggressive or being mean to you, as you get what you give.

Why did I even write this, you’re obviously delusional and don’t respect anyone else’s ideas.

I realize this comment above sounds somewhat hypocritical, but your arguments are pretty stupid. Have fun writing a new article in response to this Mr Toomuchtimeonhishands :)

So let’s consider one or two of the points made in this message.

1 – “It (the Millennium Institute) was started in 2011.” – I would have thought the name Millennium would have provided a clue that this statement of fact is rubbish. Jan Cameron sold Peter Miskimmin and Swimming New Zealand on the concept of the centralized “state” delivery of high performance training while Clive Rushton was New Zealand’s National Coach. The actual date is difficult to determine. The Millennium Pool was opened in 2002 but Cameron had been operating a centralized Swimming New Zealand promoted delivery of swimming training well before that. It is probably fair to say that in one form or another New Zealand has operated a “Millennium Institute” concept since the year 2000. That’s 14 years and four Olympic Games without a medal in sight.

Of course those committed to the government of New Zealand owning its own swim school will not accept that it is their concept that is a failure. The problem, according to them, has always been coaches and managers who did not know how to work it properly. Consequently the centralized swim school went through a succession of coaches; I think four or five in 10 years (Cameron, an English chap, Ansorg and Regan).

By this time Miskimmin must have been getting desperate. Millions of dollars and two generations of swimmers had come and gone, had disappeared without success. Another change was needed. And that’s when Cameron, Byrne, Regan and Coulter were replaced with Layton, Renford, Villenueva and Lyles. Same socialist, centralised concept but different people and Miskimmin, I assume, expects a different result. But it will not happen. Why? Because it’s the concept that’s wrong. It does not work.

Look at New Zealand’s most recent Commonwealth Games nominations. All those millions and the Millennium Institute can only produce one personal best swim from the two individual Millennium qualifiers for the Games. And it’s hard to credit the New Zealand government with much that Boyle has achieved. I think Cal and Teri McKeever have had more to do with her success.

And so the history of New Zealand’s experiment in running a centralized, government owned swim school is a lot longer than three years. Long enough to know it does not work; it’s time to do something different.

2 – “They aren’t being blackmailed or recruited by David Lyles as you seem to think.” – I don’t think I’ve ever suggested anyone is being blackmailed. However swimmers most certainly are being recruited by Swimming New Zealand. Swimming New Zealand’s website begins with this lie, Most of New Zealand’s elite swimmers are based at the Institute.” That’s simply not factually true. It is spin designed to attract the uninformed. Most of New Zealand’s elite swimmers are training in a club or university program either here or overseas.

The Swimming New Zealand website then goes on to offer good swimmers the following services free of charge: coaching, lane space (long and short course), access to services (including strength and conditioning, athlete life planning, nutrition, physiology, biomechanics and psychology), access to medical, massage and physiotherapy services, administration services and formal links to local tertiary institutions.

That’s a perfect example of the state using its financial muscle to buy athletes. It is not the way a free private enterprise economy works and it’s why we fail at swimming. Do you know, I was told that the cosseted coterie of Auckland based Millennium swimmers were housed in a Henderson motel for the week of the National Championships? Better swimmers from private clubs, were not offered that option. They had to pay their own way. If it’s true, that’s the sort of thing that’s bad for New Zealand swimming. That’s the sort of thing I mean when I say the government swim school undermines every swim club in the country.

3 – “Why don’t you turn some of this hateful worthless criticism into suggestions as to how they can do it better?” – The author of this comment is clearly not a regular reader of Swimwatch. If he/she was, then he/she would know that many pages have been devoted to what we think should replace the Millennium Institute. Thousands of words have been written about how the government’s money would be better spent.

But for the benefit of our commentator let’s say it again. But first a confession: the alternative is not my idea. For many years I was a good friend of the NZ track coach, Arthur Lydiard. We knew each other sufficiently well that if he was away overseas and I was coming to Auckland for a swim meet he would leave his house keys with a neighbour for me to use while I was in Auckland. Arthur also knew Jan Cameron very well. We would often discuss her centralized coaching delivery plans. In spite of his loyalty to Cameron, Arthur would shake his head and say, “It will never work.”

Arthur believed, and I absolutely agree, that the structure he put in place in Finnish athletics would produce better results. What Arthur did in Finland was educate and resource (that’s a word that means “give-money-to”) a wide range of the nation’s coaches. Arthur wanted a Millennium Institute of thirty or forty coaches. That way the chances of success were multiplied hugely. As we know the result was four medals (three of them gold) at the Munich Olympic Games. Significantly that concept is no different from what swimming in the United States and France practice today. New Zealand needs a Millennium Institute of thirty well-funded and good coaches in Auckland, Gisborne, Hamilton, Napier/Hastings, Palmerston North, Stratford, New Plymouth, Carterton, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Ashburton, Dunedin, Invercargill and a dozen other places I’ve missed. We don’t need or want one state, socialist swim school located on Auckland’s North Shore. It does not work.

4 – Urswimmerswudleaveiftheycould, buttheyarentfastenough@becauseusuck.com – Just so everyone is clear on what our correspondent is saying here; he is saying his name is “Your swimmers would leave if they could” and his email address is; “But they aren’t fast enough because you suck.” That effort at inventing a nom-de-plume suggests I might not be the only one with too much time on my hands. However I really do not mind the correspondent having a crack at me. However, insulting my swimmers has always been a step too far. You ignorant prick, how dare you say my swimmers “aren’t fast enough”.

I stood and watched three of them swim over 1000 kilometres in ten weeks this season. I sat and watched them win three medals at this National Championships, break an Auckland record, swim 87% PBs and one record a national fastest for his age group time. Today I have received a letter selecting one of them in a team to compete for New Zealand next month and a phone call from a United States Division One University asking if another would be available to swim on a scholarship there for the next four years. How dare you scorn their resume. You are right about one thing though, my swimmers would not go anywhere near the Millennium Institute. They have too much class for that. Besides they may meet people like you. 


  • David

    Sorry Clive (if you happen to read this post) that point one was not meant to imply Cameron sold the centralized delivery of swimming to you. On the contrary. Your efforts to encourage New Zealand wide coaching depth are appreciated by many of us today. I was using your presence as a timeline guide only.

    • Mister Clive

      Yes, indeed, I did happen to read that post. However, you are wrong! JC did sell the centralized delivery of swimming to me and I signed off on it. I think it goes without saying that my motivation was not to take any resources away from the other coaches, who I think, as you do, should be the primary center of attention as far as funding, support, education and professional development are concerned. Let’s just say the Dark Side had already gained supremacy in SNZ and I was too wimpy to take the high road (on that issue), because of the potential personal consequences. I liked Godzone too much! Always a mistake to get emotionally attached to something which is dependent on something else.

      Keep writing furiously! I know you upset some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but whenever I read one of your posts that is particularly incendiary (some of them are actually quite benign!), I ask myself, “Is he right?” If the answer is yes, then there’s no point getting upset, is there?

      BTW – I think you should separate David Lyles’ coaching skills from the
      organizational structure imposed on him; he’s a bloody good coach.

  • David

    Clive – Thank you for the message. The problem with your thought on David Lyles is that you are being too reasonable. You are treating Lyles in a civilized and generous way. You are recognizing his coaching talents and asking that we respect them as well. That is good and proper and is what any decent person should do. You did no less with Jan Cameron. The problem with that view is that the organization he works for, the philosophy he is obliged to support, the concept of which he is a part, is so provably bad, so demonstrably wrong that giving Lyles personal credit only nurtures the beast behind him. I am sure you are right about his coaching qualities. Unfortunately he currently works for, is paid by and promotes the dark side; an organization that has caused New Zealand swimming huge harm. While that is the case he will get no credit, none at all from this quarter. There are many swimmers out there who depend on that uncompromising stand.