The Conclusion of Another Year

By David

And so we end 2014 in a hell of a mess. Swimming New Zealand is advertising for a National Coach when we all naively thought we still had one; a guy called David Lyles. You must know who I mean. The English coach appointed in May 2013. The one Alex Baumann told us would “complete the turning of a new leaf for embattled Swimming NZ.” Not content, it seems, with “turning a new leaf” Baumann announced that the appointment of Lyles was also the start of putting “the building blocks in place for swimming to be successful.”

Unsure whether the sport had a “new leaf” or a “building block” Baumann went on to excitedly tell the nation that Lyles CV was “impressive and other countries were trying to secure him.” But not even that was enough to explain the magnitude of Baumann’s appointment of David Lyles. The new coach he told us would, “bring an amount of credibility and a person that can drive the programme forward. It’s what we need.”

And all that was in May 2013, only eighteen months ago. And now Lyles’ job is being advertised on an Australian employment website and no one, not Baumann, or Villanueva, or Renford or, especially, Layton will tell us why. Why is the new leaf, or was it a building block, being replaced? Is he being replaced? If Baumann was so sure in May 2013 that Lyles was, “what we need” why, after eighteen months don’t we need him anymore? What happened to the need for “credibility”?

Apart from believe in and support a hopeless Swimming New Zealand program, what did Lyles do wrong? Why is he being singled out for the chop when Villanueva has had far more to do with the program’s failure? Why does Villanueva get a free ride? Isn’t Villanueva principally responsible for this mess? Wasn’t the pre-Games junket through the hot spots of the Mediterranean Villanueva’s idea? Is Lyles just a fall guy for the actions of others?

Of course I’m being a little sarcastic, but really does the behaviour of Miskimmin’s Swimming New Zealand deserve any less. Remember this is the organization that screams, “Excellence, Integrity, Accountability” at every opportunity. Really, if I was responsible for Swimming New Zealand, those three words would be abandoned immediately. They have become symbols of derision. That’s what happens when you claim a status that you have no hope of meeting.

I did notice that Lyles also had quite a bit to say at the time of his appointment. “I think there’s a lot of very positive things happening there and I want to be part of it,” he said. “A lot of positive things happening” – what on God’s good earth were they? Since Miskimmin got his hands on this sport there has not been one “very positive thing” happen anywhere. The sport lurches from one disaster to the next. And don’t mention Lauren Boyle. A very good American University program nurtured her huge talent. Lyle concludes by expressing the wish to be part of Swimming New Zealand’s brave new world. Today, I bet he wishes his aspirations had been less successful. If other countries really were, “trying to secure him” I bet he wishes they’d been successful. Even North Korea would have been better that this mess.

Given the chaos of swimming in New Zealand you can imagine my horror at reading the following “Stuff” report.

“An independent report has slammed Boxing New Zealand, saying it has no clear direction and the sport is at risk if its board does not make changes. After months of infighting within the New Zealand amateur boxing community, Boxing New Zealand’s executive board called on Sport New Zealand to help conduct a review of the sport’s structure, governance and management of its programs.

Sport New Zealand appointed Peter Dale to conduct the review of Boxing New Zealand. The report and its findings were today circulated among the boxing community. The findings suggest important changes are needed if amateur boxing is to survive in New Zealand.

“Without remedial action, these matters represent significant risk to Boxing NZ’s capability to lead the affairs of the sport,” the report said.

“BNZ lacks any formal plans for any of its operations or endeavors. “The organization operates without a strategic plan, annual plan or annual budget agreed in advance. As a result, the organization operates without a sense of direction.

“During the review process it has become clear that there are a substantial number of talented boxers who would benefit from a structured athlete development programme. This will take a new approach to planning.”

Forums would be held throughout the country early next year to gather more thoughts, he said. The forums will be fronted by members of the executive board and Dale to give the boxing community another opportunity to express its views on the report’s findings and what should now happen.”

So there we have it. The Sport New Zealand formula absorbs another New Zealand sport. The state’s tentacles reach out growing Miskimmin’s empire, sport by sport. And the method is so transparent; so bloody obvious. Highlight a couple of organizational shortcomings, make the offer of a Sport New Zealand funded Review, appoint a tame author, stage manage a few regional forums, prepare a new constitution, call a Special General Meeting, order a once and for all vote and hey presto another sport is bought body and soul.

Of course you will recognize it is exactly what happened to New Zealand swimming. And now boxing is heading towards the same abyss. I plan to send this story to Boxing New Zealand, not because I think it will have any effect. Like lemmings they will march confidently over the Miskimmin cliff. I will send them this report so that in eighteen months I can write another Swimwatch story telling Boxing New Zealand that they were warned; suggesting they should have asked David Lyles. He was warned too. He knows what I mean.