The Start Of Something Extraordinary

“The start of something extraordinary” is the slogan printed on the banner of the Swimming New Zealand website. The slogan is correct: five errors in the news report telling us about the high altitude training camp is certainly extraordinary.  

Then I thought, what would I find if I read the other news items? Perhaps five errors are not the start of something extraordinary. Perhaps that’s Swimming New Zealand’s normal standard.

Here is what I found. Some of my gripes are trivial. They do however add to an impression of an organisation that struggles to get anything right.

Report One – Team for Commonwealth Youth Games announced

This is what the website reported, “Mya Rasmussen with also be one to watch.” What they mean of course is, “Mya Rasmussen will also be one to watch.”

Report Two – Upokongaro School Celebrates Swimming Success

Here is a sentence from their Upokongaro School report.

Upokongaro School also include beach education with Surf Life Saving NZ over summer and prior to conducting any education outside the classroom that are around water, emphasis is made to ensuring students keep themselves safe whether they are in, on or around water.  

That is a mammoth 44 word sentence. The UK Government have rules about this sort of thing. Here is an extract from their blog “Inside GOV UK”.  

Research shows that when average sentence length is 14 words, readers understand more than 90% of what they’re reading. At 43 words, comprehension drops to less than 10%.

Studies also show that sentences of 11 words are considered easy to read, while those of 21 words are fairly difficult. At 25 words, sentences become difficult, and 29 words or longer, very difficult.

Long sentences aren’t just difficult for people who struggle with reading. They’re also a problem for highly literate people with extensive vocabularies.”

Having struggled to keep up with what was happening at Upokongaro School, I agree with the UK Government. Ten percent comprehension? Only if I was lucky.   

Report Three – Swimming’s rising stars bag record haul in Australia

This is a report about the Australian Age Group Championships. It is probably the most serious fault. The headline claims a “record haul” of medals. The text says:

“It brought New Zealand’s tally to a record 18 over the six-day meet”

I thought I’d go back to 2009 and check the past seven years to see if the New Zealand result in 2017 was a record. I only needed to check one year. In 2009 swimmers from NZ won 22 medals at the Australian Age Group Championships. The website claim is not true. It’s an alternative fact. And as Chuck Todd said to Kellyanne Conway, “Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”

But the confusion does not end there. The report then says:

“New Zealand finished the meet with two victories to Crawford and Christchurch’s Hannah Bates, 11 silver medals and five bronze medals, with the medals coming from nine clubs.”

The sentence is not all that long but there are three or four subjects all squashed together that make the whole thing meaningless. Someone needs to tell Swimming New Zealand that it is not necessary to jam every fact into one breathless sentence.  

Report Four – Swift Water Personal Skills Course

Two of the skills taught to members attending this course are described as:

“Move safely in and around a river environment up to grade 2+

Perform non-technical self and peer rescues in a river environment up to grade 2″

Is the river grade “two plus” or “two inches” or both.

Report Five – High Performance Team visit USA

I have already discussed this report. For the sake of completeness I will include the Swimming New Zealand’s report again. Here is what they said:

“Some of the USA’s top swimmers, such as Katie Ledecky, Nathan Adrian and Simone manual were amongst the athletes competing at the meet.

The competition was hosted by the Storied Club Mission Veijo Nandadores.”

Here is what they have wrong in just two sentences.

  1. “Simone manual” is Simone Manuel – that’s two errors
  2. “Storied Club” should be storied club – that’s another two
  3. “Veijo” should be Viejo – and that’s one more

Five errors in 34 words: that is not good. If someone in Swimming New Zealand knows enough about Mission Viejo to call it “storied” you would think they would also know how to spell the club’s name.  

Report Six – Crawford leads further medal haul in Australia

As I have said there is a general impression of incompetence. For example this report says:

“with the competition continuing until Saturday”

And then it goes on to say:

“and continues at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre until Friday.”

And then we are told:

Smith, from the emerging Whangarei club, set a personal best 3:34.03 to finish second in the 16 years 200m breaststroke.”

But in the results we are told:

“16 years: Ciara Smith (Northwave) 200 breaststroke 2:34.03”

I can understand the New Zealand Herald getting a 200 meter breaststroke time wrong by a minute. The national swimming Federation should know better.  

It is not overstating the case to say that when the organisation’s shop window is this sloppy, when they can’t write a report without silly errors, when they lie about their performance: why should anyone trust them with the careers of their children? If a school principal sent a newsletter home with this many errors would you be happy your child was in good hands? Of course not. The message coming from their website is one of confusion, poor performance and incompetence. But does the website simply reflect the organisation in general?  


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