Archive for July, 2018

Ali Galyer

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

 I see the selection of Ali Galyer to represent New Zealand at the Pan Pacific Games has generated some heat. But before we get carried away let’s consider the facts of how she was selected. These were helpfully provided in a Gary Francis email. This is what he said:

Hi CoachesOver the next few hours news will filter through to you of an additional, late selection to our Pan Pacs Team for this year.

Her name is Ali Galyer, and she is a US based swimmer, who just competed at the US trials in Irvine. I became aware of her on July 9th and after an initial investigation found that she has live (sic) in the USA since 2001 and that she is at the University of Kentucky. Her PB in the 200m Backstroke was 2:09.93, achieved the day before at the Pro Series event in Columbus Ohio. At the time it was the 18th fastest time in the world (2 per nation).

After some following up it became clear that:

  1. She has a NZ passport and is eligible for NZ
  2. She was at the time the 5th ranked 200m backstroker in USA and could be selected for a Senior US team at the upcoming trials.

 I made a formal approach to secure her commitment to New Zealand but felt that the pressure that she would be under to accept selection for the USA if she should make the top 5 at the US trials would be too great for her to ignore. So I asked her to apply to the New Zealand selectors for selection to the New Zealand team under exceptional circumstances. The selectors accepted her application and I offered her a place in the New Zealand team, by so doing securing her commitment to New Zealand.

 At the US trials she improved her PB and world ranking (to 17) with a heat swim of 2:09.77 (New Zealand Pan Pacs qualifying was at 2:11.53), qualifying 6th fastest. She could not repeat this in the final finishing 8th in 2:10.91. But given all the unrest of the previous two weeks I feel this was still strong vindication that New Zealand needed to select her.

 Her team mates have all been informed of her selection – she will be flying out directly from California to join the team in Kobe City tomorrow.

This is a very unique situation, unlikely to be repeated. It will be great to have Ali as part of our Senior team as we move towards Tokyo and beyond. She is fully committed to New Zealand and understands that from this point on she will have to go through the same qualifying and selection process as her team mates. – I hope this sheds light on the situation.




There are of course critics in New Zealand who question her selection. Here is a summarized version of an email I received today.

Corey Main came over to NZ to try and qualify for the Pan Pacific Champs. He wasn’t able to do so as he didn’t meet the times, was disqualified from one of his events and ended up scratching the other – and got beaten by his brother in the third.As a result, Swimming NZ had only three pool swimmers going to Pan Pacs.

So, Swimming NZ went around the Aussie and US teams to see if any swimmers had Kiwi bloodlines to see if they could find an addition to the team and get them a dispensation.

They found one who was not fast enough to get into the US team or the Australian team.

Her name is Ali Gayler [sic]. She swam 2:09.77s in the heats of the 200m backstroke at last week’s USA National Championships and that is under the Pan Pacs qualifying time.

If it was good enough to add Gayler [sic] to the team why wasn’t it good enough to have a dispensation for Corey Main and have him swim at US Panpac trials as well instead of having him fly over to NZ Opens and compete somewhat jetlagged?

There are occasions when New Zealanders, like the author of this email, fail to understand modern international sport. I don’t see anything wrong with the selection. In fact I’m delighted and wish Ali Galyer all the best. It would be extremely hypocritical of me to do anything less. I have a wife who ran for New Zealand and changed to run for the United Kingdom. I also have a daughter who swam for New Zealand and on one occasion changed to swim for the US Virgin Islands in the Central American Championships. In fact she still holds the 200 breaststroke championship record.

Ali Gayler meets all the international criteria for New Zealand selection and she is certainly fast enough. Her Resume is stunningly good; three times State champion, twice South Carolina High School Swimmer of the Year, 2016 USA Olympic Trial qualifier in 100 and 200 backstroke, sixth in the 200-yard backstroke at the NCAA Championships, twice First Team All-American and a mile faster than the SNZ selection time; she is probably the best swimmer to represent New Zealand since Lauren Boyle. The fact the SNZ had to call on one of its infamous “special circumstance” clauses to get around the rules is nothing new. They did it for Lewis Clareburt. Why should Ali Galyer be any different?

Her selection is the way of international sport. A runner born in Kenya represents Bahrain. A swimmer born in South Africa represents Germany. Most famously of all a runner, called Mo Farah, was born in Somalia and runs for the United Kingdom. I am delighted SNZ is looking further afield than the fence around Antares Place. Wikipedia tells me there are 750,000 New Zealand-born citizens living overseas. I’m pretty certain there are a few of them who have children who can swim or run well. If they are good enough they should be welcomed into any national team. On this occasion well done SNZ, well done Gary Francis and especially well done Ali Galyer.

New Zealand Swim Coaches & Teachers Association

Monday, July 30th, 2018

 I have just received an email reminding me that my New Zealand Swim Coaches and Teachers Association (NZSCTA) fees are due to be paid. I have no objection to paying the fees. $110.50 is a modest amount in order to access Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) and Auckland Swimming competitions. However that is not to say I am entirely happy with the standard of the NZSCTA management.

The main topic discussed by Swimwatch is the poor performance of SNZ. In particular questions surrounding integrity, centralised training and SNZ’s negative effect on coaching have received attention. What has not been discussed is the obsequious role the NZSCTA has played in the undermining of New Zealand coaches. The lack of leadership they have shown in contesting a twenty-five year SNZ assault on the coaching profession is a disgrace.

It began when Jan Cameron decided the best way to promote herself as the centralised saviour of New Zealand swimming was to promote her own skills and club and call into question the quality of other coaches around the country. Club coaches became fair game for abuse and open door poaching. Just ask any coach around in the 1990s. Jan Cameron’s poaching skills were scandalous. Swimmers were poached from the length and breadth of the country. It was no problem to Jan Cameron. Always her sales pitch was how much better the coaching swimmer would receive in Auckland was compared to the shoddy product they were getting at home. It was an institutionalised human heist.

The immediate effect was swimmers leaving local clubs to swim for the North Shore Club. But far more insidiously dangerous was the gradual undermining of New Zealand coaching. Quite simply Jan Cameron made it acceptable to criticise New Zealand club coaches; to censure often without facts or evidence. The view that club coaches were not up to the standard, certainly not as good as Jan Cameron in North Shore’s centralised program became an accepted fact. Coaching in New Zealand became identified as a two tier structure; the top level was the Centralised Program in Auckland and the rest were second class. Jan Cameron reinforced that perception but applying little tricks such as having team meetings at Commonwealth Games that excluded swimmers not coached by her. Jon Winter, Toni Jeffs and Liz Van Wellie were excluded from team meetings at the Manchester Commonwealth Games because of where they trained back in New Zealand. It is ironic that the three swimmers who swan best at those Games were Jon Winter, Liz Van Wellie and Toni Jeffs.

Jan Cameron’s leadership of SNZ was followed by another Australian who had an equally dim view of New Zealand coaching. Two weeks after arriving in New Zealand, new CEO, Christian Renford, was interviewed on Radio Sport. Renford had some pretty telling things to say about the standard of coaching. This is what he said.

I think, it (coaching) is an area where we need to do more work in. It’s an area where we need to put a bit more attention to.

And when Radio Sport asked him to explain why the new National Coach, the High Performance Director, the CEO of Swimming New Zealand and the Director of High Performance Sport New Zealand were all aliens, Christian Renford had this to say;

If we had the domestic talent that we needed we would have been looking in that (the New Zealand) direction. You need to hunt for the best talent you can get available in the water and out of the water and if they come from overseas then so be it. In the short term we absolutely have got the best talent that we can get our hands on for the national swim program. We need to make sure that (the centralised program) is supported by a decentralised development pathway that underpins the centralized model”.   

Swimming in New Zealand has got Christian Renford to thank for nothing. In that interview he clearly sets out a policy of pinnacle coaching in the North Shore’s Centralised Program with the rest of New Zealand coaches relegated to the role of talent providers. And that’s the policy that has been followed to this day. At the time (June 2013) I wrote this on Swimwatch.

How dare you come to New Zealand and after eight weeks dismiss the men and women who work in my profession. How dare you say that there is not a New Zealander good enough to manage High Performance Sport New Zealand or to manage Swimming New Zealand or to coach Lauren Boyle and her mates or to manage the SNZ High Performance Program. How dare you suggest that foreigners were needed because New Zealanders were not good enough. How bloody dare you.

Of course it was difficult for club coaches to perfect their coaching skills when SNZ actively promoted open poaching of the country’s best swimmers. When that was standard practice for twenty-five years the coaching destruction was nuclear. The standard of New Zealand coaching is excellent given the hurt two Australian caused the sport.

And finally we come to the Johns and Francis era. Only the words have changed. Now they pay lip service to club programs but behind the words there remains the clear threat of their centralised ambition. For as long as they hold on to and fund the Auckland Centralised Program, for as long as they recommend swimmers go overseas to train, they remain as dangerous to New Zealand club coaches as Jan Cameron and Christian Renford. Always remember their words may sound reassuring but their actions are just as destructive.

Sadly the NZSCA has been a complicit participant in this damaging history. As we know the guy who sits in the getaway car is just as guilty as the guy who robs the bank. Through twenty-five years the NZSCTA Board has sat twiddling their thumbs, doing nothing while SNZ has torn New Zealand coaching apart. Through the Jan Cameron, Christian Renford and now Steve Johns and Gary Francis assault on New Zealand coaches and the sacking of Donna and Gary they have failed to act. Their behavior has lacked integrity, responsibility and courage.

It would have been easy enough to speak up publically, or threaten industrial action such as withdrawing coaches from teams or initiating the non-payment of fees. But no, the NZSCTA did nothing. In any industrial situation the actions of SNZ towards their coaching members would not be tolerated for a minute. No factory in New Zealand would allow the level of abuse accepted by the NZSCTA. It is clearly time for the long term members of the NZSCTA to stand down and let someone with some spine come in and protect the interests of New Zealand club coaches. The organization is an important one in New Zealand swimming. Good national programs are coach led. Bad ones, like New Zealand, are led by office autocrats. The NZSCTA needs to assume the responsibility of leadership. To do that they need a strong Board; something the current Board simply cannot provide.

The Final Outrage

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

 This is the fourth and last post that will debate aspects of the Francis’ information meeting. However this one is a little different. In this post I am not sure of all the facts. For example I am guessing at the identity of the parties involved. In spite of the circumstantial nature of the conclusions, in my opinion, they are the most valid explanation of what actually occurred.

Early in the information meeting Francis was challenged by a woman who did not approve of the time Francis said he had spent getting to know the coaches of American University based New Zealand swimmers. Quite rightly Francis was making the point that some of New Zealand’s best swimmers were attracted to the education opportunities offered in the United States. The woman was attempting to paint US scholarships as some form of treason. Instead of standing up to her ridiculous notion Francis deflated like a pricked balloon; even going as far as to say, “No I think you are right.” That sounded absurd when a minute before he was challenged he had said, ““A major, major important part of our role was to start to develop relationships with coaches who work with our athletes overseas.”

It was pretty obvious that Francis didn’t think the woman was right but, in my opinion, there is not much of Winston Churchill in Gary Francis I’m afraid.

As part of that exchange Francis then told a story about a swimmer he had recommended should leave New Zealand and train in Australia. This is what he said;

Already two weeks ago I was in discussion with an athlete and their coach. They felt the coach had reached the limit the coach could take the athlete to in their program and they needed to move. And they explored several options and in the end the option I recommended to that athlete was to go to the Sunshine Coast. And that’s the only athlete I have recommended to go overseas AT THE MOMENT. But for that particular athlete in that event at that level and level of development and the background the athlete had come from. With the opportunity that was there; there was a family connection That was a really good option and probably better than the other options.

A couple of days later Mya Rasmussen announced she was leaving her Palmerston North home program, Kiwi West Aquatics coached by Andrew Nicholls, and heading to the Sunshine Coast. And that’s where the guess work comes in. You see I think the swimmer Francis was talking about was Mya Rasmussen. And if that is the case, it’s a bloody disgrace. You may be wondering why?

Well I’ve had quite a bit of contact with the founder of Kiwi West Aquatics, and Andrew’s father, Trevor Nicholls over the years. In fact the only two swim coaches in New Zealand Arthur Lydiard knew when I first met him were Jan Cameron and Trevor Nicholls. If the Francis’ story is about Rasmussen, there is no way in the world that Francis should have recommended Australia over Kiwi West Aquatics. If Francis was prepared to abandon a quality program like Kiwi West, then no club in New Zealand is safe from similar plunder. Let me explain why.

For forty years the Kiwi West program has produced a steady stream of New Zealand Champions, record holders and representatives. And their success has been in age group and open events; in sprints and in distance swimming; in the pool and in open water and has included men and women. Many coaches can luck out and come up with a single champion. To do it frequently over forty years is not luck. That’s good coaching. Both coaches have been employed by Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) as national Team Managers and Trevor created the SNZ Youth Development Programme and for years was the Youth and National Breaststroke Coach for SNZ.

As I say, if Francis was prepared to push Kiwi West under a bus, no one is safe. But there is more to the Nicholls than swimming success. When one of my swimmers, Jane Copland, was breaking New Zealand records she was selected for the Yokohama Pan Pacific Games team. Before the team left I was concerned that she needed some racing to sharpen her preparation. I heard that Kiwi West was having a club night and rang to see if Jane could join in. They agreed but more than that, when we arrived, fully qualified timekeepers, starters and referees had been brought in just in case Jane swam a record time. We were welcomed with warmth and care. And all of that needs to be understood in the context of the fact that the record Jane had most recently broken was the New Zealand Open 200 Short Course Breaststroke record, previously held by a Kiwi West swimmer. For years, when no one from SNZ would talk to that horrible David Wright, when Trevor was in Auckland, we would have a coffee and a chat in the Lincoln Road Mitre10. You respect a man like that.

I have not spoken to anyone at Kiwi West about this story. I would not want to put them in a compromising position with SNZ. However if Kiwi West did participate in the Rasmussen decision to go to Australia, I’m betting their approval was because that’s the sort of people they are, and not because they approved of the Francis’ recommendation.

Certainly, if I am right about the identities involved in the Francis story, the idea that “the coach had reached the limit the coach could take the athlete to in their program” is a sick joke. Francis should have backed the Kiwi West program and told the swimmer that the position of SNZ was to support Kiwi West. Rasmussen’s job was to get back into the Palmerston North pool and do her training.

If I am right, the moral is beware of Francis. The arrogance of the inhabitants of Antares Place knows no limit. They ruthlessly use the fear of sanction to spread their influence. Francis surprisingly admitted that. If Kiwi West isn’t safe neither is anyone else. While Francis holds on to that Centralised Program in Auckland be suspicious of his motives. He is a danger to us all.

Gary Francis In His Own Words

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

 In the last Swimwatch post I made it pretty clear I was disgusted by the attitudes expressed by Gary Francis about New Zealand coaching. In fact I’m getting up half an hour earlier in order to vent my annoyance for longer each day. For a person in his position and paid the money he receives, his attack on New Zealand coaches at the Wellington information meeting was a disgrace. I decided the subject deserved closer study. And so I listened to the Francis presentation again and transcribed word for word the portions that referred to New Zealand coaching and club programs. What I found is that Francis is simply “Jan Cameron Lite”. His attitudes and opinions are a carbon copy of all that Cameron used to preach; said with more guile but the same never-the-less. That of course is not surprising. For years Francis coached for Jan Cameron. It appears he learned much at the feet of the master.

Francis begins by making it clear that his opinion of a swimmer’s coach and club is an important criterion for identifying athletes Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is going to support. This is what he says.

The 2020 athletes, how do we identify them? I guess that’s quite simple really; world rankings, where they are tracking. Tracking means what are they looking like performing in a year’s time in two years’ time based on their results, based on their progress, based on their environment where they are.

The athletes for 2024 is very similar. Technically, where are they, what kind of program are they in, what kind of support and education are they getting from their program.

So having set up the coach and the club as important factors in deciding which swimmers get support and which don’t Francis then gives us his opinion of the current status of New Zealand coaching and clubs. His opinions are damning. It left me wondering, who the hell does Francis think he is? What mountain top of coaching excellence did he climb to make these judgements? Did the North Shore’s Club age group program really give him the experience and licence to denounce New Zealand’s coaches? This is what he says.

One of the things I’ve identified or it’s been pretty clear for a long time is we have struggled for a long while in terms of coaching.

They are all great coaches but they don’t have the experience and they don’t actually know what a high performance environment looks like in some cases, because it’s been a long time, if ever, that they have been around one or seen one.

In some cases it’s also going to be a case of saying look you are doing a fantastic job here but you have to recognise the limitations in your environment Perhaps this environment can never be high performance as it stands and there are lots of examples of that around the country.

We don’t have the amount of programs that are of good enough level to keep all of our swimmers here.

Our best programs are few and far between or coaches are inexperienced.

And so, having clarified the importance of clubs and coaching and having told us how badly they coach, Francis moves straight to sanctions. This is Swimming New Zealand at its best. This is straight out of the Jan Cameron play book. This is arrogant, short sighted bullshit; do what I say or not only will you be denied any support, I’ll take your best swimmers and send them overseas or to my fantastic Centralised Program in Auckland. For years SNZ have used this threat to demand obedience and it’s pathetic. Francis, in spite of his fawning manner, is no less abhorrent. This is what he says.

Already two weeks ago, in a discussion with an athlete and their coach, they felt the coach had reached the limit that they could take their athlete to in their program and they needed to move and they explored several options and in the end the option that I recommended to that athlete was to go to the Sunshine Coast.

If coaches don’t deliver their end of the deal then eventually I can’t afford to waste our world class swimmers. We don’t have a lot at the moment. So I will be advising those swimmers to do the right thing whatever that might be.

So there, in his own words, you have the Francis position. It’s a three stage assault.

  1. Coaching and clubs are important.
  2. In New Zealand good coaches and clubs are “few and far between”.
  3. If Francis thinks a club and coach are no good he will get swimmers to go overseas or join the SNZ Centralised Program in Auckland.

Make no mistake, in my opinion, Francis is no friend of New Zealand coaches or clubs. He is acutely aware of the source of his weekly pay cheque. That’s who he is working for and whose interests he is promoting. Considering his opinions in their best light, Francis claims that good programs in New Zealand are few and far between. Let’s assume that means there are say six coaches and clubs that meet with Francis’ approval. In 2018 the six clubs and their coaches that  rank highest on points in New Zealand and therefore probably pass the Francis’ test were:

  1. North Shore Swimming Club
  2. United Swimming Club
  3. Capital Swim Club
  4. Howick Pakuranga Swimming Club
  5. St Peter’s Swimming Club
  6. Neptune Swim Club

The rest of New Zealand watch out. Francis could well be saying to Raumati, Coast, Aquabladz, Aquagym and 155 other clubs that you have reached “the limit that they could take their athlete to in their program and they needed to move”. Take Francis at his word. He has said it before and it’s what he said he would do at the Wellington meeting. Remember Francis is turning out to be “Jan Cameron Lite”; and just as dangerous.

Half A Truth Is Often A Great Lie

Friday, July 27th, 2018

 So is Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) moving away from their Centralised Programme towards a Targeted Programme? I know that’s what has been promised. In the Wellington information meeting Amanda White, the High Performance Operations Manager, said that after the World Championships a decision was made to “move away from a centralised program to a targeted program.” With that clear assurance there should be no need for us to ask the question. But is SNZ telling the truth?

You see I’m confused. We have White’s assurance but, this morning, at the pool the Centralised Programme was in full and lavish swing. Six swimmers spread across six lanes, a state-of-the-art underwater video camera and a 32inch LED screen recording every precious moment and all done with the insufferable arrogance that has always come with their Centralised Programme. It sure looked like a funny sort of “moving away from”.

So I decided to listen again to the speech Gary Francis gave to the same Wellington information meeting. Had Francis given the same assurance? I have listened to the recording three times and three features stand out.

First, Francis does not discuss the SNZ Centralised Programme. His talk focussed on his Targeted Programme. He revealed the wonders of the Francis Fantasy and explained how his statistician mate has invented a revolutionary predictive tool. Francis acknowledged he had become a “stats man in recent years”. I would have thought that was bloody obvious. Anyone who would promote the Francis Fantasy couldn’t be anything else. We are told FINA points are “merely arbitrary”. And the Francis Fantasy isn’t – yeah right.

Second, Francis has a dim view of New Zealand coaches. I find some of the things he said in the Wellington meeting disgusting. It is difficult to transcribe comments from a tape exactly but here, as accurately as possible and in his own words, is Gary Francis’ opinion of New Zealand coaches.

  • The New Zealand coaching environment can never be high performance as it stands. There are lots of examples around the country.
  • We don’t have enough good coaching programs.
  • Good coaching programs are few and far between.
  • New Zealand coaches are really inexperienced.

There are two things that stand out in those comments. First, Francis is clearly approaching his job with the same insufferable arrogance that has characterised Swimming New Zealand since the Cameron era. His every word smacks of “we know best and we will decide on who’s a good coach and who is not”. And second, it is simply not true. New Zealand is blessed with incredible coaches from Northland to Southland. Besides, I imagine Francis had some say in bringing Lyles back to coach the Commonwealth Games team.  So much for his judgement.

In my opinion there is no way anyone holding those views on New Zealand coaching should have anything to do with a national program. If you don’t like us, go do something else.

Mind you, the Francis opinion of New Zealand coaches exists because it has gone unchallenged. The New Zealand Swim Coaches and Teachers Association has not protected the country’s coaches from a twenty year SNZ assault on their reputation. For example, where was Neville Sutton calling out Francis on these comments? The real problem, and Sutton should know this, is that if you repeat a lie often enough it begins to be believed.  And Francis spent a lot of time in Wellington repeating the lie.

And third, Francis ended his speech with an ominous threat. He said something along the lines of, “If coaches don’t do the right thing then, we don’t have all that many good swimmers, I will be advising them to do the right thing.’’ That was a Jan Cameron-style warning at its finest. What it means is that Francis will be advising local swimmers, from programmes he doesn’t like, to shift to Auckland and SNZ’s Centralised Program. Besides the insufferable arrogance of the threat, it clearly means Francis has no intention of “moving away” from the SNZ Centralised Programme. The reality is that Francis has told us that the SNZ Centralised Programme will compete with private coaches and, when he decides he will promote SNZ’s coaching ahead of anyone else. My advice is, beware of Gary Francis.

So what did we get out if the Wellington meeting as far as the future is concerned? Well, we appear to be in the middle of a super-sized sting; a SNZ master con.

First of all hire the meek and mild Francis to sell the con. He’s the perfect salesman; does what he’s told and is so nice, who could possibly believe he was selling fake news. Then get efficient Amanda White to lead with an assurance that this was a change. SNZ was moving from a Centralised to a Targeted Program. SNZ had realized the error of its ways and was now going to involve every club in the country. Then bring in soft Francis to deliver the hard message. New Zealand coaching was a mess. Most club programs were badly coached, and he, Francis, was best placed to pick the winners. And conclude with the threat made by the softest voice in the room – act in accordance with SNZ rules or we will strip you of your best swimmers and provide them with our coaching up in Auckland.

Well, all I can say is don’t fall for the con. SNZ tried to expand their empire with Jan Cameron and the bulldozer approach. Now they are on the same mission by stealth. It’s all a lie, added to a growing list of lies. Remember when they told a new sponsor entry numbers in all the national championships were growing. That wasn’t true. Remember when they signed a world record form saying the KIlbirnie Pool complied with FINA pool depth standards. That was a lie. Remember when they assured me I would be given the report into the accusations made against me. That was another lie.  If the postage is a problem, I’m at the pool every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning.

This Targeted project is another example of the same behaviour. But instead of kicking down the front door SNZ is now sneaking in the back. But the goal is the same – to build their empire by tearing the heart out of New Zealand’s club programs. Just because the salesman is a nice guy, don’t fall for the con.