Archive for April, 2019

What I Hate About Training Camps

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

Have you noticed how Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has increased the number of their training camps? In the old days Jan Cameron and others were at least honest. They advocated control of New Zealand’s best swimmers by promoting a centralised training school. Good swimmers should leave their home coaches and come to the fount of swimming success run by Jan on Auckland’s North Shore.

For eighteen years I used the pages of Swimwatch to argue that Cameron’s plans would never work. And they never did. Of course Cotterill, Johns and Francis said I was wrong; argued I was a trouble maker; played the man not the ball. Finally they saw their mistake and abandoned centralised training. I am still waiting for an email acknowledging their monumental error and offering an apology for the $20million they wasted and the abuse they piled on Swimwatch for pointing out a mistake they eventually accepted as accurate.

At least SNZ said they accepted the error of their ways. But the truth is SNZ ran out of money. Either centralised training had to go or Johns and others would need to be paid less. As usual with SNZ no swimmer is going to get in the way of Johns’ lifestyle. Centralised training was out. Johns’ pay was safe.

Francis and Johns embarked on a pathetic tour selling their new-found democratic plan to promote swimming by closing the SNZ centralised Millennium program and encouraging swimmers to stay with their home squads. But there was a con in their sermon. There always is. Even when the government recommends they reverse a policy SNZ are prepared to defy the law. There would, SNZ proclaimed, be an increase in training camps. Sure enough that’s exactly what’s happened.

SNZ kept control on the cheap. They no longer had to pay foreign coaches and the other costs associated with a centralised training squad. Instead, every school holidays, SNZ brainwash the country’s best swimmers into believing the beautiful people gathered around the Owen Glenn pool drinking coffee were providing them with the best of coaching advice. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Training camps may serve SNZ’s purpose of maintaining control over the country’s best swimmers but as a means of improving their swimming they are useless. Take for example the difference between a good coach like William Benson and me. William runs what is simplistically called a sprint-based program. I run a distance-based programme. As different as chalk and cheese. But both work. Mark Schubert in the USA has had huge success with a distance program. Dave Salo has produced a string of Olympic medallists from his Sprint Salo swim school. All good coaches follow one sound philosophy. No successful coach mixes the two. The only thing William coaching a swimmer brought up in my program would do is cause confusion. The only result I would have on Benson-trained Emma Godwin is to make her confused and slower. Neither of us would be wrong. It’s just that chalk and cheese, oil and water don’t mix.

But SNZ, oblivious to the confusion, drags swimmers to Auckland for a dose of whatever philosophy their selected coach happens to follow. Worse, at one camp the swimmers get someone like me and at the next camp, someone like William. No wonder they end up with no idea of what’s best. No wonder they begin to doubt the value of their home programme. As they have done for twenty years SNZ are continuing to furtively undermine New Zealand’s local club programs.

That’s the reason Lydiard did away with national camps when he became National Coach in Finland. Instead he left runners with their personal coach. He would visit athletes in their home program and offer advice. But he never tried to turn a William-type swimmer into a David-type swimmer the way this lot do. SNZ even boast about the chaos. “Come to our training camp,” they say. “You will learn so many new ideas.” It is rubbish of course. The goal is to produce a fast swimmer, not some academic expert in different types of exercise outcomes.

My advice is to thank SNZ for its invitation but keep your swimmer at home, sleeping in their own bed, eating their normal food, swimming their usual program. It might not be as exciting but, as sure as god made little green apples; it will result in a faster athlete.

Before I leave the subject of SNZ training camps does anyone know what happened to the $30,000 of swimming weight machines that used to line the side of the Owen Glenn Pool? Have they been written off and wasted like the swimming careers of the swimmers who were forced to use them. Are they, like the swimmers, collateral damage of the Cotterill excursion into centralised training? I wonder how their cost is being treated in the SNZ balance sheet. We will never be told.

And finally I see on Facebook there is a training camp planned in Rotorua. The organising genius has decided to call his camp something like “Hell Week”. I can’t imagine a better way of pissing off twenty or thirty young swimmers than subjecting them to a week of “hell” swimming up and down a pool in Rotorua. Talk about amateur hour. But that’s the way stupid people think about training camps – the greater the hurt the better the camp. I’ve coached some of New Zealand’s best swimmers who knew enough to walk out of any camp that practiced “hell” on them.

One of my swimmer’s response to one such genius was to spend a week in camp swimming slowly at the back of the squad. At the end of the week, in the Auckland Championships, she broke the Auckland record for 50m breaststroke. The camp coach came to me and said he didn’t understand how someone as slow as Jane all week could set a new record. Avoiding “Hell” probably had something to do with the answer.

Go Take A Running Jump

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

I see the Stuff website is reporting that someone called Simon Arkwright is saying that the Crusaders’ rugby team “missed an opportunity” when they failed to change their name immediately after the mosque shootings in Christchurch. Stuff calls Arkwright a “sports marketing expert whose experience in the industry spans decades”. If that is the case he clearly hasn’t learned much.

Because the big danger here is the attitude of people like Arkwright. He is the one throwing abuse; accusing the Crusaders of racial views; alienating New Zealanders along a racial and religious divide. And all over the name of a football team. The guy is an idiot.

Let’s look at some of the things he says.

Arkwright said he saw parallels with the 1981 Springboks tour in the nature of the debate,

To compare the discussion about the name of a rugby team with years of apartheid abuse in South Africa is irresponsible rubbish. What is Arkwright trying to do? Does he want police in riot gear marching down Colombo Street demanding the Crusaders change their name? Thankfully the Crusaders’ CEO and Coach took a more measured view. Thankfully they called for time to discuss and decide what was best. Thankfully they didn’t invoke memories of Springbok riots.

But he believed those opposed to a name change were displaying a degree of “arrogance”.”When you knowingly have a name that causes significant and justified offence to a section of the community, personally I think you are pretty arrogant to say that doesn’t matter.”

If someone like Arkwright is prepared to dredge up memories of the Springbok tour he is not going to be shy about insulting those who disagree with his views. Sure enough those who want the name Crusaders to stay are accused of causing “significant and justified offence to a section of the community”. What he is saying, is supporters of the Crusaders’ name are racists. That is not true and it’s bloody irresponsible and insulting to suggest that it is.

But of course to really drive his point home idiots like Arkwright have to make the issue bigger than the name of a rugby team. A self-important bigot needs to have a social cause. There has to be a larger social “crusade” at stake. So this is what he says.

“These flashpoints tend to reflect peoples’ wider views of society and that’s the trouble with some of these issues. You would have realised that one of your threats in this world of Trumpism and extreme right-wing views was that you had a name that wasn’t a great fit.

Here Arkwright stakes out his racist position. Those who support the Crusaders keeping their name are a flashpoint threat to society, linked forever to the extreme right-wing world of Trumpism. What a load of rubbish. The really dangerous bugger around here is Mr. Arkwright. In less than 1000 words he has linked the name of a South Island rugby team to the Springbok riots, to serious personal failings and to the death of a young woman in Charlottesville.  The name of the Canterbury rugby team is not 1000 young men marching down a street with gas-lights yelling “Jews will not replace us.” For Arkwright to link the two is the real travesty here.

Besides if you work hard enough I doubt there is a team name that doesn’t offend someone.

Fancy John Kirwan coaching the “Blues”. He should know better. He is the spokesman for mental health foundation. His website is something like and he coached a team called the “Blues”. That’s not good.

And then there is the Chiefs. That must be racial stereotyping if ever there was. Some of those chiefs were pretty aggressive buggers as well. You need to look at that name Mr. Arkwright.

What about the Highlanders. On April 16 1746 thousands of Highlanders were butchered by the English at the Battle of Culloden. In subsequent weeks 1000s of Highlanders were hunted and killed. Perhaps Mr. Arkwright needs to look seriously at that bloody history.

Oh, and while he’s doing that he really should spare a thought for the 1,514 people killed in hurricanes last year. It’s a bit insensitive to name the Wellington rugby team after the weather that caused such destruction.

Between 30 and 100 people are killed by sharks each year. That name is out. In Tanzania alone 50 people are killed each year by lions. There’s another team up for a change. Jaguar and cheetah attacks on human beings are rare but might be worth some Arkwright research.

When Olympic Champion, Rhi Jeffrey, arrived in New Zealand I picked her up from Auckland airport. As we drove into town Rhi exclaimed, “Gee, you would never see that in the United States.” I looked around and could only see a car with four Polynesian men driving past. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Look what’s written on their car.” Rhi said. I looked again – “ALL BLACKS” it said. Rhi of course had no idea that was the name of the national rugby team. In the eye of the beholder, I guess.

I’m sure you get the point. And so in spite of the suggestion that I should be tied behind a pickup truck and dragged through the streets of Christchurch I’m happy for the Crusaders to keep their distinctive and successful name.

See What I Mean

Friday, April 26th, 2019

For years I have argued that chaos is an inevitable product of the centralised policy Peter Miskimmin imposes on New Zealand sport. Swimming was first. Followed quickly by rowing, cycling, hockey and canoeing. Miskimmin tried it in athletics but, thanks to the better sense and success of Willis, Adams, Walsh and the Robertson twins, Miskimmin’s centralised folly has struggled to get off the ground.

But in the sports where Miskimmin has held sway, chaos, especially coaching chaos, has inevitably followed. Swimming provided the first master class in coaching turmoil. Jan Cameron was their first Head Coach. She was followed by Mark Regan but in 2013 Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) had enough of him. He was a good coach but not good enough for SNZ. Regan was followed by two temporary coaches, Bill Sweetenham and Luis Villanueva. Then they hired another alien, David Lyles. He lasted five minutes before a “restructuring” saw him out of a job. A first class coach, Clive Power, resigned from the SNZ Board to stand in for two years. Another good coach, Gary Hurring, took the New Zealand team to the Olympic Games before American age group coach, Jerry Olszewski, was given the top job. He lasted twelve months before cutting and running back to Arizona. Coaching Intern, Matt Woofe, was promoted to the top job before the position was abolished and North Shore junior age-group coach, Gary Francis, was appointed to advise the unadvisable.

Consider that history. Ten people have headed the SNZ, so called, High Performance program in nine years. Just think of this. SNZ forced a swimmer of Lauren Boyle’s application and talent to live a huge chunk of her career through that saga of coaching turmoil. Lauren should sue the buggers for negligence causing injury. Do you know what the chances are of producing champion swimmers when ten names at the top change in nine years? The answer is zero, nil, none, naught, nothing. I’m sure you get the idea.

Rowing is showing similar characteristics. Especially egregious was the loss of master coach, Dick Tonks. But others have fled that sinking ship.

The portions of Athletics New Zealand where Miskimmin’s centralised plans have found fertile ground are failing. While Walsh, Adams, the Robertsons and Willis happily do their own thing, the pole vaulters and Jacko Gill are constantly injured in a story that will not have a happy ending. They show all the signs of another Miskimmin debacle.

And then we have cycling. They fired Justin Grace because he wasn’t politically correct enough to fit the Miskimmin mould. And then his replacement, Antony Peden, had to go because he stayed up late having a few drinks in France or Spain or somewhere similar. The hilarious result is that Grace and Peden have gone on to stellar positions in the UK and China. New Zealand’s loss, it seems, has benefitted our competition.

But the sport of interest today is hockey. Now that is a disaster approaching SNZ proportions. They effectively sacked a top, tough, old school head women’s coach called Mark Hager. Here again Hockey New Zealand towed the politically correct Miskimmin line that good coaching meant deep analysis of feelings and massaging fragile egos and holding counselling meetings. Hager thought that was rubbish. And so do I. However, when Miskimmin is paying the bills, Hager had to go. New Zealand women’s hockey was without a coach. And so Hockey New Zealand appointed Hager’s Assistant Coach, Sean Dancer, as the temporary Head Coach and set about scouring the world for a new permanent Head Coach. Like SNZ the only acceptable replacement had to have a foreign passport. Eventually they found a suitable alien. The Irish women’s head coach, Graham Shaw was appointed and begins his new job on Monday, next week.

Are you following the story so far? The original coach is forced out, his assistant takes over and a foreigner from Ireland is appointed to lead the New Zealand women’s team. But the news that lifts the Hockey New Zealand story to a SNZ level is the news today that Sean Dancer, the assistant, temporary coach has accepted the position of replacing Graham Shaw as the Head Coach of the Irish women’s hockey team. Talk about musical chairs. What a circus.

It means that in six months Hockey New Zealand has provided the entire British Isles, Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, with their women’s hockey coaches; Hager to coach Great Britain and Dancer to coach Ireland. Six months ago New Zealand had them both. That is a script that would challenge even the masters of the unbelievable that blunder through life at SNZ.

But do not be too tough on SNZ. The chaos begins with Miskimmin, survives because of Miskimmin and will only end when Miskimmin goes. At least that’s the way it seems to me.

Mixed, Befuddled & Confused

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

The administration of sport is an endless mystery. Make no mistake there are good administrators. Beth Meade from Gisborne was first class. There are few better than Jeannie and Geoff Sibun from Counties Manukau. Arch Jelley was President of Athletics New Zealand. You won’t find a more knowledgeable and honest administrator than him. The list is a long one, made up of fine men and women who have the best interests of sport and the individuals who play it, at heart.

I was hopeful that the election of Seb Coe, or as I once heard Arch Jelley call him, “Young Sebastian”, to the position of President of the IAAF would usher in a new day. Here was guy who knew sport. Yes, he was always a little stand-offish, a bit superior, but his athletic resume was flawless. It is hard to beat four Olympic medals, two of them Gold and eleven world records. He may not have been a comfortable member of the track and field circuit but he sure knew how to run.

But as an administrator his record is not so stellar. My guess is we should have paid less attention to his speed at running twice or four times around a 400 meter track. Perhaps we should have given more weight to his Conservative Party and East India private gentlemen’s club membership. Swanning around with the reactionary inhabitants of London’s St. James Square is certainly in tune with his decision making in athletics.

Take, for example, Caster Semenya, the South African 800 meter champion. She was unquestionably born with physical advantages. So was Coe. So was John Walker. So was Danyon Loader. So was Peter Snell. So was every Olympic medallist. But, like Coe, although Caster Semenya was born lucky she has had to work hard to develop her luck. Not even her natural advantages allow her to sit in McDonalds every afternoon and win an Olympic Gold Medal. After all she is not that much better than the women she competes against.

For example her personal best is a second slower than the world 800m record and a huge ten seconds slower than the women’s world record over 1500m. If Semenya is cheating she’s not doing a very good job of it.

She has won the 800 meter Olympic title twice; in London in 2012 and in Rio in 2016. However in London she was only 0.3 of a second ahead of Poistogova from Russia in second and 0.36 ahead of Jelimo from Kenya in third.  In Rio Semenya was slightly more dominant. She won in 1:55.28. Niyonsaba from Burundi was 1.21 behind in second and Wambui from Kenya was third 1.61 behind in third. But before anyone jumps all over Semenya for winning by a second we need to remember that Coe, at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, also won his gold medal by about a second. Peter Snell was 1.5 seconds ahead of second in the Tokyo Olympic Games. I wonder what “Young Sebastian” has to say about that.

Coe’s crusade to crucify Semenya is wrong and, more than a little bit creepy. But what I really do not understand, what is an unbelievable double standard, is the paradox between the obsession Coe has with Semenya and his lassez-faire attention to the Russian state-sponsored drug program. Those guys cheat big time. Russia makes Lance Armstrong and Ben Johnson look like health food devotees. Russian cheating is systemic, organised and as integral to the state as manipulating American elections. Putin is on a huge power trip and winning international sports events does his ego and, he believes, his country no harm at all.

Oh sure, there has been lip service to those naughty Russians. The IOC took steps to restrict Russian entries into the Rio Olympic Games. But really the reaction of Coe, the IAAF and WADA to a Russian nation of cheats has been a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket. It is classic really. Coe picks on a South African woman who is black, four centimetres taller than Coe and 16 kilograms heavier than him. Coe is not one to take being beaten up by a black woman lightly. Is his attention personal?

Russia on the other hand is big powerful and tough. They have votes on all sorts of international sports committees. They have money to pay to organisations that tow the party line. The Russians make good dinner companions in Zurich’s Restaurant Zeughauskeller or the White Rabbit in Moscow. Semenya makes Coe look a puny runt of the litter. Russia makes him look strong and powerful, the toast of St James Square.

His IAAF administration acts accordingly.

Linked From Birth

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

I currently have two outstanding issues with Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). Superficially they would seem to be totally unrelated. After all, one is about Eyad’s application to join the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) refugee program. The other is about my effort to secure the Report into complaints made about my coaching. You might think they are as different as chalk and cheese. But make no mistake, a different food analogy is more accurate. The two issues are as linked as newly stuffed sausages.

The first sausage was my case to get SNZ to send me the Report into my coaching. That began three years ago when SNZ received five complaints about my coaching. It was all around the time when West Auckland Aquatics were going through their Board problems and I was battling the club President, Susan Turner. One of Turner’s supporters Nikki Johns made the complaints. SNZ decided to initiate an investigation and appointed clinical psychoanalyst Michael Marris to head the enquiry.

I was first told about the complaints and the decision to have an investigation by SNZ CEO Christian Renford. He asked if I would participate. I agreed on the condition that I would be given a copy of the final Marris Report. Renford promised that this would be the case – I would be given the report.

I’ve waited three years since my three day trial and still have not received a copy of the Marris Report. I’ve asked SNZ for the Report and been told no. I’ve asked the Privacy Commission to intervene on my behalf. And still SNZ refused. SNZ’s behaviour was considered so egregious that the Commission recommended SNZ take a course in privacy training. The end result is we will head off to the Human Rights Tribunal or the Sports Tribunal to get this thing sorted out. We should never have ended up in Court but that’s what’s going to happen. Well done SNZ.

And so for three years it has been a pretty rocky road. It has certainly soured my relationship with SNZ. In my opinion their effort to hide the Report smacks of the evidence hiding practiced by a 1930’s Chicago Mafia gang.

Which brings me to the second case – Eyad’s application to join the IOC refugee program. Eyad’s case began recently, in December 2018. We completed an application for Eyad to join the IOC refugee team. The application process involved the NZ Olympic Committee (NZOC) approving the application and sending it off to the IOC for a decision. We know the NZOC consulted at length with SNZ about the content of Eyad’s application. In the end the NZOC refused to send on the application. They said Eyad was not fast enough. But the hugely frustrating thing was no one would tell us what was fast enough. Even though Eyad is arguably the fastest refugee in the world no one would explain why he was considered too slow. They said he wasn’t fast enough to represent NZ. So what – Eyad wasn’t applying to swim for NZ.

I have never blamed the NZOC for their decision to refuse to pass on Eyad’s IOC refugee application. I believe the NZOC were led astray by SNZ. In my opinion SNZ hated Eyad’s coach and biased their opinion to the NZOC in order to have Eyad’s application stopped. However discrimination is discrimination no matter what its cause. If I’m right and Eyad has been discriminated against as a result of advice delivered by SNZ, a planned Court case before the Human Rights Tribunal or the Sports Tribunal will establish the truth.

However it might (hopefully) not come to that. The NZOC have recently demonstrated a more constructive approach and suggested a meeting with Eyad and SNZ in two or three weeks. I am hopeful that might avoid a Tribunal discrimination case and see Eyad’s application on its way to the IOC in Switzerland.

So now you know why I believe these two cases are linked. I believe SNZ have discriminated against Eyad’s application because they hate Eyad’s coach and his case to secure the investigator’s report. They hate the idea of David Wright receiving justice. In my opinion if Eyad was coached by Mat Woofe for example his application would be in Zurich by now. His application would have been approved by the IOC and Eyad would be $7000 richer. Damages however are for another day. For that SNZ will have to answer to a higher authority than Eyad and me.

As I say I do not think the NZOC are responsible for anything that has happened here. Their attitude recently confirms their good intentions. However I think the NZOC has been led astray by SNZ. And SNZ, in my opinion, have been guilty of discrimination caused by their hatred of Eyad’s coach. And that discrimination is just as vicious, just as wrong, as if it was discrimination because Eyad is an Arab Muslim. The effect of Eyad’s nationality and religion are only relevant because of the catastrophic appearance they give to this discrimination. As I say, I do not think it is racist. But it does give that impression.