New Zealand is blessed with many hugely talented swim coaches. In spite of the effort administrators like Cotterill and Cameron made to destroy that vital infrastructure, we survived. And now with good people like Gary Francis around we have a chance to prosper.

But there is one aspect of coaching that is of concern. Most coaches are employed by committees made up of parents. Those parents include the good, the bad and the ugly. Believe me I have had as much experience of all three as any coach alive. I even ended up taking a case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal because of a very ugly member of a swimming club committee. But that is a story for another day.

This story is about one of the best coaches in New Zealand – Jon Winter. Over the years our paths have crossed on many occasions. It is true, my mother did teach him to swim in the Wainuiomata School pool. After a few lessons she had Jon diving for 50 cent pieces. For years as Jon went on to represent New Zealand at Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and Pan pacific Games, my mother told me it was her lessons that had honed his talent.

Years later Jon joined what became the Capital Club coached by Gary Hurring and me. I left the club but Jon went on with Gary to successfully represent New Zealand. In fact, the only independent swimmers on the Manchester Commonwealth Games team were Liz van Wellie, Toni Jeffs and Jon. The others were all members of Jan Cameron’s centralised squad in Auckland. Jan called a “team meeting” on their first day in Manchester and excluded the three independent swimmers. Only her Auckland exclusive group was invited. Ironically the three non-Jan swimmers were by far and away the most successful at the Games.

Jon went on to coach for 11 years at the Sun Devils Club in Hastings. He took that club from nothing to one of the best in New Zealand. I would have thought coaching a New Zealand champion and record holder out of that Hasting’s concrete bath, an impossible task. But Jon did it. Interestingly William Benson who followed Jon has done the same thing.

Then Jon went to Auckland and coached at the United Club for four years.

And for the last 11 years he has coached Raptors Swimming, both at their old rundown pool beside the beach and at their new facility.

Without question his career as a swimmer and as a coach has been stellar. I’ve watched him coach on several occasions. He has a talent for the job possessed by very few. Jon is a natural teacher. He is able to get swimmers to work hard and enjoy the experience. He employs a subtle use of games and hard work that is beyond my understanding. Most swimmers coached by Jon will end their careers well satisfied with the experience.

And he can produce results. In the past couple of years three Raptor swimmers have accepted scholarships to swim and study in the United States. Jon has given them much more than a successful swimming career. He has given them a head start on life. At West Auckland Aquatics I had two swimmers leave in the same year to study and swim on an American scholarship. One lunatic Board member asked me why our best swimmers “were leaving in droves”. What an idiot. I bet Jon is being asked the same thing by some intellectually challenged Board member.

Anyway, what the Raptors’ Board has decided to do is advertise Jon’s job. The Board say their decision is to make sure the Club has the best possible person in the coaching position. I have several thoughts on that suicidal action:

  1. Why would any committee decide to undermine the spirit and commitment of their most valuable asset?
  2. Do they understand they already have one of New Zealand’s best?
  3. Do the Committee realise that 99% of the membership are committed and loyal to their current coach?
  4. Has anyone ever listed anything he has done wrong?
  5. Do they have any idea of Jon’s depth of experience as a swimmer and a coach?
  6. Do they see the enjoyment their children get from swimming?
  7. Are they judging club numbers at the end of a nineteen-week lockdown? If they are, every coach in New Zealand would be for the chop.

For what it’s worth, for the good of Raptors Swimming, Jon should be reappointed. And certainly, NO COACH in New Zealand should apply for Jon’s job. With all swim coaching in New Zealand has gone through recently we can do without coaches eating one of their own.

Best wishes and God speed, Jon.

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