Archive for the ‘ United States ’ Category

I Can’t Play The Trumpet

Monday, June 5th, 2017

The United States of America has played a huge role in my sporting life. I coached there for seven years; in the US Virgin Islands and in Delray Beach, Florida. There were good times and bad. But the lasting impression was one of, what fun it was to coach some wonderful people. In the Virgin Islands, Fara, Ricki, Nicole and Annie. In Delray Beach Kirstie, Andrew, Doug, Tiffany, Skuba, Rhi, Ozzie, Jamie and John. And they were good swimmers; a world master’s record holder, Florida champions, national qualifiers, national representatives and before I got to Delray Beach Rhi was an Olympic Champion. Good people – all of them. Good times to. Remember when you guys went to Ft Lauderdale and beat all the big hot-shot clubs to win the State 4×100 medley relay championship. Remember the concern in Fara’s voice as she cautioned Annie to, “make good choices, Annie.” Remember the mountain of snow getting to the meet in Missouri. Remember Rhi’s leap and hug almost killing me after a good swim at Ft Lauderdale. Remember afternoons at Buck Island on Karen and Llewellyn’s boat. Remember you guys praying for another afternoon of Florida lightning. Remember Andrew taking down the superstar from up the road to win the Florida State High School title. Remember watching Rocky on Skuba’s parent’s boat and Skuba backing it up with a 50 second 100 meters freestyle. Remember Ozzie breaking two master’s world records. Remember, remember, remember. And it was American swimming that provided my daughter with a university education. The American university scholarship system has played a big role in lifting the standard of swimming in the United States. High school graduates are competing in a world market for scholarships. They are not awarded lightly, but for swimmers like Jane, it is a wonderful way to stay involved in swimming and receive a first class education. And so I have a lot to thank United States swimming for. But it is not just swimming. You see I spent my senior year in high school in Thorp, Wisconsin. Now that really was sporting fun. I was selected as the kicker, punts and field goals, for the school football team. Now I don’t care what sporting achievement you may have experienced. The pinnacle of fame is to be a starter on an American football team; Friday night, under lights, the band, the pep-rally, the cheerleaders, the team Lord’s Prayer before the game and the root beer, hamburgers and music in the takeaway bar after the game. No one, certainly not me, forgets their Homecoming Game, and it wasn’t even my home. And if, like me, you are lucky enough to kick a field goal at a fairly important moment in a close game the adulation knows no limits. And so you can imagine the affection I felt when I received the following email invitation. Thorp High School 50th Class Reunion, July 21st – 23rd 2017 And I am not going to go. Not because of money, or distance, or time, or travel. But as my small contribution to the resistance. For as long as that man is in charge of the White House I will not be visiting the United States. When I fly to England I will avoid the United States by going through Australia and Asia. I will miss the class reunion out of respect for the place the United States was and as a protest for what it has become. When the head of the house promotes grabbing women by the pussy, when he invites to his home Presidents who excuse soldiers who rape women as long as it’s not more than three at a time, when he snuggles up to autocratic monarchs and lectures the elected leaders of Germany, France and the United Kingdom, when he elbows world leaders out of the way to get his picture taken, when he is silent about heroes killed by a white supremacist, when he bans visitors because of their religion, when he shamelessly promotes the cult of himself and when he cuts medicine to a diabetic in order to spend millions playing golf in Florida – when he does all that I cannot lend legitimacy to his behaviour by visiting his place. As George Bush surprisingly and wonderfully put it, “some weird shit” deserves no better. And so I will stay away. I will not go to the class reunion. And I will hope that the good people I met in the United States can do something about the nightmare of their leader. In 1918, the First World War had just ended and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Lloyd George, said he was going to make Britain a country fit for heroes to live in. My grandfather told me that Lloyd George got it slightly wrong. What he meant to say was, you had to be a hero to live there. That story pretty well sums up the United States right now. And one final thought – at Thorp High School we had a brilliant American History teacher. Mr. Fleming was his name. I have no doubt he would approve. I have no doubt he would join the resistance. And so have a good weekend. It would have been fun. But not just now, thank you.

Don’t Believe Swimwatch? Try Fortune Magazine

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

By David

For ten years Swimwatch have published 100,000 words on the management chaos at Sport New Zealand and Swimming New Zealand. I have argued that the appalling standard of sport’s management in New Zealand has been directly responsible for two generations of lost New Zealand swimmers. I have no doubt that Miskimmin and Renford either discount me completely or can’t stand the mention of my name. But do I care? No. You see they are wrong; fatally wrong. You don’t believe me? Well ignore Swimwatch and read this summary of a report published in the highly respected “Fortune” magazine this week.


The secret is consistent management, according to a new study.

USA Swimming, with its 520 total Olympic medals (220 of them gold), is first among all countries—and it isn’t close. Australia, in second place, has only 171. Swimming has been among the most successful Olympic sports for the U.S. for more than 25 years. So: how is America so good at swimming?

You might be tempted to think the answer is as simple as “Michael Phelps.” But the U.S. has been dominant in the sport since long before Phelps’s first Olympics. And now the organization has produced a study that it believes explains why: management. The “excellence study,” which USA Swimming shared exclusively with Fortune, closely examines the leadership and structure of America’s swim program and concludes that it is the school (so to speak), and not any individual teacher or student, that drives the success.

For a sporting body to basically say “we win the most because we’re the best run” might sound unsurprising, and perhaps silly. But Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming, is dead serious about the study and its findings. “We wanted to know,” he says, “what is USA Swimming doing so right?”

To answer that question, the U.S. Olympic Committee tapped Finbarr Kirwan, its high performance director

The study rests on the premise that consistency in structure has served American Olympic swimmers better than any one part of the program. USA Swimming’s motto is, “Build the base, promote the sport, achieve competitive success.”

You would assume all countries have the same rigid management map for their Olympic teams. But Kirwan says that’s not the case. In Ireland, he says, “people would often say that some of the athletes were succeeding despite the program, not because of it.” And it isn’t that young American amateur swimmers have more raw talent than young swimmers in other countries, either. Their talent is shaped more effectively: “The problem we had in Ireland was we couldn’t properly manage the talent,” says Kirwan. “The structured environment we have here just wasn’t in place.”

Clear definition of roles is another key to the program, and provides something of a corporate management lesson. Wielgus uses his own job as an example. He is executive director, and the coaches and athletes all know him, but he is careful to keep his sights on the business (“We’re a not-for-profit with a bottom-line orientation,” he says) and let the trainers and coaches fulfill their roles unfettered. “Performance by committee is a major mistake,” he says. “So coaches run their show, directors do their part, and it’s a separation of state.” There is also an entrepreneurial spirit among the staff.

Lochte says the program’s management structure is no lip service. “It all starts at the top, with Chuck,” he says. “We have a system. If you go to other countries, they’re going to say the same, but when it comes down to it, Team USA is just the best. And I think it’s because we have something in our system that we don’t break.”

And so back to Swimwatch – it seems the message to Miskimmin, Baumann and Renford is do whatever it is you do – but for the love of God stay out of our business. Wielgus calls it “a separation of state”. New Zealand, on the other hand practices authoritarian rule. Miskimmin has spent years interfering in areas of swimming he knows nothing about. His mismanagement infects those he hires. Just consider the arrogance of Renford, a rowing administrator, who arrived in New Zealand, did a week-long tour of some clubs and told Radio Sport that the problem with swimming was the poor standard of coaching. How would he know? Who the hell is he to decide? With management like that no wonder SNZ never gets anywhere near consistent Olympic success.

I think I might write an article for Fortune magazine. I’ve decided on the first two lines.


The secret is unreliable management, according to a new study.

Parents Behaving Badly

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

By David

I have been professionally involved in swimming for thirty years. As you can imagine I have experienced all sorts of parents – the good, the bad and the ugly. Most parents are reasonable people, concerned for the welfare of their children but prepared to give the coach the freedom to develop their children’s skills.

Some parents are very good. Swimwatch readers may remember a butterfly and freestyle swimmer called Nichola Chellingworth. She swam for New Zealand and was a multiple national champion and record holder. She was also one of the nicest people you would find in sport or in life. I coached Nichola for several years. Her father, John and mother, Anne were model parents: interested, helpful and concerned but who never invaded the coach’s area of responsibility. I am certain that the success of Nichola’s swimming career owed much to her parent’s common sense involvement.

Olympic relay gold medallist, Rhi Jeffrey, also had (has) an excellent father. Rhi’s swimming career has had more than its share of peaks and troughs; from the peak of the Athens Olympic Games to barely being able to break 30 seconds for 50m freestyle when she began training in New Zealand. Doug, her father, did an impossibly good job of steering a supportive and even path through it all.

Only my daughter, Jane, had better parents. Sorry – only joking!

Unfortunately, and it is a sad reflection on the human condition, my most vivid memories are of the bad and ugly parents. Here are my “Famous Five”.

One mother was responsible for recording the results of our club’s swimmers. About six months after a provincial championship I asked for a report on the championship results. I recognized an error in the report. Toni Jeffs was correctly shown as winning the woman’s 50m and 100m freestyle. However, I did not recognize the name of the swimmers shown in second and third. They were from another club. That was strange because I knew that the recorder’s daughter had been second in both races. In fact, it was the first time her daughter had been beaten by Toni. I called the recorder and asked her to check the results because her daughter’s swims seemed to be missing. Two months later I had not received a reply so I rang to see if the result had been corrected. I will never forget her answer. “No,” she said, “I remember those races clearly and my daughter never swam.” Would you believe it? History was changed because a mother could not bear the thought of her daughter being beaten. To this day, I would imagine, those results remain a fiction in provincial swimming history. And if readers are thinking Swimwatch may have made too much noise about the Wellington Region adding names to their minutes, it’s to make sure the sport avoids fiddling with results and times that we have seen in the past.

My next “parent behaving badly” is all too common. What made this example worse than others was the prodigious talent of her son. For the sake of this story we will call him Jason. He could swim. He could run. He was a brilliant gymnast. One Saturday Arch Jelley came to Wellington to take an athletic program being offered by our club. Jason was there obviously enjoying the drills and exercises; clearly better at them than most. Later that day I went up onto the slopes of Mt Victoria to watch the annual Vosseler Shield cross country event. This is a killer of a race; winding its way up and down very steep tracks through the Mt Victoria reserve. I was surprised to see Jason galloping along in front of the junior boy’s race. Later that evening I went to the Kilbirnie Aquatic Centre to watch our club take part in a Wellington Region interclub event. Jason was there again winning all the events in his age group; 400 freestyle, 100 fly, 200 IM, you name it Jason was in there and winning.

The following week I asked Jason’s mother to pop into my office for a chat. Gently I suggested that athletics, cross country and six or seven swimming races in one day might be too much; might be harmful in the long term. His mother looked stunned. Wasn’t I aware that her son had won all his events, his father already had the photos framed and displayed on Jason’s bedroom wall? Besides Jason just loved the whole day. I tried to find a way of saying that there are many things children might like but a parent’s job is to decide what was best not what was liked the most. Clearly my caution was having no effect. Why was I trying to ruin Jason’s athletic career? Why was I trying to stop him having fun?

The last time I saw Jason he was with some of his mates, about nineteen or twenty years old, overweight, unshaven, drinking a bottle of beer and smoking a cigarette outside the Wellington Railway Station. I guess he was enjoying that as well. However New Zealand had lost a sporting talent largely because his parents could not control their addiction to seeing their son compete and win swimming and running races.

My next “badly behaving parent” was probably the best and certainly the hardest working parent volunteer I’ve ever seen. He was a senior executive in a large international company. How he managed to find the hours he worked for the club was beyond belief. He was also a very courageous man. He won an award for walking into an oil refinery fire and turning off a leaking valve. You may be asking, how could such a man cause a problem? Well, his daughter was a very good swimmer and a huge amount of fun to have on the team; bright, funny, rebellious, hardworking, all the qualities I enjoy being around. But she misbehaved during an overseas trip to Europe and I decided some discipline was necessary. I banned her from a team trip to a meet in Kingston, Jamaica. The father took that badly and conducted a pretty vicious campaign to have me removed from the club. That failed and he ended up leaving the club. However during the turmoil one consistent theme repeated frequently in his many emails was that I was destroying his family. I thought it was a huge irony when, shortly after his email war with me, he left the family home to live with a married woman who was also an executive in the same large company. Never been quite sure how all that fitted in with me destroying his family. And for that he has reached third place on my list.

And, one away from top place comes Linda, mother of Jamie. Some people just don’t travel well: in Spain, they can be found on the lookout for McDonalds or a Subway sandwiches; in Turkey searching the internet for the nearest Burger King and beside the Rhine in Cologne complaining about the absence of Californian chardonnay. Well Linda was one of those. I took her and her daughter on a team to swim in the Mare Nostrum series five years ago. Why have those three meets caused me so many problems – they are relaxed but competitive events in some of Europe’s most idyllic locations? Anyway, a week before the first meet in Barcelona, Jamie got sick. I wasn’t sure what was wrong so along with Linda, I took Jamie to the doctor at the camp we were training at. He prescribed some antibiotics and told us to take the first meet carefully but Jamie should be fine for the second meet in Canet.

The day before the Barcelona meet I told Jamie I had scratched her from her longer races but had left her in the 50m freestyle. She could swim that event, but only if she felt up to the task. She said she wanted to swim and I agreed. Jamie swam. Her time was slower than her best but in the circumstances was a good swim; an indication of better things to come. Linda however could not handle the modest result. She carted Jamie off to various tourist attractions in Barcelona that afternoon and arrived back at our apartment announcing that she had spoken to husband and was on her way back to Florida the following morning. And that’s what she did.

The rest of the team swam the other Mare Nostrum meets in Canet and Monte Carlo. By the time we got home Linda had filed a formal complaint with the Florida Gold Coast Association claiming I had neglected her daughter’s ill health and had forced Jamie to swim the 50m freestyle. It was rubbish of course; especially when it was pointed out that the same Linda that was saying Jamie was too sick to swim 50m had carted Jamie around Barcelona for hours looking at tourist attractions. Linda’s complaint also said that I had sent, the sick Jamie, down to the shallow end of the Barcelona pool to practice turns. That lie was easily rebutted. The Barcelona pool doesn’t have a shallow end. It’s the same depth all over.

Florida Gold Coast dismissed Linda’s Mare Nostrum complaint. But Jamie was taken to another club. It was sad. Jamie was a tremendous talent; at 12 and 13 years old one of the best in the United States. In 2014/15 she should have been on a full scholarship to a good Division One program in a school like Auburn, Texas, Stanford, Florida or Georgia. Instead, I see, she has settled for Florida Atlantic University swim team in Boca Raton. Jamie had the potential to swim for her country and never will. That can be the price kids pay when parents behave badly.

But the winner, comfortably out on her own, is Julie Reiser. Where to start – loud, brash, aggressive, opinionated, with scant respect for the truth. I always thought Julie Reiser was the custodian of many of the qualities that much of the world hate about the United States: an American who gives the place a bad name. Ironically she used to promote a “Made in America” certification website. If Reiser is an example of domestic production, it may be best to stay with “Made in Mexico”.

She was on the committee of my Florida club. She complained about everything. Nothing was good enough. While I was there Ozzie Quevedo (currently an Assistant Coach at Auburn) broke the Master’s world records for 50m and 100m butterfly. Obviously I gave the swims prominent mention in the club newsletter. At the next Board meeting Reiser dismissively said, “You’re not taking credit for that are you?” As she was speaking I noticed Ozzie walking into the pool. I called him over and asked if the training he had done with the club had helped his world record swims. “Of course it did,” he said. Reiser never forgave me for that well-earned public put down.

She bombarded the members, the committee and my family with emails accusing me of all sorts of bad behaviour, sometimes highlighting sentences in her emails in red, bold font to apparently make a stronger point. Picking up on the incident with Jamie in Barcelona, she used that as a launching pad to destroy everything we had built at that club over the previous four years. She claimed financial indiscretions that never happened and were proven false, as well as personal attacks that seemed to come out of the blue. I actually to this day have no idea why. Her own children seemed happy; she herself had seemed happy at the club for quite a while. It was a thriving, growing community of swimmers, from 50-second Long Course 100 freestylers to kids who were learning to kick with kickboards. I never before believed that someone who simply shouted the loudest for longest could actually win, no matter how bad or wrong or untrue their claims. However, Julie Reiser proved that screaming at the top of her lungs while other people tried to quietly reason was the best course of action to get your way. It was a highly distressing time for a lot of people involved in that team, many of whom not only ended up leaving the team, but moving away from the area. One or two very promising athletes ended up leaving the sport entirely – moves I do not think would have happened when they did if Julie had not taken down their swim team.

Not much happens at that pool anymore, at least not in the way it happened before mid-2009. The destruction of the team that once existed there is almost solely Julie Reiser’s doing, along with the people who listened to her at Palm Beach County.

To give you a feel for how bad her accusations became here is an email I got yesterday from one of my better Florida swimmers.

“Hi David! Just read the article Jane posted. It is nice to know that people reap what they sow. We always believed you and knew you and Alison had nothing to do with any of that. To this day XXXXXX and I still talk about how bad we feel that you were falsely accused. It’s too bad they had to be a part of the team. Hope you know how much the rest of us loved having you here! Definitely glad her sins found her out :) I’m sure this news puts a smile on your face! Hope you are doing well!”            

The “news”, we will get to later in this post…

Things got even worse when I discovered Reiser had asked the club to invoice her boy’s training fees as a single amount and call it a gym membership. I investigated further and discovered she was claiming the cost back from her then-employer who offered gym memberships to the staff as a corporate perk. I told the employer. I was not happy to be accused of financial mismanagement, only to find that my accuser was defrauding her employer with my coaching programme. Julie was sacked and left the swimming club.

But you may be wondering, what is this mention of Reiser’s sins all about. Well, with that history imagine how I felt when I read the following headline in the Boca News last Friday.

Made In USA Founder, McCline For Congress Director Reiser Jailed

by Staff • May 19, 2014 6:20 pm

Julie Reiser

Julie Reiser, Courtesy Palm Beach County Jail

There may be some Swimwatch readers who want to read more about the most recent events in the life and times of Julie Reiser. Here is the link:

That has to be kama. Perhaps even schadenfreude. Or as a friend of mine from Florida said today in an email on the subject – “Four greatest words in the English language:  I told you so.”

Amen to that.

Well that’s my Famous Five. Pray God it never grows to become the name of another well-known Enid Blyton series, “The Secret Seven”.

Spot The Difference

Friday, April 25th, 2014

By David

I guess the swimming world, and perhaps even the wider world, has identified the Mesa Grand Prix swimming meet in Arizona with the return of Michael Phelps. The public relations effect of his return has been truly remarkable. This morning his very good 52.84 swim in the heats of the 100 butterfly made the sports news on TV1, Maori TV, Sky Sport and Al Jazeera. Phelps deserves the acclaim. In a sport like swimming, making a comeback is very difficult. I would have said impossible. Clearly one swallow does not a summer make. Success in Rio is going to take a lot more than a 52 second heat swim at a domestic Grand Prix meet. Michael Phelps knows that better than any of us.

However, just as interesting as the result of the men’s 100 butterfly, was the following poster included on the Mesa meet’s website.

On Swimwatch we have spoken before about the difference between the recognition and treatment of coaches in the United States and New Zealand. You don’t believe me? Well just pause and read the poster again. A “social” for coaches at the “Arizona Golf Resort” from “8.30pm to 12.00am”. In New Zealand that alone is an impossible dream. Swimming New Zealand would never approve of a swim coach staying out until after midnight.

A few years ago, at the National Short Course Championships in Rotorua, Ross Anderson, Keith Stewart, Toni Jeffs and I were having dinner in the China Town Restaurant on Amahou Street. You should try it. It’s still there. Anyway, we were having a great time. Keith Stewart is one of New Zealand’s leading wine journalists. He was determined to see what New Zealand wine would produce the fastest 50 freestyle from Toni the following day. Ross Anderson had an endless line of stories that grew ever more suspect as the evening and the wine wore on. It was great fun. Toni was in the middle of helping Ross act out one of his stories when the god’s of Swimming New Zealand walked in for a very late night supper after one of their important meetings.

Sadly the evening died a bit after that. Clearly two coaches, a leading club administrator and New Zealand’s fastest swimmer were not supposed to be up, drinking and eating at 11.00 o’clock at night. Toni tried her best to rescue our reputations by breaking the NZ record for the 50 freestyle in the heats and again in the final the following day. Sadly, it did not work. A week later I got a letter from Swimming New Zealand asking me to explain why Toni Jeffs had been seen drinking wine in Rotorua. I thought it was a stupid question and none of their business, so I never replied.

Anyway back to the poster. It goes on to say, “complementary beer, wine and appetizers”. Can you imagine Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand giving club coaches “complementary” anything? And certainly not beer and wine. In 1992 I flew to what was then the World Short Course Championships with New Zealand’s most successful swim coach, Duncan Laing. As our airplane climbed to 35,000 feet over the Tasman Sea I asked for a glass of wine with my lunch. Duncan’s deep voice said, “Thank God for that. I thought I was going to have to sit here without a drink in case you told Swimming New Zealand I’d been up to no good.” Brian Palmer and Bronwin Radford got a free lunch out of Miskimmin once. Unfortunately, there is the impression that Miskimmin’s largess ended up costing us the sport of swimming.

I think it’s fair to say that there is very little Swimming New Zealand give away. Generosity is not the first word that springs to my mind when I think of Layton, Renford, Lyles and Villenueva. But, when I think about it further, how can they give stuff away? Not when all those Mazda SUV’s have to be paid for.

There is however a serious side to the poster. A side that reflects the gulf that exists between the way coaches are treated in the United States and New Zealand. When Renford arrived in New Zealand he did a short tour of various clubs. He missed West Auckland Aquatics. I wonder why? Shortly afterwards he was interviewed by Radio Sport. He saved his most telling criticism for the performance of New Zealand swim coaches.

It is worthwhile reminding Renford that New Zealand coaches have a record that is significantly better than his precious Millennium Institute. I haven’t seen any Olympic Champions, Olympic place-getters or world record holder come from that pool, no matter how much money has been thrown at the folly.  Any recent damage to the standard of the country’s coaching is a direct result of policies pursued by his organization; policies that Renford currently endorses, promotes and defends.

In New Zealand every time a coach turns around someone from Swimming New Zealand is questioning his or her performance. Tell a person often enough that they are not as good, not as able, not as experienced as the national organization’s foreign import and it’s little wonder New Zealand coaches struggle. Treat us like monkeys and that’s what you will get. The implication of their promotion of the Millennium Institute and its foreign Australian boss, its foreign Spanish director and its foreign English coach is that we are not up to the job. Well we are.

The Americans value their coaches. I know. I coached there for eight years. America’s success and our failure is directly related the treatment of their and our coaching resources. In a Swimwatch story recently I said we needed a Millennium Institute of twenty or thirty well-resourced and respected coaches from all over the country. New Zealand coaches need to be well managed. They need their work to be valued. And that’s impossible while the Miskimmin philosophy of centralized delivery is pursued by his foreign imported underlings.

I wish it were otherwise but in New Zealand our Coaches Social from 8.30pm to 12.00am including complimentary beer, wine and appetizers will have to wait for another day.