Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Craig Lord: Never Afraid to be Ignorant or Closeminded

It's been a while since I've commented on the articles of the foremost (outside of our own Tom Duke) swimming writer in jolly old England, Craig Lord. Yesterday, he posted something that I just couldn't ignore. It's one of the articles that reminds you that Lord's primary sources of information are an ever aging and conservative cadre of coaches and officials. He is the official mouthpiece of their grumbling. Yesterday's complaint? There are too many high level meets. Let's address his points:

How do I know who Lord's sources are? Let's look at some of the reasons and try and guess where they came from:

"many who serve on committees and commissions cannot be at the meetings where they are supposed to dispense advice to FINA"

"makes stars of 16-year-olds"

"runs in the face of what many leading programmes work towards when it comes to success on the very biggest of occasions, with leading coaches from USA to Hungary and Australia, China and many others sticking to the truth of the matter: one big moment a season suffices"

"It is a model that will not bring extra attention to swimming through more broadcast and print media outlets and coverage because no-one beyond the swimming world cares about a meet that does not feature the equivalent of Phelps Vs Lochte"

Some of the quotes are more obvious than others. The farther I have gotten in coaching the more I have realized that it is in the interest of those at the very top to centralize as much as possible. Why? Because it benefits them. If you are the coach of a World Champion swimmer, of course you don't want any of these distracting other meets in the way of your big meet. 

So here is my argument against all of the above. I think that the wide swath of high level meets is great for a number of reasons. I think it serves as significant steps along the developmental ladder along the way to the true "big" meets that Lord mentions, Worlds and the Olympics. The leap from, say, Danish Nationals to World Championships is a huge one, made significantly more gradual by the presence of Nordic Juniors, European Juniors, European Short Course, the Mare Nostrum series, and more. I am arguing in much the same way Cliff Murray made an argument against the huge gap between US Sectional Champs and Junior Nationals. We can't have these chasms between levels of competitiveness, especially with the increasing frequency of professional, veteran swimmers.

Having a lot of "fast" meets also allows more new coaches to come into the fold. If the bar for prominence in coaching is set at getting a swimmer to the Olympics or World Championships, you're going to see considerably less change in the coaching ranks. The coaches of swimmers that have in the past coached someone to the Olympics will always have a higher likelihood to coach future Olympic talent.

Lastly, I think that these meets are the foundation for year round excitement about swimming. Lord is right that currently there is little excitement for a non World or Olympic meet. The problem comes primarily in promotion. This is really starting a whole entire other blog, but the promotion of swimming by FINA and many national governing bodies is poor at best. In fact, I'll save that for later. Until then...


  1. What is an example of a meet Lord is complaining about? Jr. Worlds? WUGS?

  2. Hmm, naah, I just want one big meet, the Olympics, every fourth year. Then we can REALLY focus on the training ;-)

  3. He's referencing specifically the recent World Youth Championships.

  4. One of the reasons I simply don't read his stuff. From a personal side, I saw the excitement from Lia when she returned yesterday. Being involved in the Youth Games helped her progression to becoming a leader and a racer. Obviously, when all you do is write about stuff without being personally involved... well... you write from ignorance. Just my opinion.

  5. Glenn,

    I agree- I think World Youth's was hugely important for our US Juniors, who are much farther from the Olympics than they were even 10 years ago.

  6. Swim Torrance cancelled practice for 75 swimmers because 10 swimmers attended a senior meet. Then, a few days later, Swim Torrance cancelled the next four weeks of morning workouts because 2 swimmers had to taper for Junior Nationals.

    During this same time period I contacted Jeri Marshburn, Southern California Swimming Chariman, because my kids were not allowed to enter two meets they were qualified to swim (according to the SCS rule book).

    Jeri e-mailed me "The two fall senior development meets were changed to a Senior heats/final meet with new time standards to meet the new needs of the senior program to prepare for short course Jr. Nationals and Sectionals all in December".

    I just found out that Jeri Marshburn is on the Rules and Regulations committee of USA Swimming and was also the Assistant Manager for the 2011 World Championship Team (as well as previous teams).

    The more I learn, I realize that these people have their own agendas and are benefiting and could care less about the average swimmer.

    A few months later, my daughter swam with her college and dropped huge chunks of time. She said, "Swimming with ____ and ____ made me feel really lame so I didn't really try, but swimming at (college) made me realize that I'm actually pretty good for what I want out of swimming. I finally realized that ______ is #1 in the nation and I shouldn't feel lame".

    More than once, she told me her college coach told her he was proud of her. The sense of feeling valued had a huge effect on her performance.

    With USA swimming, there's no question that these swimmers are important at the financial level and then most become irrelevant.

  7. Anon,

    I've seen you post here several times- it seems you have some issues with Swim Torrance. Glad to hear that your child is doing better in college.

  8. Everytime I read Craig Lord I feel hung over. It's the sentence structure (or lack of it) and I swear every time I read him I come away confused, lost and lonely.

  9. Chris,

    It's not just Swim Torrance, it's Southern California Swimming as a whole. Everybody is intertwined - a huge web - of lying, cheating, discrimination. Everybody protects each other. A hearing couldn't be held because there were no "mature athletes" available according to the review chair.

    I feel bad for all of the kids who gave up on swimming. I don't like liars and cheaters. When a board votes on whether or not to cheat and two SCS board of review members leave the room before the vote - instead of stopping the vote - I see that as a problem.

    I'm beginning to believe that the corruption is widespread, therefore problems do not get resolved! (the domino effect)!

    Thank you, the college experience has been invaluable for both of my kids - they've had a great time and made good friends.

  10. Ugh! Lord is obviously not a "fan" of swimming. We need more increments from the developmental to the elite. This includes having several steps from the "near" elite to the elite. Nice post Chris