Well I have just finished watching the single most baffling press conference in the history of man.
Some quick background:
- Last year at the London Olympics the entire Australian Swimming team performed well below expectations.
- Post-Olympics it became clear that there had been a shift in the way the team had been managed in recent years and this had affected the general happiness and well-being of swimmers on the team and consequently, their performance at the Olympics.
- Two reports (The Bluestone Review and an Independent Review of Swimming) were released this week that simply confirmed what everyone pretty much already knew – there was (among other things) a lack of leadership at all levels within the team and this needed to be remedied.
So what was the first thing that was done to address this lack of leadership?
Well someone in a leadership position decided it was appropriate that the six members of the men’s 4x100m relay team should front up to a press conference, ‘explain themselves’ and ‘take responsibility for their actions’ (actions relating specifically to one night of ‘team bonding’ involving the use of the prescription sleeping pill Stillnox).
Someone in a leadership position thought it was a good idea to hang six guys who yes, had behaved poorly, out to dry.
Now I don’t pretend to have inside knowledge of the workings of the Australian Swimming team but things that were revealed post Olympics reminded me of a memorable night I spent in 2006.
It was the final night of the Manchester Commonwealth Games and I had hooked up with some friends on the Australian athletics team. We’d all been at the Closing Ceremony and upon returning to the Village were prowling around looking for some fun. We made the mistake of prowling a bit too close to where all the Australian swimmers were tucked up in bed because they had training the next morning (I repeat, it was the night of the Closing Ceremony!) One of the several Australian swimming coaches who were patrolling the area told us in no uncertain terms to go find somewhere else to have our fun.
This incident always comes to mind whenever I think of what’s going on with the Australian Swimming team at the moment because it’s clear that over the last few years, the team has not been managed as tightly as they were in those days. The two reports released this week confirmed this. And one would think that things are now being put into place to address the findings of these reports. Reports that also confirmed the change in culture in the swimming team was not the ‘fault’ of any one person (and certainly not the fault of the men’s 4x100m relay team).
For this reason, if I was one of those swimmers who got trotted out for the media today, I would be feeling pretty bloody aggrieved. Some of the questions in the press conference defied belief for their inanity – almost like the journos were thinking ‘gawd they’ve called a press conference so we need to find a kick ass story in here!’ And make a story they will. And now these guys’ names are going to be mud for a little while.
Well Swimming Australia, that’s a bloody amazing start you’ve made to improving team morale and improving the culture within your team.
PS: Also good to see the Age’s Richard Hinds agrees