The 2012 Olympics was a great disappointment for Australia as a whole which resulted in an internal review of the sporting culture and system in the country. From those findings the ‘Winning Edge’, a new long term vision and program, was created and is currently being put in place.
The biggest disappointment for the Aussies was in the pool where they earned 10 medals (1 gold, 6 silver and 3 bronze) compared to 20 medals in 2008 (6 gold, 6 silver and 8 bronze). It was their poorest showing at an Olympic Games in 30 years.
At the conclusion of the swimming events the President of Swimming Australia David Urquhart told the BBC that, “The world has lifted the bar [in] swimming and so must we.”
“We must do everything possible to get Australian swimming back on top.”
“This is not a time for blame and scapegoating, this is an opportunity to make the changes required to rise to the international challenge.”
Urquhart, whose term as President ended in November told The Age that it would be incorrect to use former CEO of Swimming Australia Kevin Neil as a scapegoat for London. ”If he’s in anyway shouldering the blame for what happened in London it’s disgraceful.”
The new President of Swimming Australia Barclay Nettlefold does not share those same feelings. Nettlefold has come out and blamed the former administration of Swimming Australia for a lack of support given to both the athletes and coaches in London.
“We let them down in the high performance area, there was a sense of feeling we did not have the right structure around the team (at the Olympics). We have to have a really good look at our organisation and that is what we are doing,” said Nettlefold in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph.
One of the biggest areas that Nettlefold appears to be troubled by is the burden that the administration put on the shoulders of Olympic Head Coach Leigh Nugent, “There was also too much administration responsibilities placed on the Olympic coach Leigh Nugent.”
“You want your coach to be a coach – that’s what Leigh is good at. We don’t want Leigh to be worrying about why are swimmers not wearing yellow caps in the pool. Administrators should be doing that for him.”
Once in place one of the first things that Nettlefold and the new board of Swimming Australia did was hire the consultancy firm Bluestone Edge to assist them in the independent review of the culture in Australian Swimming.
The lead consultant is Dr. Pippa Grange who over the last 15 years has worked with many elite sports organizations in assiting them to evaluate and change their leadership, structure and culture. During the process of her review Dr. Grange has interviewed in the range of 70 people involved in Australian Swimming including swimmers, coaches, managers and believe it or not media.
On January 18th she will present a report to the Australian Swimming Board.
Nettlefold does not only plan on using the results of Dr. Grange’s review to move the organization forward, but he plans on working with Bluestone Edge to implement change, “There’s certainly a role for Pippa and her organisation moving forward in developing a code of behaviour and code of ethics that we will be re-establishing in the sport.”
One of the things that Nettlefold has stressed since the beginning of his term is that he wants all of Australia Swimming’s stakeholders involved in the process of cultural change, “It will also be done in conjunction with the swimmers and the coaches – it’s about everyone being together on it, understanding it and owning it. It’s not something we are going to force on them, it is something we are going to develop with them.”
This attitude and approach is being received with very positive response, especially from Daniel Kolwalski the General Manager of the Australian Swimmers Association, “It’s been very encouraging because it is more of a collaborative approach,” Mr Kowalski said in an interview with The Australian.
Nettlefold also told The Sunday Telegraph that he has a desire to create partnerships with Universities which will enable the country to form a competitive environment that would resemble that of NCAA swimming where athletes can pursue both their academic and athletic goals at the same time.
Nettlefold’s leadership has already had very quantifiable results with many giving him a great deal of credit for negotiating Swimming Australia’s alliance with Gina Rinehart who has created the Georgina Hope Swimmers Foundation which will result in $10 million of support for the country’s swimmers.
The next step in recreating a winning culture within Swimming Australia will be to hire a new CEO to replace Kevin Neil.