Social Media ban may be just the start of changes for Aussie Swimmers

by SwimSwam Staff 12

January 22nd, 2013 Australia, International, News

On January 18th Dr. Pippa Grange presented the findings of her cultural review to the board of Swimming Australia and it appears clear that things will change to ensure athletes behave appropriately, there is greater team unity and that the focus is on excellence.

The Telegraph has reported that the details of the review will not be made public until the findings are revealed to a group of 120 swimmers and 50 coaches at a camp on the Gold Coast later this month.

At that time six athletes will be chosen to be part of the process of developing new rules of behaviour for the Australians.

“Yes there will certainly be key findings that come out of it and out of any review we need to consider what actions need to be taken,” Barclay Nettlefold, President of Swimming Australia told The Telegraph. “From an initial discussion, yes, there will be a few items that need to be seriously considered.”

Australian National Team Head Coach Leigh Nugent has already taken steps to ensure not only the performance but the behaviour his team showed at the Olympics never happens again. The two areas that Nugent has targeted initially are team unity and the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media at major competitions.

After watching many athletes glued to their phones checking tweets and status updates Nugent has banned all national team athletes from using mobile phones and social media during competitions and at team events.

In an article published by the Herald Sun Emily Seebohm went as far as saying that her performance in the 100 backstroke in London was negatively impacted by comments she read on social media sites.

Nugent hopes that by reducing the use of social media along with implementing other simple rules will create greater respect among teammates and stronger team unity. He told the paper that one of the most important rules was very simple, “I am a team member first before I am an individual.”

“We’ve set curfews, limited use of mobile phones when we’re together and told competitors to make sure they’re acting in a way to try to improve the team’s performance and not detract from it – and not just think about yourself,” Nugent told the Herald Sun. “It’s definitely a conscious effort.”

Barclay Nettlefold, President of Swimming Australia, has been happy with the change he sees in the swimmers, “I think there has been a lot of self-correction already,” Nettlefold told The Telegraph.

“There is a whole sense of they understand what they did wrong, they’re not dumb, they’re clever kids, they just need to understand where the boundaries are and we also do.”

“We have to be there to support them.”

He has also been impressed by the actions that Nugent has taken, “Leigh (Nugent) is very secure, he has his head down and is working hard and certainly has started to restore the confidence within the swimming group and is showing strong leadership again.”

One of the athletes who has worked hard on correcting his behaviour is James Magnussen, who in London was criticized for his performance in the pool and his behaviour out of it. He admitted to The Australian that he has major adjustments in his life to ensure he makes positive changes in both respects.

“I think more than anything I got wrong (was) my life outside of the pool,” Magnussen told The Australian.

“I did everything I needed to do in the lead-up in the pool. (But the results) just showed there were some imbalances.”

“I’ve made a lot of changes in my life and I’m feeling really positive about where I am at the moment. I’m in a good spot mentally.”

“I’ve taken on a mind coach – not necessarily purely for the psychological side of swimming, but for my life in general.”

“I’ve really worked hard on trying to be a more positive and easy-going person. I think it’s paid huge dividends both in and out of the pool.”

“London was a great opportunity for me to learn what I did wrong. Hopefully that will provide me with a really strong base for the next four years going into Rio.”

Although Nettlefold is happy with the direction the swimmers and coaches are headed he revealed that once a new code of behaviour implemented that behaviour and funding will go hand in hand, “We are working on a code of behaviour that will form part of the new foundation and part of the regulations in regard to funding for the future.”


In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 years ago

Some of the policy decisions described above are laughable. Banning social networking at championship meets? That’s equivalent to banning books or music.

Reply to  Justin Pollard
8 years ago

Disagree. Music being used would be for a specific purpose, to relax or amp up. Book to relax although I would say books can be distracting if you are trying to get people to watch the meet and cheer..

The quote from Seebom is one of the biggest reasons why they are doing this, that and as a coach, see it all too often people get wrapped up in their phones and not getting ready for races. Out of the water and into the cell phone, ignoring those around them too. I’m considering a ban/restriction on their usage during meets as well. A great way for teammates to actually be teammates, invested in their friends career and the teams success.

Reply to  Coacherik
8 years ago

I don’t think there’s much evidence, other than anecdotal, to support the conclusion that participating in social media impedes the ability of an athlete to get ready to race. I can imagine someone putting on their headphones, getting lost in their music, and missing a race. The same goes for reading a book.

Seebom’s comment is just a single data point. What if one of your swimmer’s relatives made positive comments on a social media site? That could have given them an extra boost of confidence going into a race. Further, she is a professional swimmer and should be given responsibility over how she prepares.

Another thing to ask yourself is whether the US team bans usage of cell… Read more »

Chest Rockwell
Reply to  Justin Pollard
8 years ago

Unless someone is reading “Mein Kampf” I don’t see how reading a book at a meet will affect one’s teammates in the way negative comments on social media will. Blaring “Black Eyed Peas” might be detrimental, but your comment is a bit hyperbolic.

Reply to  Chest Rockwell
8 years ago

With a friend like DIrk Diggler you have no cred here.

Reply to  Justin Pollard
8 years ago

They definitely had to ban social media. Australia had a very poor performance in London and this is one of the reasons.

Reply to  Justin Pollard
8 years ago

No – it really isn’t. When I swam club and D1, our coaches banned everything but music players (ie. iPods) from the deck. I remember my coaches ripping into teammates were on their phones.

Also, it worked! People paid attention to the meet! Performances on my media-banning teams were always generally higher than on my non-banning teams.

8 years ago

Let’s give them some rope here to either build the ladder out or tighten the noose. Seems like the ladder is coming out of this one (so far). Every trip, staff, and team has its demons to overcome and they are taking a serious approach to tackling theirs. Some solutions are, and some are not practical in every review and change implementation process. With a young team and lack of help from experienced veterans, this is exactly what seems to happen regardless of rules implemented. This is a cultural issue for the Aussies. The first and last test will always be what song is playing at the podium. The US Team presently has that podium culture that many wish to… Read more »

8 years ago

If Twitter comments are enough to negatively affect the performance of athletes, Swimming Australia needs to engage with sports psychologists rather than banning social media.

Reply to  Bill Volckening
8 years ago

Agree. There’s a much larger problem than social media lurking at the heart of Australia’s poor performance.

Reply to  Justin Pollard
8 years ago

I agree with both of you, there are much bigger problems beyond just this. However, this isn’t the first major sports organization to do this, one being the NFL in particular. From the NGB point of view, if that is what you are really doing during the meet, are you committed to being your best or supporting your athletes.

The press release is a means to show they are taking steps to make changes, and that this is one of many. Is it fair to assume that the US has this same policy, but doesn’t have a need or desire to publish it because they are not having issues? I would think so.

Old timer
8 years ago

I still don’t understand … What was the real problem ? Why did Oz not perform well? Need to understand the diagnosis before evaluating the treatment.