AUGUST 15 2016 – 12:55AM
Rio de Janeiro: Swimming Australia has been accused of giving its athletes “a cop out” after a glowing review of the team’s performance at the Rio Olympic Games.
SA has awarded itself high marks in its own Olympics report card, despite wining fewer gold medals than at three of the past four Games. The gold medal yield of three was better than London (1) but not as good as Sydney (5), Athens (7) or Beijing (6).
In an email circulated to the board of Swimming Australia, together with state presidents and chief executives, SA president John Bertrand ladled high praise on the culture of the swimming team at the Rio Olympics.
His email came in response to an even more gushing one from Wayne Lomas, SA’s high-performance manager and the team leader in Rio.
Lomas’s email prompted prompted one insider to say: “The swimmers have been given a cop out.” The insider went on to argue the team had been relieved of personal accountability.
The subject of Bertrand’s emails, “Day 1.version 7”, would suggest that in subsequent days the outcomes were similar to the first day when Australian won two gold medals.
Bertrand writes: “We have come a long way. Yes, we are proud and I think the nation is proud of these young men and women.
“There are a 1001 lessons from this campaign. All from the school of hard knocks. This is the Everest of sport. It doesn’t get any higher than this. The best of the very best from around the world…all endeavouring to peak at the same time.
“We will put together a world-class review to capture these lessons. Experience at the very top does not come easy. It is a rare and unique opportunity.
“After tonite where our Dolphins take on the world again, we will move fwd, capture every thing we know, plan and implement.
“We are on an exciting journey.
“Go Australia Go!”
Bertrand’s email followed Lomas’ report on the Games, which Bertrand describes as “a brilliant summary of the culture within this team”.
Lomas writes: “As we move toward the conclusion of our Olympic pool competition, it is natural that we begin to reflect on some of the things that we have witnessed this week …
“In doing this, we have heard and read a lot about team culture. Our team promotes and facilitates a values-driven, learning-oriented, process-focused culture.
“What this means is that our values drive who we are and how we treat ourselves, our teammates, our sport and our country.
“We are committed to the personal and professional growth and learning of our people. And we are focused on great processes that enhance performance both in and out of the pool.
“So how does this translate in the team and the pool? The key is our language. We have the courage to tackle difficult conversations in a timely and professional manner. If there is an issue, it’s the behaviour or the action that we confront, not the person. By removing the action/behaviour from the person, we retain value and respect for our teammate, but bring to their attention, and gain understanding on what it is that any member of the team wants to address.
“This allows people to maintain a feeling of value and worth. We don’t allow ourselves to diminish a person’s worth by the language we use.
“Whether someone achieves peak performance or they miss their own goal and dream through a sub-optimal performance, the individual’s value is retained. They retain the confidence and support of their teammates, regardless.
“It’s a small, but important factor. We stay connected and strong as a team as we ride the roller-coaster.”
Is this just management gobbledegook produced to sugarcoat poor performance?
These comments certainly seem to validate the view of SA’s more experienced assistant coaches who believe too much power in Rio has been handed to the team psychologists.
Some believe the athletes have been encouraged to believe that external process, rather than the inner person, is at fault for “sub-optimal performances”.
The change in the Campbell sisters, from laughing and joking in the holding area, pre-competition, to being consumed with anxiety on the blocks, is surely the responsibility of the team psychologists.
There is no doubt Bertrand has unified the assistant coaches under the head coach, no small achievement given they eke out a subsistence living via their own trade secrets.
Under Bertrand, they have been willing to pool, so to speak, their knowledge, sharing tips in order to maximise performance.
He has also increased the revenue to the sport, encouraging Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, to increase her sponsorship.
But Australia produced 25 performances inside the top three world rankings at the 2016 Olympic selection trials, which were admittedly held before the US, European and Chinese trials.
It is hoped Bertrand’s “world class review” will address this, so that swimmers “can achieve their dream”, no matter how “sub-optimal” it is.
Source : The Canberra Times