Follwing an earlier article in the Times, reported here in the pullbuoy log, regarding Bill Sweetenham’s decision to withdraw funding from Zoe Baker and Mark Foster, the BSCTA has seen fit to issue the following response
The BSCTA is happy to see more press articles on swimming and is fully supportive of what NPD Bill Sweetenham is trying to achieve, but we have serious concerns about the content of The Times Article printed 17.12.02
(1) It seems to us to be bad practice to single out individual swimmers for personal criticism in the press. Not only does the criticism reflect badly upon the careers of the swimmers concerned but also we believe that it could cause harm to the sport as a whole by presenting us in a negative light, which will not be attractive to potential sponsors. There also appears to be some inconsistency in that only a few months earlier Mark [Foster] was being praised as someone who had saved British sprinting in the past few years and Zoe [Baker] was being congratulated for her gold medal and World Record at the Commonwealth Games. We wonder what may be the response if Mark and Zoe again win medals at the Worlds in 2003? Will we acknowledge that their success came without the help of GB or will GB Swimming claim their success as further evidence of the benefits of our new programme? Many coaches may agree with Bill’s frustration at not being able to persuade Mark and Zoe to increase the volume of their training but this is surely not a suitable topic for public discussion in the press. Public attacks upon leading swimmers who have in the past, and may well in the future, bring great credit to the sport and to the country is inappropriate in our view and may well be considered to be unprofessional.
(2) The quoted comment that “the bloody coaches are ducking for cover more than the swimmers” is certainly unprofessional in our view and can only do harm to the professional standing of coaches within Britain. Once again, if Bill has criticism to make of individual coaches then we believe that this should be done privately and on an individual basis. The “scattergun” approach serves only to provoke resentment and does not present a true picture of what is happening in coaching today, when, in fact, the vast majority of coaches are fully behind what Bill is trying to do.
As we said at the beginning of this response, the BSCTA wants to support Bill in what he is doing for British Swimming but we would like to see a greater measure of consistency and rationality in the statements being issued on behalf of British Swimming. We want to be seen to be going forward as one body, with internal problems being dealt with internally and a united front being shown to the outside world. We recognise that there is massive room for improvement in our levels of achievement and performance in recent years but we believe that a well motivated and educated body of coaches is the key to improving our past performances and this will best be achieved by engaging the profession in a positive and encouraging manner rather than by generalised criticism through the press.