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One swimming team, one set of rules and values, insists new boss Michael Scott

April 10, 2013
Michael Scott

Michael Scott

Swimming Australia’s new high-performance director, Michael Scott, has vowed that all swimmers, coaches and staff on the national team will be held to the same high standards of behaviour once he takes the helm next month.

Scott has a big job before him to unify the national team for the world championships in Barcelona in July after the troubled London Olympic campaign gave rise to claims of favouritism and inconsistent enforcement of team rules from disenchanted swimmers. “There will be one team, one ethical framework, one set of values and one set of rules,” Scott declared. “There can’t be any teams within the team.

“Team spirit and unity is important in swimming. Strong teams correlate with good performance. The eight days of the Olympics is an endurance test and everyone has good and bad sessions and it is the strength of the team that makes it resilient.”

Swimming Australia confirmed its new leadership team yesterday, announcing the appointment of chief executive Mark Anderson, the former Hockey Australia chief, and Scott, the former British Swimming performance director who had previously been director of the Australian Institute of Sport.

Scott, who turned down the job of high-performance director at Athletics Australia in January in anticipation of securing this position, said that he preferred this role because he was “passionate about swimming and I believe in the future of the sport”.

“It’s the biggest challenge professionally that I have ever had, but I’m very motivated for it,” Scott said.

“There have been challenging times since the Games, but I am very optimistic about the future. I believe the talent is there to turn things around.”

Scott, who hopes to be in position in time for the national trials starting in Adelaide on April 26, said he planned to “draw a line under” the issues that had fractured the national team last year and affected the performance in the pool in London. “It’s time to move on,” he said. “I can’t change the past, so I want to focus on the future.

“We have to start the positive process of gaining back the respect of the Australian community and to do that we need to see some improved performance in and out of the pool.

“We need to demonstrate that we are professional, disciplined, united and successful and that we have learned the lessons of London.”

Scott said the Australian team was facing increasing international competition and would be found wanting if there were any weaknesses in its structures.

“Strong leadership is required, but it’s about engaging people in the process.

“It needs a team of leaders off the pool deck and on, among the swimmers and the coaches.”

One of Scott’s responsibilities will be to find a new head coach to replace Leigh Nugent, who stepped down last month, but he does not expect that person to be in place before Barcelona.

Anderson is another man who is embracing the challenge of returning Australian swimming to its former position of power.

When it emerged last month that he was Swimming Australia’s preferred candidate, Anderson was completing a business course at Harvard University on “Strategic planning in fast moving and changing environments”.

It should come in handy as he addresses the governance and management failings revealed in the independent review of the sport completed in February.

“I have had the chance to digest both reviews (Swimming Australia also completed an internal cultural review) and they provide a great frame to understand the priorities,” he said yesterday. “I think we can address some of those issues very quickly. A lot of good work has already gone on behind the scenes and they have progressed a number of key initiatives so I’m not starting from the beginning.”

Anderson said he would “hit the ground running” when he assumed the role on May 3.

He intends to reach out to all the sport’s stakeholders as a matter of priority and will attend the national trials to meet staff, swimmers and coaches before he walks into his office.

Anderson, who has worked with outspoken national men’s hockey coach Ric Charlesworth for the past five years, said he would immediately open communication channels with the swimmers and coaches, and he expected them to be forthright in their opinions on issues within the sport.



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