Guest editorial by Tom Willdridge
LONDON, England, November 26. FOLLOWING British Swimming's underwhelming performance in London this summer, Michael Scott has fallen on his sword and resigned from his post as Britain's National Performance Director.
Scott, who splits his time between Britain and Australia, could not accept living in Britain permanently, one of the recommendations from the review into Britain's poor performance in London. This is despite the fact that according to the Daily Mail, Scott made a reported 1.2 million pounds during his five years in the job. This fact becomes less of a surprise when you realize David Sparkes, the CEO of British Swimming, also splits time between Britain and his adopted homeland of Germany, and has done so for several decades.
Scott seems like a perfectly pleasant person, very capable in some facets of his position, but ultimately he didn't get the job done while hosting the Olympic Games, which is an unforgivable failure given Britain's success in other major Olympic sports.
British Swimming is at a crossroads, and it now has to fill the two most prominent roles in the organization, Head Coach and Performance Director. Some argue that they should have three roles to fill with the aforementioned Sparkes, unpopular with some high profile members of the British Swimming fraternity, also being made to stand down.
It is vital that British Swimming get these hires right now at the start of the new Olympic cycle. It has spent the last decade under foreign rule and in that time Britain has undoubtedly improved in certain areas, but after seeing a team that appeared to the outside world to be more nervous than raring to go in London, it seems like the time for some homegrown, British-based appointments is nigh.
HEAD COACH CANDIDATES
Bill Furniss – Nova Centurion head coach (coach of Rebecca Adlington)
Coaching Rebecca Adlington, Britain's most successful swimmer ever, gives Furniss tremendous gravitas. And having headed up Nova Centurion for many years, he would presumably relish one last challenge at the forefront of British Swimming. Aside from his successes with Adlington, he has also had a swimmer on every British team at major championships for the last 30 years. He possesses no shortage of northern grit, which some feel Britain needs to get back to post-Bill Sweetenham. Furniss is currently the clear favorite for the job, however should he give up coaching at Nova Centurion it could spell the end of Adlington's career, who has been on record as saying she will retire if she is no longer coached by Furniss.
Jon Rudd – Plymouth Leander head coach (coach of Ruta Meilutyte)
Rudd has built Plymouth Leander into the country's leading swimming team, having won the Arena League four out of the last five years. He was also the only British-based coach to have a gold medal-winning swimmer in London, Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte. Rudd's stock has risen more than any other British coach in the last six months and if he wants the job, he would offer an intriguing option for British Swimming.
Dave Haller – City of Cardiff head coach (former coach of David Davies)
A left-field option given his criticism of Kevin Renshaw and British Swimming in the over-training of David Davies. Not many British coaches can match up to the experience and continued success that Haller has had at Cardiff. His outspoken nature would stand no chance with the current hierarchy, but if David Sparkes resigns, it might open the door.
Patrick Miley – Garioch head coach (coach of Hannah Miley)
Miley has produced one of Britain's premier swimmers, his daughter Hannah, despite not having any of the luxuries provided by the bigger swimming establishments. He is also a proponent of cutting-edge training techniques, which British Swimming might want to expose to a wider group. If the goal is also to make the team tougher and more race-hardened, Hannah Miley is one of the toughest swimmers around and races more than anyone.
PERFORMANCE DIRECTOR POSSIBILITIES
John Atkinson — National Performance Director for British Disability Swimming
The current National Performance Director for Disability Swimming and former National Youth Coach has been suggested as one possible option working alongside Bill Furniss. Atkinson, born in the UK, coached for many years in Australia before entering the British Swimming fold in 2000. He worked closely with former Performance Director Bill Sweetenham from the very start of his tenure and now has relevant experience and success himself from his time with the British Paralympic team. For many within British Swimming he seems the obvious candidate, but the question will be whether he is too closely associated with the Sweetenham/Scott era and will simply offer more of the same, or will he be able to install the changes required to propel Britain higher in the medal table?
Swimming's own Dave Brailsford
One possible direction for Performance Director could be to try and emulate British cycling's highly successful approach. Dave Brailsford, British Cycling's Performance Director, was a professional cyclist for four years before he went on to study sport science and psychology. He then joined British Cycling as an advisor and worked his way through the ranks. It is a potentially risky move, but if there is a young, intelligent, forward-thinking employee within British Swimming, why not give them a shot? There is certainly no shortage of sports science graduates in Loughborough, where British Swimming is based.
An outsider from a different sport
If there is no obvious domestic candidate in swimming, Britain could potentially hire someone that has experienced success in another sport. Poaching someone from one of Britain's successful sports (rowing, cycling, athletics, cricket) is a very real possibility. The fact that Conor O'Shea, the Director of Rugby at Harlequins, is sitting on the review board indicates that British Swimming is open to input from other sports.
Back to the international talent pool
There is a school of thought amongst some in the swimming community that Britain's lack of success was not down to Michael Scott, in which case having a foreign performance director might not be the problem. Despite the expected funding cuts, the money that British Swimming will throw at this position could lure a number of high profile candidates from swimming's more successful nations.
Burn it all down
“It's all broken. Nothing works. Everyone needs to be fired. Burn the whole thing down and rebuild British Swimming from the ground up.” This may seem like an extreme view, but it is one shared by a number in the British swimming community who given the amount of money that swimming has received in Britain, want to see drastic improvements.
We will learn more when the review into British Swimming's failure at London 2012 is finally released on December 6.
Tom Willdridge is an avid swimming fan in London, who runs a stellar blog entitled Speed Endurance. Follow him on Twitter @speed_endurance.