By Coach George Block, President, World Swimming Coaches Association
Fellow coaches, we have come to a place where we must decide if we should put great efforts into continuous, incremental change within FINA, or risk and achieve much more and Change the World.
This is a very difficult place for all of us. Many of us are intimately involved within our own federations. Most of us frequently coach athletes on the world stage. Changing the World requires risking both these relationships.
By their very nature, our federations must maintain close and positive relationships with FINA. Actively opposing FINA will place our relationships inside our federations at risk. By our very natures, we want to coach and compete on the largest stage. Actively opposing those who run that stage will make us persona non grata on that stage. When we have to resist the most, it may require asking our athletes or federations to sit out the very competitions by which we all define ourselves. Although we are all willing to do that ourselves, none of us wants to ask that of our athletes, but it may come to that – soon.
We have developed a mindset of fighting over table scraps from the FINA table and being quite happy when one falls our way. We have not stopped to realize that the banquet is being stocked by our labors and the fruits of those labors. This is the great irony. If we leave the FINA table, those at the table starve and we – coaches and athletes – will keep the fruits of our labors.
When dealing with an old, large bureaucracy, it is easier to blow it up and start over, than it is to significantly change it. We are inspired every day by seeing that happen in North Africa. Those citizens finally got tired of hoping for table scraps and decided to turn over the tables and Change their World. Many hundreds of them have given their lives. Can we sacrifice a swim meet? Is our legacy going to be merely titles won, or will it be changing the competitive landscape for generations of coaches and athletes to come?
Many of you will reasonably ask, “Can’t we do both?” Can’t we work for incremental change within FINA, while working outside to start a new organization? Can’t we preserve our options? What if FINA changes?
What do we tell our athletes when they bring the same questions to us? Can they preserve the security of their social lives while risking everything to be the best they can be? Can they commit half way?
We can hope FINA changes, knowing it can just as quickly change back. We can hope that the people of good will inside FINA can affect some changes that will last until changed back by those without that good will. However hoping is all we should do. We should not expend emotion, intellect, effort, or commitment to improve FINA. All of our emotion, intellect, effort and commitment should put to blowing it up and starting over.
We must have a World Swimming Association Championship in place by 2014, so that our federations and athletes can sit out the FINA Championships in the next quadrennium. We must stop putting our food on their table, then begging them for scraps. Our labors put food on that table. It is time that we Change the World and set our own table.