Swim coach quit saga – why is SSA, and not Jack Simon, getting the flak?

The report:

 According to this TODAY report (4 July), the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) will convene an emergency meeting soon with national swmmer and Beijing Olympics qualifer Quah Ting Wen and her parents to help her find a suitable replacement coach after High Performance coach Jack Simon quit abruptly on 25 June, 34 days before the start of the Olympics.

The American resigned because of differences with the SSA on how to run the High Performance Coach scheme. Apart from Ting Wen, national swimmers Marcus Cheah and Nicholas Tan were also training under the 70-year-old American.

Simon’s sudden resignation prompted an angry response from over 20 swimmers’ parents who turned up at the SSA’s annual general meeting on 28 June to demand an explantion, with some asking for the COE to be re-opened.

My thoughts:

To be honest,I am quite surprised that so much anger is currently being directed at the Singapore Swimming Association.

Sure, it could be the case that the Singapore swimming fraternity is presently not ready for a decentralised training model ie having six designated high-performance centres as opposed to having all national swimmers training at one Centre of Excellence at the Toa Payoh Swimming Pool.

Thng is, have we missed the forest for the trees?

In this instance, shouldn’t the person that the swimming fraternity be furious with be American coach Jack Simon who quit on 25 June, barely three months after joining the SSA as its first high-level coach?

I don’t understand this: what sort of coach would actually cold-bloodedly abandon the young swimmers under his charge when the Beijing Olympics is just around the corner?

What sort of coach would actually say “I don’t care about you anymore, I only care for myself and I’m getting out of here?”

Which is what Simon did. He didn’t like the conditions he found himself working in and decided to walk out.

Thng is, why did he have to work out now? Why did he have to turn upside down the lives of the three young national swimmers (one Olympic-bound and the other two still trying to qualify for Beijing) under his charge, and their parents’ too, and cause them so much emotional and psychological grief just 30-odd days before the Olympics.

Can you imagine? Getting to compete in the Olympics is the dream of every serious athlete. And even though Beijing-bound Quah Tng Wen has no chance of making the A finals of her respective events, it doesn’t alter the fact that she is living out her greatest dreams as an athlete, and that she was training hard to make sure that she doesn’t disappoint themselves and their families when the time finally comes for them to perform on the big stage.

Likewise for Marcus and Nicholas who are making last-ditch efforts to book their berths for Beijing.

And then their coach goes and screws it up for them in what is clearly a coldly-calcuated move to spite the SSA.

I don’t understand: even if Simon was bitter about his working conditions, why couldn’t he just put up with his working conditions for another month or two, see the young charges under his wing through the Olympics before throwing in the towel?

What’s so hard about that? What’s so hard about doing the gentlemanly thing?

I thought all coaches lived for their charges. I thought they were genuinely interested in grooming their charges and seeing them gradually blossoming and developing into better athletes.

And given Simon’s credentials ( he used to be a national coach with the American swimming team), I would have thought he would have known better than to do something as brutally callous as this. 

What he has effectively done is to show his third finger at not just the SSA, but also to Ting Wen ( and all other swimmers under his charge), her parents, and her sporting dreams. And here we are getting angry at the SSA?

Amazing.

I hope a solution, in the form of a good coach, can be found for Ting Wen so as to lift her demoralised spirits and at least, to help her to prepare as best as she can now, under these unfortunate and unneccessary circumstances, for the Games.

I also hope that the SSA finally finds the right answers to the dilemma that it is now in – whether to continue pushing for its six-cenre decentralised training model or to ressurect the Centre of Excellence programm.e

And finally, I hope people will start calling a spade a spade and start seeing Simon for the selfish and disrespecful person that he is.

At least Jeffrey Leow and his SSA team are passionate enough about Singapore swimming to give up their personal time to come forward as volunteers to serve the sport. Some of them have even already served for two terms.

In other words, at least they do care about Singapore swimming.

Simon clearly does not. And as such, in my books, he is no coach, just a self-centred, self-serving man.

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One thought on “Swim coach quit saga – why is SSA, and not Jack Simon, getting the flak?

  1. Concerned Swim Fan says:

    Having followed with interest the developments in SSA and its COE program, it was great to see that John Dempsey was elevating Singapore standards to a level that appeared very promising for the future. With success comes envy and as it is often in Singapore, people in and around the SSA became envious about the looming success of the COE. Clubs always want a piece of this success to enroll swimmers, the SSA and more so the committee likes to dance to the whistle of the big clubs to get re-elected and the song goes on and on and on…..
    Professional coaches like John Dempsey and Jack Simon that are without a doubt of world-class standard do not leave their swimmers without pressing reason and more so they wouldn’t leave them before one of the perhaps most important event the Olympic games.
    Now wouldn’t it make objective people think that if two international top coaches that are working subsequent from each other leave in such a short period of time and moreover just before the Olympics, something is wrong with the environment or conditions they are facing? These are conditions and an environment that the SSA is creating and is responsible for. To be a coach that brings National success through the swimmers in the Olympics is a situation that breeds envy and in the SSA this envy finds nutritious ground to grow.
    Unfortunately like in many other associations and clubs around the world, it is not about the athletes as it should be but about politics, power and egocentric individuals that yes may give up a lot of their time but not for the ultimate benefit for the athletes but rather to decorate themselves.
    Perhaps the finger should go back to point at the SSA for not being able to retain world class coaches for their swimmers at a time the swimmer would need it most.

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