A few months ago, Keith Coats wrote about his disappointment at Ryk Neethling, the South Africa swimming superstar, and his lack of respect for the etiquette and rules of competition when competing in an event in Durban (read his post here). Now the other 3 members of the Olympic gold winning relay team have fallen foul of Swmming South Africa, but not bothering to pitch up for the National trials. Read the story in today’s Saturday Star.
The online version doesn’t give the same detail the actual front page article did. Apparently Swimming SA gives overseas swimmers money for travel and accommodation to the trials and competitions in SA. Sponsors have agreed to pay additional funds. Roland Schoeman wanted to fly business class – Swimming SA only gives enough to fly economy, and apparently the sponsors didn’t come through with extra money. Now, I fully understand that an athlete of Schoeman’s ability has the right to earn a good income from his sport. I also can understand that as “Top Talent” he probably feels he has the right to be a prima donna. He refused to fly economy. He has spoken to the media saying Swimming SA would not pay for him to come. And now SSA has booted off the national team. He will therefore not be eligible to swim in the FINA World Cup next year, which is due to be held in Durban, South Africa. So, home fans will be disappointed!! He can still qualify for the Olympics in 2008.
There will probably be some deal done soon. But, although that may be good for the FINA champs, it will not be good for swimming in SA. The problem with top talent is that they often feel they live outside the system and can play by their own rules. Whilst this is sometimes healthy – as it can be the basis of them pushing the boundaries, being creative, and generating innovatioon – it can also be extremely unhealthy and produce a destructive vibe and culture. As a manager of talent, a critical skill is knowing where to draw the line, and knowing when to use the heavy hand, and even get rid of people who “bring in the numbers but don’t have the values” (to quote Jack Welch).

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