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A proposal to introduce an objective criteria for team selections.

Chris Marshall and John Anderson

Some background

Teams have historically been selected through the swimoff process. The swimoff is usually run immediately after a Nationals. The top ten pairs are invited and, as pairs decline the invite, the 11th, 12th etc are invited to swim. In practice, there are normally not ten pairs keen to compete and invites become essentially open to anyone who’s keen. The swim off takes place after a rest day and then follows identical rules to the just swum Nationals, the idea being that the just swum Nationals results may have been affected by the heavy fishing pressure, whereas a swim off, in a new location, with a maximum of ten pairs fishing, will produce a fairer result.

We are of the opinion that the swim off concept is generally supported by most experienced competition divers.

So, what’s the problem?

In the last ten years. SNZ has run three swimoffs. There is no doubt that pressure is put on team applicants to forego the swimoff process and self-select a team and divers are, in a lot of cases, motivated to comply.

Why? Because it takes time and money to run a swimoff. People are busy, they’ve just taken, in a lot of cases, a week off work to enjoy the whole event. Work calls. Family calls. Someone has to stay back and ensure there are boats, safety boat drivers, weighing facilities. Basically, it’s just too hard on both athletes and the organisers.

We can still have swim offs if that’s what you all want. But we cannot rely of people’s good will to organise them. If you compel SNZ to utilise swimoffs as the sole team selection criteria, SNZ would have to hire, in advance, two boats (because we could not be sure of availability of privately owned  competitors boats in advance of the swimoff), a safety boat driver (for the same reason), a medic (for the same reason) an organiser (for the same reason)etc. A “back of a beer coaster” costing on that would be $9,000.

For this reason, C and J reject the idea of compelling SNZ to run a swimoff

So, what’s next?

Rule 19.5 (page 10) of our SNZ Comp rules and Guidelines document (available on our website)states: “If through circumstances beyond the CD’s control, no competition is able to be held for the selection of the pending NZ team, then the team will be selected on the basis of results in the immediately preceeding National Championships”

It appears this rule refers to Interpacific Competitions, or at least, any International competitions outside of the World Champs as section 20 (page 11) is dedicated solely to World Champs selection. But we’ll get to that.

So, the current rules state: try to organise a swim off and, if that is not possible, selection is based on the preceding Nationals comp. C and J ask that you accept the status quo rule.

Worlds Selection.

See below for what our guidelines say….

“20. World Championships Participation

20.1 The selection for this event will be run in a way that parallels the rules of the World Championships. 

20.2 The Executive Spearfishing Committee will call for nominations for Team Manager 18 months before the World Championships and make an appointment accordingly.

20.3 The appointed Manager will advise all divers of this event, the method of selection and possible funding.

20.4 The selection competitions will be on an individual basis run by the Manager according to competition guidelines and employing the safe diving practice of a boatman and Observer for each competitor.

20.5 The Manager will organise travel equalisation among competitors and boats and Observers. 

20.6 The selected team shall consist of the three top divers, a reserve and the Manager.”

For those who don’t know, the World’s are a boat comp (so far, at least) so this is saying that the manager should run the selection trial as a boat comp, with a boat, boatman and safety diver for each applicant. Here’s where things get curly. What if the manager lives in Bluff and wants to run the trials there? How is a diver who resides in Northland supposed to get a boat, a boatman and a safety diver down to Bluff for a presumably two-day competition? Or vice versa for that matter? 20.5 does state that travel equalisation will be applied but that’s one hell of an expense no matter which way you cut it. It also, arguably (arguably because it often doesn’t work out like this) favours the more local divers. So fairer really to have a series of events, one in the home waters of each participant. We’ve heard this argument more than once.

Do the math. This is prohibitively expensive. To the best of our knowledge, it’s happened once, at least 20 years ago. Great in theory, not so much in practice.

For this reason, C and J reject the idea of compelling SNZ to run a boat based qualifying event or a series of boat based qualifying events.

OK, so how to select World’s Teams then?

Historically, the team has been selected by SNZ’s executive, who in practice, subbed the decision out to a changing group of senior, retired-from-comp-diving old buggers plus the manager, who know how things work.

So, what’s wrong with that?

It’s not open, it’s not transparent, it leaves SNZ open to accusations of nepotism and cronyism and running a ‘Boys Club’.

SNZ is committed to running a meritocracy. The reason teams were chosen this way is because it was easy. Coming up with an objective criteria was evidently considered too hard. Divers are an individual lot. They can’t agree on anything. But let’s try…

Ok then, let’s have an objective criteria?

This brings us to the crux of what C and J were asked to do for your consideration. A simple, open, transparent set of requirements allowing everyone a fair go.

SNZ select with regard to competition results obviously. At our disposal, we have regional comp results, Nationals results, Interpacific results and World Champs results.

From the outset, C and J rejected the idea of previous Interpacific or World’s results having any bearing on a diver’s chance of making a team, on the basis that this becomes a feedback loop that excludes the vast majority of competitors. If a diver is to make a team, they make it based on their performance in comps with open access to all.

Next, we looked at potentially using diver’s results in the regional comps, in the same way one might use a rugby players performance over a super rugby season to select them for a National side. There were issues with that from the outset. Firstly, some regional comps are far easier to win than others meaning that a win or top placing in a hard comp had to be worth more than a win or placing in an easy comp. Sure, we could just double the points for the comp we deemed hard but we then have to ask why comp x is harder than comp y and the answer to that is that comp x isn’t harder than comp y, it’s just that comp x attracts a stronger field. It is the quality of the field that determines how hard a comp is to win. With that in mind, we experimented with tracking all divers who won any comp as a baseline entry criteria and then allocating divers points based on how they placed relative to each other. It’s sort of how golf determines rankings. Winning or even placing well against quality opposition became the name of the game. We needed time to see how the model evolved. We decided it needed to track divers over two years, hence the delay in coming back to you all.

We started to hit further problems. Which comps were we to track? We decided on comps that contributed an Interpacific Levy and the Nationals. After all, there’s quite a few comps about, some privately owned, some without open access for all. The Interpacific levy paying comps were all open access. Unfortunately, some of the comps we were tracking decided not to contribute an Interpacific Levy. Then some comps for whatever reason were not well supported, leaving the results not particularly meaningful for us. Some comps don’t get run every year religiously so our pool of tracked comps mightn’t be static year by year. And, of course, some comps are boat comps while some are swim comps. Some comps enforce rules closely along the lines of Nationals while some are pretty loose. Eventually it became apparent that we just weren’t comparing apples with apples. It was a good idea in theory but relies on a consistent approach from all the hosting clubs and we can’t and shouldn’t exercise that sort of control over them. Their comps are theirs to run as they see fit and SNZ’s role is to support them, not to dictate terms. Also, because the rankings we were compiling were only ever to test a theory and weren’t to be actually applied to any selection process in real life, some divers didn’t attend many, (or any, outside of their initial good placing that put them on our radar) events that the serious players at least, probably would’ve had the results of the exercise been binding. Some very competent and highly ranked divers dived with their newbie mate or partners or kids and came last because they were there to have fun and good on them. That’s what these comps are all about. Not only that, but tracking where everyone stood, how a performance would affect your placing, or which competitions were worth attending was… difficult. It got too hard. It sort-of became meaningless. It flopped.

Whoops. Now what?


That leaves us with Nationals results as our sole reasonable objective, open, fair and workable gauge of a divers competence.

Rule 19.5, relating to Interpacifics and non-world’s teams (see above) states that “……….no competition is able to be held for the selection of the pending NZ team, then the team will be selected on the basis of results in the immediately preceding National Championships”

Yes, that’s not the World’s criteria but we’ve used it as a start point. C and J both believe that selecting a diver on one Nationals result immediately preceding the event (or, at least, the deadline for naming a team) is not suitable. What other sport bases it’s international team on one qualification event? (Ha, we do; our Interpacific team!) What if a diver is ill or gets disqualified from one day or has life get in the way of their attendance? Stiff cheese maybe? We think not

Maybe SNZ should select over two Nationals, applying a multiplier so that the older result (percentage, not placing) is worth slightly less? That’s sounds fairer but again, should a diver have life get in the way during either comp, other than as a mathematical possibility, they’d be out.

To allow for this C and J are recommending to you that SNZ select over the preceding three Nationals with a multiplier applied so that the result preceding the current one is worth slightly less than the current one and the result preceding that be worth less again. We then take a divers two best scores, after the multiplier has been taken into account, add them together and that’s it. It allows for non-attendance of one Nationals in three but penalises it.


OK, we take a diver’s percentages over the preceding three nationals. Their current percentage we multiply by 1. Last year’s percentage we multiply by .9. The year before, we multiply by .8. That will give us three numbers. We take the two biggest and add them together to give a diver’s total score. That’s it.


Let’s try some examples. Bob is a total boss. He wins everything.

Most recent score 200% x1

Last year score 200% x 0.9

Year before that score 200% x 0.8

Bob’s score is 380


Bob’s regular buddy, Rob, is also choice. Problem is, he couldn’t attend this year due to a family matter

Most recent score 0

Last year score 200% x 0.9

Year before that score 200% x 0.8

Rob gets 340


Dan is a top performer too. He hasn’t won the last three years, but he’s right on the heels of the champs

Most recent score 190% x1

Last year score 180% x 0.9

Year before that score 185% x 0.8

Dan’s score is 354


You can see how the weighting of recent results puts Dan ahead, but recent results should be worth more. Should it be 10% per year? 5%? 20%? Honestly, it’s impossible to say. No doubt a survey of any three divers will give at least four different answers. This is the value we’ve chosen, so unless there’s a solid majority that can agree on a different number, we will stick with it.


You guys have got this wrong! What can I do about it?

Given the current compromised nature of the AGM, the committee suggest rolling this issue over till next year’s AGM. If you think we’ve got it wrong, get together 5 or 10 like-minded divers who will be at next year’s AGM and send us your proposed changes or suggestions in advance. Perhaps we can make changes? Nothing is fixed in stone until a motion is passed. 

Whichever way the vote goes, after it, C and J’s interest in the matter shall cease.

All the Best,

Chris Marshall

John Anderson

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