October 2022,

Athlete Leaders Network to provide athlete voice across high performance sport

Athlete Leaders Network Media Release

A new athlete voice mechanism has been launched in Auckland today with a tree planting ceremony attended by athlete representatives from across the high performance sport sector.

The Athlete Leaders Network (ALN) is set to increase the strength and mana of the athlete voice in New Zealand and is the brainchild of the Athletes’ Commission of the NZOC.

“This initiative is by athletes, for athletes,” says Commission Chair Sarah Cowley Ross.

“With athlete leaders across Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sport included in the network, the ALN is about empowering athletes and advocating for change, from within the sporting system.”

Cowley Ross said the ALN was designed with input from athlete leaders.

“Athletes have told us they want a network that can build athlete mana, promote a well-being focus across the system, serve the needs of diverse sports, athletes, and funding levels, and provide support for athletes to grow their leadership and advocacy capability. The new ALN will deliver this.”

With recruitment underway for an experienced General Manager and an interim Board being formed, the ALN will have resource to ensure athlete voice is brought into decision-making across the high performance sport system. The ALN will also be able to call on external resources and advice where necessary.

Chair of the Drug Free Sport New Zealand Athletes’ Commission and WADA Athletes Commission Chair Ben Sandford will sit on the ALN interim Board.

“An athlete voice mechanism that is focused on advocacy, capability and wellbeing is crucial to the health of our high performance system. We need to have diverse athletes from across both funded, and non-funded, sports empowered to advocate for what’s important to them.”

Paralympics New Zealand Athletes’ Council representative, ALN interim Board member Anna Taylor says she’s looking forward to the opportunity to make a difference for athletes.

Taylor explains: “The Athlete Leadership Network will strengthen the athlete voice and champion a greater focus on wellbeing in the high-performance space. It includes equitable representation for Para athletes, so our voices are heard in the decision making. With this kind of authentic representation, we have an exciting opportunity for the future of high performance sport in New Zealand.”

NZOC CEO Nicki Nicol agrees the ALN will empower the athlete voice in New Zealand.

“We’re delighted to have been able to support the NZOC Athletes’ Commission with their initiative to deliver this new athlete voice mechanism. While the NZOC will provide the opportunity through administrative and structural support, the ALN will operate independently and that’s really important.”

High Performance Sport New Zealand’s Director of High Performance, Steve Tew, says establishing the ALN will provide an important platform to drive the focus on wellbeing.

“This is entirely an athlete led concept and it will have the credibility, capability and resource to engage on issues critical to our athletes. We know athletes have been asking for this, and we’re pleased to provide the initial funding necessary to get it underway.”

The ALN Board will comprise the Chairs, or their nominees, of the NZOC Athletes’ Commission, the DFSNZ Athletes’ Commission and the Paralympics New Zealand Athletes’ Council, with four further appointments to be made. Applications for the General Manager role open today and will close on October 25th.

The ALN was established in response to a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an athlete voice mechanism from HPSNZ. It is planned for the Network to be fully operational from early 2023.