April 2018, Articles

Team Behind the Team: The One-Stop-Shop

Ensuring the right infrastructure and environment to deliver performance

When Tom Walsh stood on top of the podium after his history-making success at the London World Athletics Championships, it is hard to imagine the pivotal role the Apollo Projects Centre in Christchurch played in supporting his success.

Since the 2300sqm purpose-built high performance centre opened its doors in 2013, the facility has proved the perfect “one stop shop” to meet Tom’s needs as a world-class athlete.

Providing the shot-put ace with throwing facilities, a top-class gym and access to expert service providers, the $3.5m government-funded centre, which supports between 90 and 120 high performance athletes, has proved a major hit.

Tom Walsh | Gold Coast 2018

And key to its success, according to its centre manager Scott Higgins, has been its ability to change and adapt to the changing needs of its athletes.

“Our biggest challenge is to continue to evolve the daily training environment and culture to support performance,” says Scott of the HPSNZ regional facility.

“It is about making sure the performance behaviours are aligned between staff and coaches and that we have the right infrastructure in place for the athletes. Tom is a great example for how we have continued to evolve the facilities to meet his needs.”

Earmarked as an athlete with podium potential, High Performance Sport NZ in conjunction with the Apollo Projects Centre put in place an appropriate training environment to match his medal aspirations.

After the centre opened Tom – who previously trained in a public gym – was given instant access to top quality high-performance gym and strength and conditioning facilities.

However, besides the bricks and mortar advantages of the new centre another critical element to the shot putter’s ongoing success has been access out of the centre to a whole range of key HPSNZ service providers, including his physiotherapist Tamsin Chittock, strength and conditioning coach John Wilson and mental skills coach, John Quinn.

“To have a high-quality therapist on site allows us to be more proactive rather than reactive to Tom’s medical care,” explains Tom’s coach Dale Stevenson.

“ High Performance Sport NZ have been really good at driving that. It has made a huge difference. John Wilson spends more time with Tom than almost any other team member and he has been great at delivering Tom’s strength and conditioning plan.”

The regional training hub has also over time adapted and evolved to the ongoing high performance environment requirements of the 2016 Olympic shot put bronze medallist.

Following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake the city has suffered from a paucity of adequate facilities and Tom often had to seek school facilities for throwing sessions.

So, after an area of land by the Apollo Projects Centre was identified High Performance Sport NZ and Christchurch City Council teamed up to address the issue and a shot and throws area was built. Meanwhile, to offer additional support an indoor throwing area was also configured and a wider training group was created for Tom to be based out of the centre.

The Apollo Projects Centre | Christchurch

“I’m really proud of the infrastructure we put in around Tom Walsh,” explains Scott.

“We needed to make sure Tom had an outdoor throwing area directly adjacent to the gym for his combination training and we also worked with Tom and his coach to build an indoor throwing area of around 10m (handy for those chilly Christchurch winters).”

With Tom enjoying a stellar 2017 and with the consistent backing of a neatly packaged high performance support network based out of the Apollo Projects Centre, the 25-year-old Kiwi can look ahead with confidence to 2018, where he will seek to defend his World Indoor title and secure gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

“Being based out of the Christchurch hub has been very much the right solution for his career trajectory,” says Dale.

“It has become a crucial part of the landscape in the city and it has helped not just Tom but dozens of other athletes from a range of sports.”

Yet perhaps the final word should go to the World shot champion himself.

“ High Performance Sport NZ have done a great job,” he says. “There are always going to be problems with systems but I’m lucky that I am supported with the best service providers. It is great to have access to such facilities and I believe compared to other systems around the world, New Zealand’s is the very best.”