May 2023, Articles

Mentoring invaluable part of Te Hāpaitanga programme

Snow Sports NZ coach Lucy Brown’s development has gone from feeling she wasn’t quite good enough for a place on the HPSNZ Te Hāpaitanga coaching programme to a sense of belonging and purpose.

As one of the younger and less experienced coaches on the programme, Lucy says she is very much at the start of her coaching journey whereas most of her group are well into their coaching life.

“I really didn’t think I had a chance of getting into the programme, so I was absolutely stoked when I was accepted into the second cohort,” she says. “I was surprised how quickly I felt I was growing in character, reaching new levels of confidence and benefiting from sharing experiences with other girls on the courses.”

Lucy, an Alpine Skiing Coach, spent five months teaching an FIS (International Ski and Snowboard Federation) group of 16 to 21 year olds in Europe before heading back to a coaching role in Queenstown for the domestic winter season.

Working and gaining practical experience overseas is invaluable, says Lucy. “It did however make doing some of the work sessions within Te Hāpaitanga more difficult. But that’s where the fantastic mentoring part of the programme came into its own.”

All Te Hāpaitanga participants are assigned a mentor, an experienced coach usually from a different sporting background. Lucy says she is extremely lucky to have the legendary Raylene Bates, the Athletics NZ Para athletics coach, as her mentor.

“Raylene was not only super approachable and available while I was overseas, but she freely passes on her incredible insights and knowledge which has been invaluable.”

For her part, Raylene says the mentoring role within Te Hāpaitanga is unique. “It has been designed to bring out the best in our women and to help them pursue their goals and dreams.

“As mentors we are travelling the pathway with them. Our role is to guide, not tell, walk alongside, advise and challenge.”

Raylene says that with Lucy based overseas they had to rely on phone calls rather than face to face coffee shop catch ups when they are both in New Zealand.

The mentoring component of Te Hāpaitanga is based on a set of proven guidelines however Raylene says an important feature of the initiative is having a mentor from a different sport.

“This allows the focus to be on the art of coaching, not the technical aspects of a particular sport. Skills such as listening, respect and trust are transferrable across sports as is the ability to handle difficult conversations.

“The fixed activity within the mentoring role is to go into our assigned coach’s environment, watch them coach to get a holistic understanding of their daily challenges and help them work towards the goals they have articulated in their PDP, as well as provide support and advice on decision making.

“Lucy is a young woman starting on her journey and I have been impressed watching her deal with athletes between the ages of 12 and 18. Unlike some of the other coaches on the programme Lucy is not a parent yet she needs to have many of those skills to deal with her young aspiring athletes.”

From their respective sides of the relationship, both Lucy and Raylene are united in their praise for the Te Hāpaitanga programme.

“HPSNZ’s funding of my participation in Te Hāpaitanga is invaluable. Quite simply I wouldn’t have had this amazing and transformative opportunity without it,” says Lucy.

“Not only has it helped fund my involvement in the programme when I’m in New Zealand but it also enabled my travel to Europe for my international coaching opportunity which has been extremely valuable to my development, but unpaid.”

For Raylene, Te Hāpaitanga is a programme that is what she describes as absolutely powerful for sport as a whole in New Zealand. “This initiative gives coaches the confidence to carve their own path and to aim for excellence in what is often a male dominated environment. But saying that, it is also a wonderful example of collaboration between men and women to provide our next generation of high-performance women coaches with every opportunity.”

Lucy Brown
Lucy Brown