November 2021, Articles

Q&A with Tracey Paterson

’I feel like sport has been my life’

Originating from rural Southland, Tracey Paterson has lived and breathed sport all her life – now she’s helping drive High Performance Sport New Zealand towards greater regional connection in her role as Head of Performance Pathways.

Question: What role has sport played in your life?

Tracey: I feel like sport has been my life – as an athlete, as a coach, as a manager, as a practitioner, as an administrator, and as a mother. I started in athletics in a small rural community in Southland. We had a fantastic coach at the local secondary school who built a squad – we had fun, we got better at what we did, and we travelled around the country. It inspired my later decisions. We’ve moved around the country a lot and when you’re involved in sport you get connected and feel a part of the community quickly. It’s the New Zealand way.

Question: How has your career to date prepared you for the new role of Pathways Manager at HPSNZ?

Tracey: Early on I moved to Auckland to work at the only sporting institute that existed at that time. I’ve lived and worked in Dunedin, Christchurch, Rotorua, Auckland and Whangarei.  I’ve often been out of my comfort zone, but I’ve been able to get to know communities and learn how they operate. I think that understanding of different communities and the diversity we have in New Zealand has given me a vision for how we can better connect New Zealand through our pathways work.

Question: What’s the initial focus of your role as Pathways Manager at HPSNZ?

Tracey: The initial focus has been helping people to understand our strategy, and why enhanced performance pathways matter. Currently we’re getting to know the country, and the people, and really trying to connect genuinely within the regions to find out who is there, what they’re doing, and how we can help.  And we’re looking for the next generation – working with the sports to provide clarity in their performance pathways, so that our up-and-coming athletes and coaches can make well informed decisions – and get access to the right support at the right time.

Question: Describe how the work you’ve started is a shift from before?

Tracey: The shift is towards clearer, more connected and transparent pathways – we’re supporting partner sports and regions to do that. We need to remain targeted and sharp on campaigns that are winning or close to winning, but we also need to connect to those coming through, so that we can optimise. Another priority is retaining the athletes moving out of the pathway to give back to the next generation.

Question: Who are some of the people you’re connecting with?

Tracey: We’ve appointed Regional Pathways Leads – piloting in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, and Hawkes Bay to start with. I’m supporting those people – asking what’s happening? what are you noticing? what are you hearing? Learning is key, and the pilots are geared towards learning before we move forwards next year.

Question: What does a great work day look like for you?

Tracey: A great day for me is connecting with the people – from all phases, inside and outside our organisation. I’m not working on stuff – I’m working with people, so a great day for me is when we can share solutions, be nimble and adapt quickly through working together.

Question: Any early highlights for you?

Tracey: A highlight for me is seeing and hearing about the great work that’s happening in the regions. I grew up in regional New Zealand so I know that people just get on with it. But it’s rewarding to know through all the crazy COVID changes that great people are still there doing great work.

Question: What’s your hope for what might be possible through building connection in New Zealand’s regions and sport communities?

Tracey: For me it is providing clarity – clarity in the pathway and clarity in what matters for people to be successful. I think we can really set up something that’s adaptable and flexible, yet tailored, and that harnesses the real qualities of New Zealand, and what’s in our DNA. If I can create some initiatives, sense of direction and clarity that really gets that started – then fantastic.