May 2023, Articles

Regional Performance Pathway Pods connect New Zealand

Phase two of HPSNZ’s regional pathway project has seen the connection of ‘islands of excellence’ at either end of the country, establishing a New Zealand end to end performance network which allows each region to retain its local competitive advantage.

Head of Performance Pathways, Tracey Paterson, says that following the launch of the regional hub projects in Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin, a priority for the programme has been the development of regional performance pods to extend and connect the national network and develop quality expertise for athletes and coaches close to home.

Regional performance pods in Northland and Southland are outstanding examples of working nationally but delivering locally.  The pods are building on key regional partnerships, adopting a holistic development approach and leveraging strong legacies of sporting success across multiple sports.

In New Zealand’s southernmost region, Southland Pathways Lead Jason McKenzie is building on the success of Academy Southland which has been operating in the talent space with athletes and coaches for the past 17 years.

Jason says the region is proud of its success at World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Olympics and believes its local knowledge and history of knowing and understanding its community, athletes and their families has helped create an established pathway for the region.

“Critical to our success and what we have been able to build on with HPSNZ are partnerships with key Regional Sporting Organisations (RSOs) and with the Regional Sports Trust, Active Southland,” says Jason.

“HPSNZ’s commitment to building an end to end network has given us the ability to tap into national pathways, resources and expertise at a regional level.  This includes access to critical providers in the areas of S&C, Performance Life, Nutrition, Mental Wellbeing, Physiotherapy and more.  It also gives us access to important programmes such as the Core Knowledge coaching initiative which aligns coaches and athletes on a ‘best principles’ basis.

“Here in Southland we have always prided ourselves on having the best supported and prepared athletes, whether they are pre-high performance or high performance athletes.”

Jason cites cycling as a sport in which Southland has a proud history and which it will build on and apply to other sports.  “We currently have three of the nine national cyclists attending the Junior World Championships, that’s one-third of the team from here in Southland.”

Regional partnerships are also key to the development of Northland’s soon to be launched regional pod.

Northland Pathways Lead, Ady McKenzie, has tapped into her strong relationship with Northland Rugby Union to develop a partnership which enables HPSNZ pre-high performance and high performance athletes to use the union’s high class, two year old facility as the regional performance pod.

“The partnership we have with NRU means our local athletes can use all the facility has to offer – a quality environment, S&C, gym, conference rooms and more,” says Ady.

In addition to the NRU partnership, Ady has developed a good partnership with the Regional Sports Trust, Sport Northland.  “This partnership has been important from the start, helping us connect HPSNZ with RSOs, athletes and coaches.”

Sport Northland CEO Brent Eastwood says the relationship between Sport Northland and HPSNZ is significant for the region.  “The Northland Sports Talent hub distributes annual scholarships to talented young Northland athletes and is aligned with Sport NZ’s Balance is Better principles and the HPSNZ Performance regional pod which will provide further support for developing Northland’s pre- high performance athletes.”

With the Northland regional pod to be launched in mid-June, Ady says the next priorities in the regional pod’s development are three-fold: working with Sport Northland, its grant initiative, the Kauri Club and with RSOs to identify and nominate the best performing pre-high performance athletes in the region; gaining endorsements from NSOs for nominated athletes; and inviting athletes to join the regional pod.

“We will announce the athletes at the Performance Pod launch in June and we expect those athletes to come from across a broad range of podium and aspirational sports,” says Ady.

Jason and Ady are both passionate advocates of HPSNZ’s new focus on connecting regions to deliver one connected performance pathway.  “If regional New Zealand is strong and thriving, nationally we will thrive,” says Jason.

Southland's three cyclists selected for the Junior World team in the Mike Piper Training Centre at the ILT Stadium in Invercargill. From left: Marshall Erwood, Caitlin Kelly, Magnus Jamieson