February 2024, Articles

Te Tūāpapa coaching programme driving Paris goals for Hayden Wilde’s coach

While Kiwi triathlon star Hayden Wilde is a well-known face on the international triathlon circuit, his coach back in New Zealand, Craig Kirkwood, is quietly going about his business to help put the star on the podium in Paris with support from HPSNZ’s Te Tūāpapa Coach Accelerator programme.

Craig, a 10-year full time coaching veteran, feels a little like a born again coach with the new support and skills he is receiving courtesy of Te Tūāpapa, its programme lead Christian Penny, and his HPSNZ mentor, Greg Fraine.

Te Tūāpapa, the coaching programme developed to support HPSNZ’s priority campaign coaches to sustain existing podium success, feels like it was created specifically with a coach like Craig in mind.

His 18-month long involvement with Te Tūāpapa to date will, according to Craig, be hugely important to helping Hayden and his other Paris prospect, 1500m athlete Sam Tanner, achieve their Olympic goals.

While Craig has many years of high performance coaching under his belt, Christian says Te Tūāpapa is providing Craig with specialist sports expertise which he acknowledges he needs to design a bespoke programme for Hayden to achieve success in Paris.  A task often made more challenging with Hayden based primarily overseas and managing his professional career as well as his pinnacle event goals.

Enter Craig’s Te Tūāpapa mentor, Greg Fraine, himself a former Olympic and Commonwealth Games cyclist and high performance coach with Triathlon NZ.

The one-on-one mentoring aspect of Te Tūāpapa is one of its unique benefits and one which Greg believes will not only help Craig’s coaching of his elite athletes but will also help him develop as a well-rounded, highly capable person, on and off the track.

Craig says his work with Christian and Greg is invaluable.  “To work with a mentor who has the skills I don’t have is an amazing opportunity.  Greg challenges my thinking, helps me get clear on what I need to do and where I need to go, and gives me the skills to have the open and honest conversations that I need to have with my athletes to help them succeed in Paris.”

For his part, Greg says one of the strengths he sees in the mentoring relationship is that it allows Craig to focus on coaching while he, Greg, provides advice and support in the peripheral but important parts of high performance sport.

Craig and Greg get together on a formal basis a couple of times a month but also on an ‘as required’, more informal basis to ensure that he is on track and has everything he needs to help Hayden reach the podium in Paris.

While the mentoring part of the Te Tūāpapa programme is a standout feature, the programme also includes a series of inhouse workshops which help coaches like Craig to be challenged on their ability to ask the hard questions, to be uncomfortable and to learn not to provide answers for athletes but rather to ask the right questions and let them answer for themselves.  “It is so important that coaches don’t push their thinking onto athletes but rather let them find the answers and do their own thinking,” says Craig.  “This also means more open conversations that are athlete led and which lead to more productive discussions about outcomes.”

Craig says the small group nature of the workshops provides a safe environment.  “I would encourage all high performance coaches with podium potential athletes to consider Te Tūāpapa.  For me it has been invaluable and provides the highest level of support which is, for example, a really big shift from leading into Tokyo where I pretty much had no support.

“The programme is very high level, is bespoke by nature to ensure individual needs are front and centre, and focusses on managing people, driving critical thinking.

“It’s also great to be in the same room with other high performance coaches from a wide range of sports who bring a different lens but more often than not have the same issues and challenges.”

Craig Kirkwood flanked by his Olympic hopeful athletes Hayden Wilde (left) and Sam Tanner (right)
Craig Kirkwood flanked by his Olympic hopeful athletes Hayden Wilde (left) and Sam Tanner (right)