July 2022, Articles

Two different paths to Te Hāpaitanga, one shared highlight

Participants in the Te Hāpaitanga coaching programme came together in Auckland earlier in the month for the second residential course of five scheduled for the 18-month programme.

HPSNZ sat down with two of the participants who have taken very different paths from very different sports on their Te Hāpaitanga journey so far.  We asked Holly Sullivan, founder of a mortgage advising company by day and boxing coach by night and weekend, and Fiona Bourke, Rowing NZ’s National Pathway coach, to share their highlights from the three-day residential course.

HPSNZ: What was the most important source of inspiration for you from the residential course?

Holly: There were so many special outtakes throughout the course and in fact throughout the Te Hāpaitanga programme so far.  However, if I had to choose one it would be the collaboration and amazing inspiration from being with a group of women who share so many similarities yet are from very diverse sports and pathways.  I learned so much about the systems and communications approaches of other sports, all of which I can take away and implement in a way that works for me and my boxers.

Fiona: Connecting with other women across a range of sports and experiences is simply awesome.  Being able to share and learn from others’ skills and experiences to elevate your own performance is invaluable.  The informal conversations, whether debriefing a session or getting feedback, was a real highlight and helps to elevate the entire group, regardless of your sport or level of experience.  The opportunity to be in the same room to pick the brains of your colleagues, challenging your own thinking, was fantastic.  It is not only a great learning environment but serves as an amazing support network as we simultaneously pursue performance.

HPSNZ: What was a particular highlight for you?

Holly: I’ve got two highlights.  Firstly, I learned so much about my personal style and behaviours from the Cultivating Leadership session.  On the first day we had to have a challenging conversation with an athlete which was videoed and unpicked to help us improve this really important technique.  I’ve got a couple of real work ons, not the least of which was some facial expressions I was totally unaware I used.  What I had to focus on was the need to walk in someone else’s shoes.

A second highlight was the session in which we had to teach our group a technical skill from our sport.  My group comprised an equestrian rider, a rower and a cyclist and I chose to teach them the very technical Cuban hook off.   As you can imagine it was fun, funny and very challenging.  More importantly it reinforced the need to learn how to deliver and accept and use feedback to improve performance.

Fiona: Like Holly teaching a technical skill to my group was a real highlight.  Underpinning the ability to coach and communicate, the session reinforced the importance of being adaptable and creative with no equipment, no resources – just you, your imagination and your ability to communicate.  The cornerstone of rowing is rhythm and to learn this, athletes must first understand the sequencing of the rowing stroke. Sitting on the floor and asking the group to imagine being in a boat on the water, hearing birds tweeting, wind rustling and water flowing presented a creative challenge.  Using other more commonly known movements practiced in the weights room I was able to help a group of people who had never rowed try to grasp and execute the skill.  An important part of the session was the feedback on your delivery – was the situation formal or informal, was it purposeful, how did I respond to the challenge, did I create an environment where people could ask further questions.  In a small space of time, I was able to walk away with the basic knowledge of the Cuban Hook Off, The Madison Sling and shortening/lengthening the stride on a horse, all while in room with no ring, no boxing gloves, no velodrome, no bikes and certainly no horses! This session makes you reflect very deeply and recognise the impact of every action – voice, gestures, movements and more.

Te Hāpaitanga participants met with HPSNZ senior management on their second residential course.