Beyond Sydney Drome

The blood sweat and tears over years
of preparation comes to head next month, as our athletes jostle for places on Olympic podiums.
Getting them there was long journey for the Sports Foundation. But having finished its job of building support for the athletes, it’s now over to each individual or team to perform on the day.
So it’s easy to think the Foundation is sitting back, waiting for the outcome – not so.
It’s well under way with new scheme to bring forth new talent in the next decade.

NZ Academy of Sport
Support for athletes will now be delivered by the newly named New Zealand Academy of Sport, (responsible to the Foundation) which will have three branches, in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.
Each of the three areas is partnership of tertiary institutions and local bodies who’ve come together as consortiums, and contracted to the Foundation to provide resources and expertise, from facilities to sports science.
To understand how it will work, it’s best to understand how the previous system worked. This was system of 17 sports academies that were bulk funded by the Foundation to deliver their own high performance programmes.
A few years back in the pursuit of continual improvement, the Foundation reviewed these programmes, finding some did very well, some could be improved, and some were going nowhere.
In an attempt to plan for the future, sports manager Katie Sadleir was despatched overseas to look at best practice in sport internationally. The best of these observations became the basis for the new scheme.
“We needed sports organisations to look more long term at developing athletes, rather than concentrating their resources on very small group of national squad members,” says Sports Foundation CEO, Chris Ineson.
“We needed to ensure that they had in place pathways for development that started from talent identification, through to international level.”
The partnership approach
With the blueprint drawn up, this was put to tender last September, through PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
The call for applications to deliver support to athletes elicited 36 registrations of interest from range of groups, some of whom got together to form the winning consortium.
“The tender document said we expected there would be consortiums, and we didn’t see one organisation that could provide everything in the region, so it was up to them what partnerships they established.”

The winners are
In Dunedin, the partners are Otago University, College of Education, Otago Polytechnic, Sport Otago, Dunedin City Council. They also have satellite services in Invercargill, with parties like Southland Polytechnic and in Christchurch, Lincoln and Canterbury Universities.
In Wellington, the partners are Wellington City Council, Central Institute of Technology, Upper Hutt City Council, Regional Sports Trust, and Wanganui City – because of its strong cycling links.
In Auckland the contract is with Auckland University of Technology, the University of Auckland, the Millennium Centre in Albany and the Waikato Polytechnic.
Each of the three centres will be managed by performance director, and the chairs are Lois Muir for the South Island, Sir Ronald Scott in Wellington, and AUT’s Derek McCormack in Auckland.

Card carrying athletes
The key to the system is an imported idea – national card system for athletes.
Cards will list the needs and progress of athletes. For example, in swimming, under the old academy programme, 20 young swimmers may have represented the country internationally, with little planning for the years 2004, or 2006.
Under the carding programme the swimming organisation will sit down with the director of the centre, and look at the most appropriate way for athletes to progress in their sport, and note this on their card.
If swimming has 60 carded athletes, 20 may be at the elite level and aiming for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, another 30 may be at national level, and another 20 have incredible talent and are just getting into the system.
Being carded means they have specific programmes for the kinds of support they need.
For instance at level four swimming – there might be 50 junior swimmers, and the swimming organisation has agreed that at that level they need to get two nutritional assessments year, medical screening when they need it, or have assistance with career education.
All those entitlements will be on their card – and all this information is of course, in an online database.
It is all these entitlements and services that are delivered through the various centres.
“We’ve always argued that to be on the top you have to intellectualise,” says Ineson. “I hate using that word because it sounds snobbish, but you have to think through everything to win. You need luck to certain extent but you’ve got far better chance of bringing home medals with preparation.
“Our objective is to widen the base of young talent coming through across range of sports and within sports. So we’ll go from 18 sports to 36 eventually, and athletes will go from 650 to 1500.
“Lifting the standard, is the only way to go forward, the same as in business.
“We don’t have the economies of scale the United States has, or the sort of money of Europe, so we’ll win by being smart, by outflanking the opposition in the fields we’re strong at. In fields we’re not strong at let’s cut our losses.”

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