Thu, Oct 5, 2023 7:16 PM

Rowing NZ launches restructured pathway programme


Peter Jones

The RPCs [Rowing Performance Centres] have come and gone, but there are a couple of new acronyms for the country’s oarsmen and women to get their heads around.

Recently, Rowing NZ announced the advent of the SPH [Summer Performance Hubs] and SDH [Summer Development Hubs].

They are pilot programmes to replace the RPCs, which were disestablished in 2021 after operating for over 20 years as centralised training set-ups beneath the national programme at Lake Karāpiro.

“The RPC model went because of the large centralisation here at Lake Karāpiro. The old model didn't cope with having 45 athletes in this building,” said RNZ’s athlete development manager Janey Charlton.

She feels the new structure adds “a major piece of the puzzle for the sport in this country”.

“There's now a big gap between the athletes outside the building and the athletes inside the building.

“The clubs are operating a really good club programme, but the athletes are not at the standard to come into the set-up here.

“So, what the Summer Performance Hubs are trying to do is put in place a daily training environment that pushes the athlete’s level so that they're ready to be one of our top under-23 athletes or can come into the building as an elite.”

Under the new set-up there will be two SPH hubs, one based out of Waikato RC and one out of Avon RC, places awarded through a contested process. There are expected to be around 15 athletes spread across the two centres which are aimed at top-end under-23s and elites.

Athletes will be invited through a talent ID process with no pressure to change club allegiance.

Four SDHs will be established. Marlborough’s Wairau River will be a base for one of them, along with Auckland, Wellington and Lake Dunstan. The SDHs will focus on the next step of development for athletes identified through age group trials and teams or pathway standards.

Rowing NZ say there is potential for more SDHs as the pilot scheme evolves, with locations selected partly on pools of suitable athletes already in that region. Funding will be available at SDH level to assist coaching and development opportunities for identified athletes within clubs and regions.

The Development Hub model came about after extra consultation with the rowing community, said Janey.

“We want to show the younger athletes that they can stay at home for a couple of years and that they don't need to make a decision about moving for rowing until they've established themselves a little bit more as a person,” she says.

“They've got a lot of other life changes going on and we want them to go into the development hubs and have a really good club or senior level rowing experience.”

She said that, under the old RPC model, a lot of people had moved straight out of school and away from their support base and really struggled.

The choice of locations and differing arrangements within each SDH gives an insight into how it won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.

The Hubs would also be structured so as not to cannibalise clubs as well, says Janey.

“The idea is that if athletes do need to move, they will actually keep their own club alliance, they don't need to change to that club.”

The first intake for the 2023 Summer Performance Hubs was recently named, with Wairau oarsman Fred Vavasour included in the group of five women and 10 men.

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