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National Pathway for High Performance Development Athletes

  • 08 Apr 21

On 9 February 2021 Rowing NZ announced an evolution to its High Performance Athlete Pathway based on evidence gathered through an extensive review. We are now excited to announce the appointment of three National Pathway Coaches to support the development of both athletes and coaches aspiring to represent New Zealand. Fiona Bourke, Mark Stallard and Nick Barton will be working with coaches and athletes across New Zealand to ensure they are able to create an environment around them that optimises their chances of succeeding, regardless of their location. National Pathway Coaches will also provide regional based coaches and athletes with the tools and expertise that they need to allow them to progress through the High Performance Pathway.

Over the past 20 years, Rowing NZ’s High Performance Programme has evolved. This period has seen the introduction of a small, centralised High Performance programme base at Lake Karapiro, followed by the creation of four Rowing Performance Centres (RPCs). After the introduction of RPCs an expansion of the centralised programme at Lake Karapiro incorporated a women’s and men’s eight programme. There are now approximately 50 elite athletes training full time at Lake Karapiro as members of Rowing NZ’s Elite Team and the newly created Elite Development Squad which was introduced in 2020 to support athletes training towards the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

This evolution across the last four Olympic cycles has resulted in unprecedented success at World Rowing Championships and the Olympic Games. During this period New Zealand has seen both advancements in technology and societal shifts, and the support prospective Olympians need and want has evolved alongside these. Rowing NZ have identified the need to reshape the athlete pathway, and recognise the importance of using an evidence-based approach to ensure we are doing what is best to support all athletes at each stage of their pathway within our sport. Research shows that Rowing NZ need to support more athletes earlier on in the pathway but afford them patience in developing. Accordingly, National Pathway Coaches will be working to support athletes in their home environment whilst also providing opportunities for athletes to come together for regional and national development camps.

Rowing NZ’s High Performance Athlete Pathway must adapt to ensure that the support and guidance provided to athletes is age and stage appropriate – emphasising patience with young athletes to allow them the time they need to develop physically and holistically, whilst having the opportunity to race competitively and enjoy the sport alongside education or career development. We need to adopt a long-term approach - understanding when to prioritise rowing and when to prioritise personal development goals to allow athletes to specialise when appropriate for them. A thriving domestic rowing community is a key part of creating sustainable success and schools, clubs and universities form a key part of New Zealand’s high performance pathway. Rowing NZ is currently engaged in discussions with the Associations and RPC entities around creating opportunities for athletes and coaches to continue their development and finalising the athlete development pathway. In conclusion of these discussions the pathway will be published on the Rowing NZ website.

Rowing NZ encourages athletes to continue to pursue rowing throughout the winter season. There are still trials taking place for representative teams throughout April, and athletes not involved are encouraged to take a break over this period. As a result of this, no regional camps will be hosted prior to May 2021. If you would like to receive further information around regional training opportunities, please register your interest here

Coaching Team

Nick Barton

Nick began rowing at Whanganui Collegiate School and continued at Otago University whilst completing degrees in Commerce and Physical Education. After finishing rowing in 2004, Nick became the Regional Development Officer in Waikato and Head Coach at Sacred Heart Girls’ College in Hamilton. Nick later spent time abroad, including coaching at Oxford University, before moving back to New Zealand in 2010 and coaching at Villa Maria in Christchurch. Post the Canterbury earthquakes, Nick accepted the Head Coach position at Sacred Heart Girls’ College Hamilton, and returned to the Waikato region. Nick remained with Sacred Heart for five years, during which time he coached the New Zealand U18 North Island team two years in a row, Trans-Tasman University team in 2015 and the New Zealand U21 team in 2016. Nick also coached the Waikato University women’s eight for the Gallagher Great Race in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 Nick moved to St Paul’s Collegiate and undertook a Head Coach position where his athletes won the U18 coxed four event for the first time, medalling in the pair and eight events and went on to represent New Zealand in the World Rowing Junior team. In 2017 Nick became Assistant Coach at Waikato RPC and coached the New Zealand Junior women’s four. Nick has been with Waikato RPC and the New Zealand Junior team ever since. In 2018 Nick coached both the junior women’s four and junior women’s double to bronze medals in Racice. In 2019 Nick was selected as Lead Junior Coach and coached the women’s four to 5th place in Tokyo. Nick has continued his role as Lead U19 Coach and has driven changes to the programme to assist the athletes in their overall development. Nick has also completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management and been part of several coach development programmes with Rowing NZ, Sport NZ and HPSNZ.

Fiona Bourke

Fiona grew up in the Central Hawkes Bay but didn’t start her rowing journey until joining the Otago University Rowing Club in 2007. Fiona first represented New Zealand in 2010 as a member of the U23 women’s eight. She transitioned to the elite team after gaining selection into the 2010 World Rowing Championships team to compete at Lake Karapiro and remained with the Elite team for six years. Alongside her multiple World Rowing Cup and World Rowing Championship medals, she attended the 2012 London Olympics in the women’s quad and was a World Champion in the women’s double in 2014. Following her retirement from professional rowing, Fiona travelled to the USA to be Waterfront Co-director of a summer camp under the Camp America program. It was here she connected with Harvard University where she became the assistant coach for the heavyweight women’s crew. Fiona’s role included coaching crews in preparation for the Ivy League Championships, recruitment, and logistical organisation. Since returning to New Zealand in 2019, Fiona has been assistant coach at Auckland RPC and more recently Waikato RPC. Fiona was selected as U21 coach in 2020. Fiona is a qualified accountant, a degree she completed while she was part of the New Zealand rowing team and has since completed an Advanced Gelato course at Gelato University in Bologna, Italy. Fiona’s involvement over the years with young athletes pursuing their goals has left her passionate about working in the development space and contributing to the progression and support of these athletes. Outside of coaching, Fiona enjoys spending time in the outdoors and baking.

Mark Stallard

Mark first began coaching at Queen Charlotte College in 1986 and later moved to Wairau Rowing Club. Mark has remained involved at Wairau Rowing Club since 1999. Mark joined Central RPC as Head Coach in 2005, a position he held until early April 2021. In 2004 Mark joined Rowing NZ’s High Performance programme as coach of the lightweight men’s double, and has since coached multiple Junior, U23 and elite crews. In 2010 Mark coached the elite men’s eight crew who made the A Final of the World Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro, the first occasion a New Zealand crew had done so since 1984. To further his coaching skills Mark has undertaken coaching development programmes including HPSNZ’s Coach Accelerator course, has been the recipient of numerous Prime Minister Scholarships and has attended two World Rowing coaching conferences focusing on sports medicine and injury prevention. In 2001 Mark was recipient of the Rowing NZ Coach of the Year award. Now based in Blenheim, Mark is a qualified boat builder and outside of rowing enjoys fishing, biking and surfing.