Kashif Shuja has been entrusted with bringing Manawatu's young athletes through to the highest stage.
Squash professional Shuja has been named as Manawatu's coach-in-residence for the new Pathway to Podium scheme, a talent development programme to identify emerging athletes and prepare them for the high performance sport system.
Five-time national champion Shuja said he had developed a passion for helping youngsters achieve their goals and would be using all his experience as a squash coach.
"If you have the direction you need, you know if you want it or not," he said.
Pathway to Podium is meant to cover the gap between young athletes and those who go on to the elite level in the Olympic sports, aiming to have them winning medals at the 2020 and 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games or at world championships.
Shuja said he would have some learning to do with the sports he wasn't as familiar with, but there is a lot of support available and there are some similarities across all of them.
"I'll need coaches' support, but the principles are the same - looking after diet, conditioning, managing time.
"The basic principles are the same. If they're not getting one or the other, I'll suggest ways to best perform at the next level."
The Manawatu athletes are: Chris Arbuthnott (para swimming), Luke Mudgway (cycling), Kate Stewart (cycling), Jordan Castle (cycling), Jaimee Leader (triathlon), Lizzie Stannard (triathlon), Charlotte Grayling (equestrian), Bonnie Farrant, (equestrian) and Ashley Exeter (para athletics).
They will be given individual performance plans to determine if they need training regimes, strength and conditioning, a special diet or a psychologist, especially if they haven't done any high performance work.
"Growing up I had no idea of nutrition," Shuja said. "If I didn't have breakfast I thought I would be lighter during the day.
"If the information is available, the human brain works out what's required to help yourself improve."
The programme will have 14 hubs across the country in the main centres, with the aim of increasing the number of athletes from 161 to 350 after the next intake later in the year, and 150 coaches.
The Manawatu hub is being run between High Performance Sport New Zealand, Massey University and Sport Manawatu.
Palmerston North swimming coach Andrew Nicholls was Massey's coach-in-residence last year.
- Manawatu Standard
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