The whole package behind Southland athletes

BRENDON MCDERMOTT
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2014

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OPINION: You only have to turn on the television lately to see the success of Southland sportspeople on the international stage.

The Commonwealth Games have been fantastic so far, and Southland athletes have claimed four medals (Eddie Dawkins and Tom Scully each winning their respective events and Matt Archibald and Pieter Bulling both winning bronze).

Steph McKenzie has also performed admirably, and Jenna MacKenzie (shooting) and Anna Rankin (badminton) have also competed well so far.

Seven athletes from a small province producing outstanding results on the Commonwealth stage makes for good viewing.

The establishment of the Southland Velodrome (now SIT Zero Fees Velodrome) has undoubtedly played a critical role in the success of the track cyclists in Glasgow.

Up until November last year it was Bike NZ's training home and it has certainly done a huge amount for the growth of the sport here.

A lot of people showed tremendous foresight and belief to get our Velodrome up and running, and that's really paying dividends now.

Likewise, the Academy Southland programme - which started about the same time as the Velodrome was built - has provided a massive boost to our young athletes.

All seven of the Southland athletes competing at the Commonwealth Games this year have been part of the Academy Southland programme, which is designed to prepare athletes for the high performance environment.

Jason McKenzie and his team do a superb job, teaching young athletes about key aspects such as nutrition, strength and conditioning and mental skills - all of which are key components of competing in an environment like the Commonwealth Games.

What's exciting now is the development within the programme, which is offering a similar service to coaches.

The seven Southland athletes in Glasgow no doubt have impressive natural talent, but there's also no doubt that they have benefited from the guidance of quality coaching.

So it's about the whole package - the athlete, the coaching and pathways to maximise the number of Southlanders that we can get to events like the Commonwealth Games.

If we can continue to create a culture of quality coaching and talent development in the south, we can certainly look forward to plenty more southerners achieving at the highest level.

That makes you proud to be a Southlander.

*Brendon McDermott is Sport Southland chief executive.

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- The Southland Times

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