Top schools spare no expense for elite athletes

ELITE TRAINERS: Matty Lansdown, left, and Nicolas McCurran are making the most of Hamilton Boys’ High School’s gym facilities in their pursuit of excellence.
ELITE TRAINERS: Matty Lansdown, left, and Nicolas McCurran are making the most of Hamilton Boys’ High School’s gym facilities in their pursuit of excellence.

Hamilton schools are spending huge amounts of money on facilities and programmes to cater for elite athletes.

St Peter's School, Hamilton Boys' High School and St Paul's Collegiate all have programmes to develop their top young athletes using the best coaches and the best facilities in the region.

While the schools say they are not competing for young athletes, and there are strict rules against recruiting talent, the development of their sports programmes has not gone unnoticed.

St Peter's possesses some of the best sports facilities of any school in New Zealand.

It has a driving range, a pool, a hockey turf, and now there's a world class velodrome on its doorstep.

St Paul's is new to the high performance party, but is eager to catch up with strong coaching at all levels to nurture talent.

Hamilton Boys' High School has a history of successful sports teams.

Its rugby team are world champions, and the hockey team are national champs.

Boys' High elite sport manager Sean Botherway said he believes his school has the best human resources of any school in the region.

"I guess that means the coaching quality, the people we have in our sports, they're the main focus we have had in building a strong sports programme," Botherway said.

"St Peter's quite obviously have the best physical resources of any school in the region, maybe the country.

"That's why we've focused on our coaching, on our management. But it's also why we're trying to catch up on the physical aspects."

To catch up, the school is planning a $35 million sporting complex to be built in three stages.

The first stage will be to build a new hockey turf and tennis courts and redevelopment of the school's existing swimming pool.

It is hoped the project will begin later this year, and will eventually include an artificial football turf, water-polo pool, indoor hockey facilities, cricket nets, a sprint training track, multi-use warm-up turf and administration facilities including shared and community clubrooms.

"Obviously, we have the best hockey team in the country but no hockey turf," Botherway said.

"So we want to develop our facilities and cater for that, but the coaching and the pathway we have is really important."

For St Peter's School the facilities are already in place, and the focus is on developing their students' potential.

Sports manager Amigene Metcalfe said year 9 and 10 students can take part in a subject called the elite athletes course, which teaches students all they need to know about being an elite athlete.

"It's limited to students who are achieving at a regional level or higher, and have the ability or work ethic or drive to go higher," Metcalfe said.

"It's pretty general, but it covers high performance sport across the board. It's aimed at those top performers at junior level."

St Peter's has also set up a performance excellence programme, which sees the school help manage the work load of elite athletes performing at a national level.

Students must have won a national medal or represent New Zealand to be invited onto the programme.

"It's just a support system around them," Metcalfe said.

"It brings together all aspects of their schooling, bringing together the school deans, their coaches, the families, and they develop a calendar and a plan about when the pressure points will be.

"It relieves a bit of the stress of juggling it all."

St Paul's Collegiate principal Grant Lander said their newly launched high performance programme is aimed at developing current students.

The early focus has been on improved coaching across all codes, from junior level up to their top sports teams.

"For us, we're a big boarding school, with 286 boarders, and over the next two years it will grow to about 340.

"We want to be able to offer those students coming from areas outside the Hamilton area a high quality experience.

"That's not just sport, but academic and artistic as well. It's the reality of secondary schooling in the 21st century.

"You have to offer high quality arts programmes, you have to offer high quality sports programmes, and you have to offer high quality academic programmes."

Schools are not allowed to recruit or head hunt athletes in New Zealand although there are often rumours that it is occurring.

Each of the schools offer a limited number of scholarships for top athletes, but only enrolled students can apply.

The schools all said there is pride in the success of other schools in the region, as Waikato makes a name as the place to be for high performance athletes. "For us, it's great to have teams like Boys' High just down the road," Lander said.

"We played their hockey team the other night and drew 1-1. It gives you a huge boost to draw with national champions."

The sporting success is by no means restricted to the schools mentioned, with Hamilton Girls' High School boasting several top athletes and sports teams.

Waikato Diocesan School also has a strong sporting presence in Hamilton.

"I think Waikato as a region is getting stronger and stronger," Metcalfe said.

"It can only be good for our high schools. It's certainly something we didn't have when I was growing up, so I think it's great."

Waikato Times