© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Rowing New Zealand losing more young talent overseas

Tommy Flavill
190713RowingWorldCup3 226
Rowing NZ Oar  Steve McArther

Rowing New Zealand is losing depth in their elite squad due to young athletes accepting scholarships overseas.

For years young Kiwi rowers have been leaving the Rowing New Zealand pathway to row for American universities and gain a better education.

American colleges will offer full scholarships to the athletes while also offering academic tutoring, state-of-the-art coaching, and lavish training facilities to help build on their rowing ability.

Even amid the Covid-19 dangers, many athletes are still choosing to pull out of the Rowing New Zealand program to take their talents overseas to complete their tertiary study.

Kobe Miller is one of New Zealand's promising young rowers who has been scouted by American colleges following his impressive effort in the NZ Junior team in 2019. Miller will be racing for the fern in the Under 21 team against Australia in August and has since received six different scholarship offers from colleges in America.

 

"The world is your oyster over there. They have Olympic weight lifting coaches, state-of-the-art rowing facilities, and free education, which is the most appealing to me."

He thinks an increase of funding towards Rowing New Zealand's program would make the pathway more appealing to departing athletes.

Rowing New Zealand recently got rid of the Regional Performance Centre (RPC) program which would help transition promising high school rowers into the high-performance pathway.

"Without the RPC program, you are left to fend for yourself, pay for your own gym membership and pay for club fees, but if you go to the States everything is paid for. That's the line between rowing here and over there."

Miller said while Rowing New Zealand was making a new program designed to help Kiwis studying abroad get back into the pathway, it was still hard to make the transition.

"It's hard to keep in contact by sending through your erg [rowing machine] scores, the water time is different over there and it's difficult to see how well you're doing compared to the athletes in NZ."

Chairman of the Canterbury Rowing Association, Justin Wall, said Rowing New Zealand's opinion had changed to take into consideration people may opt out of the pathway. The new program is designed to allow athletes to compete abroad to develop their skills and come back to the Elite pathway after Rowing NZ began noticing a lack in-depth to the team.

The new National Pathway Program is designed to support and follow the needs of their athletes whether it be supporting them in their studies overseas, or simply assisting them if an athlete is changing cities due to work, Rowing New Zealand will help young rowers to keep them on the high-performance pathway.

While Kiwi universities are also offering athletes scholarships for tertiary study, Wall said it was inevitable athletes want to choose the better option. 

"We don't see America as a threat to the program, but a place where athletes can go to be further developed," Wall said.

"If Rowing New Zealand is going to put in procedures to the pathway that keep children in NZ then Rowing New Zealand needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves whether they are keeping people in NZ for the benefit of them or the athlete."