A group of female Olympians has this week graduated from a New Zealand Olympic Committee run initiative designed to help athletes transition from sport performance to sport leadership.

The New Zealand Women's Sport Leadership Academy (WSLA NZ) was launched in 2017, with 18 Olympians involved in the first edition of the 18-month programme. WSLA NZ is being run in partnership with the University of Chichester, England which launched the first international WSLA programme in 2014.

The academy, which is run for New Zealand Olympians, provides a unique learning environment that supports the women to further develop their leadership competencies over four workshops. It also links the participants into a global network of female leaders in sport.

WSLA NZ Programme Leader Pauline Harrison says over the past year and a half the group has upskilled significantly.

“All the women have made really good progress towards achieving their goals, and the skills and behaviours they have developed will allow them to step up in sport leadership locally and internationally,” said Harrison.

“In addition each woman has been linked up with a mentor and this relationship has been of huge benefit as they help with implementing a personal development plan and setting priorities.

“The feedback we’ve received shows that the success of the programme is largely due to the unique environment that’s created, it truly is a safe space to learn and grow.”

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Above: Alison Shanks and Dame Patsy Reddy

The course culminated in a special project which was presented to a panel of New Zealand sport leaders on Monday, September 10th.

The participants worked in groups for the projects, with the presentations covering issues relating to women in sport, including coaching, governance, high performance, and visibility of women in sport.

NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith says the NZOC facilitated the programme as it recognises that women are significantly under represented across high level sport administration.

"Over recent Olympic and Commonwealth Games we have seen our sportswomen create history on the field of play through their performances and achievements, but as we look around sport nationally and internationally, we see a lack of women in key roles. This programme is part of the solution. The accumulated experience these Olympians have gained in their sporting careers combined with this programme, will help form a wonderful platform of leadership for the sector.”

Smith added that the sporting sector needs more women who are willing to make a positive impact whether as a coach, mentor, manager or governor.

“Women who have global experiences are strong, capable and passionate. We’re confident these graduates will make their mark on the sporting sector and we wish them all the best.”

WSLA NZ participant Chantelle Brunner says the academy has exposed her to a wide range of learnings.

“Being part of the Women's Sport Leadership Academy has been a tremendously rewarding and challenging experience. It’s been great to connect with other female Olympians and to develop our leadership skills and behaviours in a supportive and encouraging environment.

“The group project has been a lesson in planning, teamwork and collaboration and has left me inspired by the talents of the amazing women in my group. It’s been a privilege to be part of this first intake and to add our voices to those of the women who have been through the WSLA programme globally.”

A free to use video about the WSLA NZ programme can be accessed at this link.

The New Zealand programme will run again in 2019, with a fresh intake of female Olympians.

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Above: WSLA graduates 

About WSLA

WSLA is an international leadership programme for women leaders in sport, run in partnership with the University of Chichester in the UK. The Academy was started in 2014 and the programme has been delivered to 6 cohorts of women, including a programme for African women in Botswana. The New Zealand women will be joining a network of 230 WSLA graduates from 42 different countries.
2017-18 Participants:

Kim Archibald, Olympian #1068 – Hockey
Nicky Austin, Olympian #891- Rowing
Tina Bell-Kake, Olympian #595 – Hockey
Chantal Brunner, Olympian #692 – Athletics
Cath Cheatley, Olympian #1009 - Cycling
Shane Collins, Olympian #604 - Hockey
Megan Compain, Olympian #775 - Basketball
Sarah Cowley Ross, Olympian #1134 - Athletics
Aly Fitch, Olympian #708 - Swimming
Kirsten Hellier, Olympian #673 - Athletics
Hannah McLean, Olympian #932 - Swimming
Nin Roberts, Olympian #946 - Hockey
Ali Shanks, Olympian #1085 – Cycling
Beth Smith, Olympian #922 - Hockey
Jackie Smith, Olympian #847 – Softball
Heelan Tompkins, Olympian #964 - Equestrian
Tania Tupu, Olympian #769 - Basketball
Robyn Wong, Olympian #975 - Cycling – Mountain bike

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