How the Performance Development program has helped me

For a second year in a row, Kalani Gilbertson and Julia Padrutt will feature in the Performance Development squad. We chat to the teenage duo about life in the squad and how it has proved beneficial to their paddling careers.

Kalani Gllbertson

For rising North Shore Canoe Club paddler Kalani Gilbertson (see pictured above) a year in the CRNZ Performance Development program has unquestionably revolutionised his mindset.

The 18-year-old athlete, who developed earlier through the CRNZ Paddle ID program, insists he has enjoyed multiple benefits to being a Performance Development athlete, and it has helped overhaul his approach on many levels.

“My mindset has changed 100 per cent,” explains Kalani. “Whether it is to towards the sport, my work/life balance and thinking before I act. How my actions can affect other people. Being a part of the squad has given me a completely different mindset.” 

The landscape builder has relished the opportunity as a Performance Development paddler to spend periods of time training at Lake Karapiro under the tutelage of CRNZ Development Coach Craig Mustard. 

He has used the option to train in Cambridge on half-a-dozen occasions in the past 12 months – and he believes experiencing the same environment as the national men’s squad has had a range of benefits.

“At first, I was nervous to train with guys like Kurtis Imrie and Ashton Reiser, guys I really look up to,” he explains. “But now I’ve got to know them well, I’d class them as mates. “Even if I’m way behind them in training, to know that I’m doing the right things and that I’m on the right path is encouraging.

“If I’m lucky enough in the future to join that squad, then to have had this introduction will make the transition easier. It has built a lot of self-confidence.”

Coached by Gavin Elmiger in Auckland, Kalani also praises the collaboration between his personal coach and Craig Mustard during his times in Cambridge.

“Craig will ask Gav what training I’ve been doing and prepare what sessions to set accordingly,” he explains. “Craig is great on technical advice and what speeds I need to be paddling at.”

As a Performance Development athlete, Kalani also has access to train in several camps each year – often alongside the Paddle ID and Foundation athletes.

For the teenager, the main benefit of the camps is it has allowed him to train with paddlers of a similar quality – which can sometimes be hard to replicate when paddling in Auckland.

“It is really cool to train with the likes of Robson (Old), Sam (Ferkins), Daniel (Brown) and jump in a team boat with paddlers who are either not way faster or way slower than me,” he adds.

As a PD athlete, Kalani has also been introduced to regular online Zoom sessions on a range of different subjects. Topics covered have included; psychology, nutrition, how you react to winning and losing with expert advice dished out during the sessions by the likes of sports psychologist Dom Vettise and CRNZ Performance Manager Polly Powrie.

Meanwhile, he has also been able to access some of the HPSNZ support services – receiving input from strength and conditioning coach Adam Storey and Athlete Life Advisor Hannah McLean.

“Hannah helped me apply for a Prime Minister’s Scholarship, which was a good learning experience,” he explains. “She is someone I know is just a call away, if I need a hand with anything.”

The first 12 months on the program has been hugely transformative for Kalani and massively helped develop his paddling education.

“I’ve gone from previously just going through the motions in training to now knowing exactly why I’m training and how it is going to benefit me,” he adds. “I now have a much stronger mindset which enables me to get up at 4.15am every day for training, fit in eight or nine hours of work and then return to the lake for evening training. That has what has really developed over the past 12 months.”

Julia Padrutt

The teenage Waitara paddler admits they are numerous benefits to being a part of the Performance Development, but her personal highlight came last year as part of the Auckland Immersion Experience.

The three-day experience acted as a taster for bridging the gap between Performance Development and High Performance, and Julia (see pictured above) insists the exposure was invaluable.

“Should I make that next step to high performance next year, it will make the transition much easier,” explains Julia. 

“Having met the team and been up to AUT Millennium was really cool. It has given me a far greater understanding and extra motivation to make that next step.”

During her time in Auckland she trained twice with the under-23 squad members on Lake Pupuke and also got to be reacquainted with double Olympic K1 200m champion Lisa Carrington.

“I actually got to paddle with her in the K4 at my first nationals in 2018, but I’m sure she didn’t remember me. It was cool to meet her properly!”

The 17-year-old paddler says as a Performance Development athlete she experienced several training camps last year – often alongside the Paddle ID and Foundation squad members.

She says the days on camp are jam-packed with on water sessions and other workshops, but she believes the technique workshops run by CRNZ Development Coach Craig Mustard and CRNZ Performance Development Manager Aaron Osborne have been of huge benefit.

“It has been great to learn something from the camp and then return back to training in Waitara and put it into practise for your own sessions,” adds Julia.

The Performance Development squad have also had access to online courses via Zoom focusing on a range of topics including sports psychology. 

Julia, who is coached on a day to day basis by Brendon Metcalfe, said: “One session which stood out was how to be a better person goes hand in hand with becoming a better paddler.”

A year 13 student at New Plymouth Girls’ High School, Julia has also had access to Auckland-based HPSNZ Athlete Life Advisor Hannah McLean.

Hannah has dished out some key learnings on ensuring she adopts a balance approach to life. The advice has proved timely for Julia who faces some big life decisions in the near future.

“It has been particularly helpful looking into next year and the big jump of moving from school to university,” she adds.

There has been little doubt the emerging canoe sprint athlete has benefited enormously from 12 months of the programme and is looking forward to what the next year will bring.

“Thanks to Performance Development, technique-wise I’ve become a lot better and it is drilled into us, how to train more professionally,” she adds.

For the full list of the Performance Pathways Squad announcements for 2021 go here