The latest of the mixed training camps between the men’s and women’s squads took place at Lake Karapiro last week. To find out more about the positive benefits of the camps we speak to a coach and two paddlers.
The men’s squad coach based at Lake Karapiro, says the training camps have proved a big hit and served multiple benefits for both the coaches and athletes alike.
Five such camps have taken place this year with the women’s squad typically heading south to descend on Lake Karapiro to link up with the men for several days of quality training (note, on one occasion the men headed north to Auckland for a training camp).
“It is a good opportunity for both the athletes and coaching staff from both squads to get together and catch up,” explains Tim. “The men and women will carry out on water sessions together and it is good chance to share knowledge. There is also a social element to the camps in which the athletes will get a chance to meet up and get to know each other better through dinners and barbecues.”
At the most recent training camp at Lake Karapiro both the men – who are currently paddling 140km a week – and women continued with their normal block of training. However, it was also a good opportunity for the women’s K4 boats to train alongside men’s K2 boats because of the comparable speeds.
Off the water, 2004 Olympic K1 1000m silver medallist Ben Fouhy was interviewed by current men’s squad member, Max Brown, offering his thoughts on his career and some of his learnings.
“Ben was great,” says Tim. “One of the points he stressed was paddlers should have a strategy for competition, so that they are accustomed to competing in any environment. He spoke about building an ability to race in whatever the race called for; whether a race starts quickly or is contested in a headwind etc.”
From a coaching perspective the training camps are also helpful for Tim because he gets the chance to enjoy a firsthand view on how the women’s squad are being coached.
Meanwhile, it is also a great opportunity to share ideas and thoughts with other CRNZ coaches.
“Obviously, I can pick up the phone at any stage but it is different having a face to face conversation on the coaching boat,” he explains.
Tim also says the social benefits of meeting as a team should not be underestimated.
“Once restrictions are lifted we will spend a lot more time together travelling internationally as a team,” he adds. “It is good we are forming a sense of team spirit and unity between athletes and coaches now because when we do return to something like normal and we are competing internationally once again we will already be in sync.”
Being given the chance to train alongside the men has allowed the women’s squad member and Poverty Bay paddler the chance to expand her kayaking education.
At some camps (including the most recent at Lake Karapiro) the women trained in the K4 with the men in K2 boats. Meanwhile, in other camps the paddlers will train in mixed team boats – presenting numerous learning opportunities, according to the 20-year-old paddler.
“We have different coaches, so the boys might have a slightly different perspective on how to make the team boat work; it is cool to learn from one another,” she explains.
“It is always enjoyable to be traveling over-speed (in the mixed crew boats). The boys are paddling with lots of power, so to be able to hold your technique when the boat is moving a lot faster than I typically would is exciting.
“The boys approach team boats in quite a different way. As a women’s squad we work on the flow on the boat but the boys have a more structured approach. I think we can really learn from the two different perspectives.”
Meanwhile, Alicia also insists there are huge benefits from training alongside multiple paddlers, which she believes can only lead to faster more efficient paddling.
“We are always trying to figure out the components that go into making the boat go faster,” she adds. “So to be given the chance to paddle with new people gives us the opportunity to develop our padding because we are working with many different combinations. It is a good way of working out how to get the best out of each other.”
As part of the training camps, Alicia has also enjoyed listening to the experiences of two-time Olympic single sculls gold medallist Mahe Drysdale and 2003 World K1 1000m champion Ben Fouhy.
“Ben was an athlete who did not enjoy the same high performance pathways that we are lucky to experience today,” she explains. “It was very interesting hearing his journey and to understand a little more about the history of kayaking in New Zealand.”
Alicia was also delighted to get to know the men’s squad a little more and adds: “An awesome part of these camps is that we are creating a wider New Zealand team not just a separate men’s and women’s program. We’ve got to know the boys more through the camps and we’ve formed a more united team because of it.”
For the 21-year-old CRNZ men’s squad paddler, training camps offer a wider competitive forum and also the opportunity to learn from a world-class set of athletes.
Hamish says he has enjoyed the chance to train alongside New Zealand’s women’s squad – who have won many medals on the global stage – which he says brings additional motivation.
“In the camps we’ve done a lot of the training in mixed K2 and K4 team boats and I find that training with the women adds a new competitive element to our day to day training.”
Hamish has also paddled alongside double Olympic champion Lisa Carrington in a K2 boat and the Hawke’s Bay raised athlete admits this offered a great learning opportunity.
“I was lucky to complete a session with Lisa in the K2 and I felt the biggest lesson I learned was to keep the boat at a consistent pace for every effort,” he explains. “I found I was trying to race the other boys in the K2s but Lisa emphasised the importance of consistency, focusing on myself and not worrying what others were doing.”
Hamish also believes stepping in different boats and different athletes at the training camps has made him became a more adaptable paddler.
The camps also offer the opportunity for some off-water learnings. He recalls taking on board some thoughts following an “inspirational” talk presented by double Olympic single sculls rowing champion Mahe Drysdale at a camp earlier this year.
“I found it interesting on how he emphasised the importance of needing to be better than you think to be able to stay on top,” adds Hamish. “How you need to put yourself into a position to be able to win, even if you have a bad day.”
Hamish, who competed at the 2019 World Cups and 2019 World U23 Championships, also felt the unity formed during the camps we another huge benefit.
“We (the men’s and women’s squads) go out for dinner together, we have got to know each other a little better and we get on really well. That social aspect has really helped bring the team together.”
Images: Supplied by Craig Mustard