Teamwork the Focus for Elite Sports

Saturday 23 April 2011, 9:50AM
By Whole Nine Yards PR

As the countdown to London 2012 continues, elite sports organisations are recruiting the help of Outward Bound as a critical training step in their preparation for next year’s Olympic Games and beyond to Brazil in 2016.

Swimming NZ, Bike NZ and Rowing NZ have in the past month sent high-performance teams through the iconic New Zealand outdoor experience at the Outward Bound School in Anakiwa in the Marlborough Sounds.

The focus of each course, however, has not been about physical endurance, but on fundamental aspects of team building, resilience training and mental toughness and personal challenge. Each course was custom designed in conjunction with the sports bodies, combining typical activities such as rock climbing, sailing, tramping and the overnight solo experience.

Tim Carswell, Bike NZ Head Track Coach completed Outward Bound as a then rider in 1998 and recommended the course for the High Performance Track programme team. “Having done the 23 day course myself when I was a rider in 1998 I know firsthand what a difference Outward Bound can make to an athlete’s drive, focus and determination.”

Swimming NZ Youth and Open Water Manager Philip Rush says the introduction of the Outward Bound philosophy and approach will put an extra edge on his athletes. “We’ve just finished our nationals so have targeted our swimmers not only for their performance times but also how they will respond to the demands of an Outward Bound course, and how the team will gel beyond that. It’s a key step for our preparation for London.”

Rowing NZ has long been an advocate of Outward Bound with a number of teams having attended since 2005. Alan Cotter, High Performance Manager, has seen the results. “It’s been a significant opportunity for our athletes to step up in a new environment and then bring back stuff very beneficial both for them personally and for the team. A number of the current elite squad have also been through the programme and in June will be in Europe for qualifying for London.”

The programmes are a three way partnership between SPARC, Outward Bound and the sporting code. “SPARC wants to do everything it can to help our top athletes prepare for London 2012 and Outward Bound adds another dimension to that preparation, particularly with its emphasis on both individual drive and teamwork,’’ says Martin Toomey, SPARC General Manager High Performance.

“An integral part of Outward Bound is how people come together and are challenged, then perform under pressure – physically and mentally. That was a consistent part of the brief from each code when we discussed the courses with them” says Trevor Taylor, Chief Executive of Outward Bound.

Outward Bound is New Zealand's leading organisation for showing people their full potential through outdoor challenge and adventure. Established in 1962, OB still operates from its original location, Anakiwa, where both the delivery of its programmes and its location are world regarded.

While elite sports groups are now using Outward Bound to help develop their athletes, the School continues to run its Classic 21 day programme for youth aged 18-26 years and also its popular Mind, Body, Soul programme for school students aged 16-18 years. Other youth programmes are the 8-day parent and teen initiative, Leaps and Bounds, as well as several professional leadership and adult/masters programmes.

“As we approach our 50th Celebrations next year, over 50, 000 New Zealanders have been through Outward Bound and that figure will only grow” says Trevor Taylor “We’ll continue to make this experience accessible to anyone who wants to attend and to enable New Zealanders to stand with pride on the world stage.”

The Outward Bound Trust of New Zealand is one of 42 members of Outward Bound International, which was founded by educationalist Kurt Hahn in Wales in 1941. A defining philosophy of Hahn was “We are all better than we know. If only we can come to discover this, we may never again settle for anything less.”