Triathlon New Zealand Chief Executive Pete De Wet has hailed a new initiative designed to give Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games athletes a stronger voice across the high-performance sport eco-system.  

 The Athlete Leaders Network (ALN) was unveiled at a tree-planting ceremony in Auckland on Monday attended by athletes from across the high-performance sector. 

Athlete welfare and advocacy will be key focuses for the ALN, the brainchild of the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) Athletes’ Commission. It’s will be fully operational from 2023 with recruitment already underway to appoint a General Manager (see further detail here). An interim board is already up and running. 

With athlete well-being at its core, De Wet says the ALN is an authentic initiative set to empower New Zealand’s elite athletes and ensure they are heard on key issues.  

“It’s great to see an athlete-led mechanism that will give all athletes the opportunity to raise and discuss issues that are important to them,” De Wet said. 

“Tri NZ conducts an in-depth athlete review of our campaigns each year, and through the ALN, they will have an additional platform to ensure their voice is heard. We welcome and embrace this positive and timely advancement for our athletes and for sport in New Zealand as a whole.”

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Though the NZOC will offer administrative and structural support, the ALN will be independent. It will have resource to ensure athlete voice is brought into decision-making across the high-performance sport system. The ALN will also be able to call on external resources and advice where necessary.

“This initiative is by athletes, for athletes,” says NZOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Sarah Cowley Ross.

“Athletes have told us they want a network that can build athlete mana, promote a well-being focus across the system, serve the needs of diverse sports, athletes, and funding levels, and provide support for athletes to grow their leadership and advocacy capability. The new ALN will deliver this.”

Chair of the Drug Free Sport New Zealand Athletes’ Commission and WADA Athletes Commission Chair Ben Sandford will sit on the ALN interim board.

“An athlete voice mechanism that is focused on advocacy, capability and wellbeing is crucial to the health of our high-performance system. We need to have diverse athletes from across both funded, and non-funded, sports empowered to advocate for what’s important to them.”

Paralympics New Zealand Athletes’ Council representative and ALN interim board member Anna Taylor says she’s looking forward to the opportunity to make a difference for athletes.

“The Athlete Leadership Network will strengthen the athlete voice and champion a greater focus on wellbeing in the high-performance space,” said Taylor. “It includes equitable representation for Para athletes, so our voices are heard in the decision making. With this kind of authentic representation, we have an exciting opportunity for the future of high-performance sport in New Zealand.”

NZOC CEO Nicki Nicol agrees the ALN will empower the athlete voice in New Zealand.

“We’re delighted to have been able to support the NZOC Athletes’ Commission with their initiative to deliver this new athlete voice mechanism. While the NZOC will provide the opportunity through administrative and structural support, the ALN will operate independently and that’s really important.”

High Performance Sport New Zealand’s Director of High Performance, Steve Tew, says establishing the ALN will provide an important platform to drive the focus on wellbeing.

“This is entirely an athlete-led concept and it will have the credibility, capability and resource to engage on issues critical to our athletes. We know athletes have been asking for this, and we’re pleased to provide the initial funding necessary to get it underway.”

The ALN Board will comprise the Chairs, or their nominees, of the NZOC Athletes’ Commission, the DFSNZ Athletes’ Commission and the Paralympics New Zealand Athletes’ Council, with four further appointments to be made. Applications for the General Manager role open today (see further details here) and will close on October 25th.


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