Marcus Agnew: Bay the right size to create sports stars

By Andrew Austin

1 comment
Marcus Agnew.
Marcus Agnew.

You may have heard of the "birthplace effect"?

It's the phenomenon that talks about the size of the town you want to come from if you want to become a sports star, and the good news is we're about the right size here in Hawke's Bay ... but unfortunately size isn't quite everything.

There's also the old 'nature v nurture' argument - ie. are you born with the talent, or are champions made by great parents and coaches?

Well of course it's a bit of both. If you are going to become an expert in anything you're going to need some decent genes (you can blame your parents for that!) but you will also be a product of your environment.

And that's where we have got it pretty good - the Hawke's Bay as a whole is a great environment - almost perfect for developing sporting expertise.

We have a great climate, as evidenced by our ability to produce the best cricket wickets in the country! Generally it's warm and dry with plenty of sunshine hours, meaning greater accumulated play time for our developing kids.

We have great sized towns - the birthplace effect - all the key factors for nurturing talent that typically exist in regional cities.

That is, we are not so small as to lack basic facilities, services, or range of sports for kids to access, and we are not too big ... what? Not too big I hear you think, what's wrong with too big?

Well if you are like me and have spent a few years living in a bigger city such as Auckland (or even just visited the motorways!) you will be well aware of the potential congestion, and therefore the contrasting freedom of movement we enjoy here in Hawke's Bay.

So yes, we are big enough to support sufficient facilities for fostering talent, yet still small enough to minimise social distractions, and provide plenty of open space for outdoor play and deliberate practice.

Hawke's Bay is perfect for setting the wheels of talent development in motion, but only to a point.

Due to our wonderful environmental factors around 70 per cent of the High Performance Developmental pyramid takes care of itself.

But I am sure we can all recite examples of 'wasted talent', or youngsters that we see now that could kick on if only they got exposed to the right opportunities, the right pathways, the belief to realise their true potential.

The challenge, and opportunity, for us as a region is to harness that talent. Ensuring that at the pointy end of the pyramid toward elite performance, we build on our great environment by establishing more specific systems, co-ordinated and aligned across our region.

The geography and climate will only get us so far, we also need specific environments of excellence, with a performance culture to polish Hawke's Bay's natural talents toward their full potential; preparing them for higher honours, and the chance to realise their dreams.

With our twin cities combined, we have the equal fifth largest urban population in the country. Plus with all the kids that can emerge from the classic regional towns of CHB and Wairoa, added to that we are relatively isolated, we warrant our own systems that can provide for young athletes longer here at home, before they need to leave toward high performance pastures in other regions.

And who knows, one day we may even have a system that can reverse the talent drain, and for some sports begins to attract athletes here from around the country, or even the world, to a perfect Hawke's Bay, where they can become the best they can be.

Why not? What better place to be!

-Marcus Agnew leads Talent Development and the Pathway to Podium for Sport Hawke's Bay. He is also a lecturer in sports science at EIT.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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