New Zealand Rowing Development Program Dunedin Overview

A Program for Ambitious Athletes in New Zealand

Dunedin is the most challenging and special experience we offer. The program is designed with rising seniors and college freshman in mind and meant to allow athletes to cultivate their competitive identity in preparation for the intensity of collegiate rowing. This program differs from our other offerings in that training intensity, being in an university environment, and adapting one’s athletic identity in highly variable conditions are emphasized over development of a relationship with the sport. High performance athletes with international experience row out of the club. Select athletes also train at Dunedin High Performance Sport NZ center, which functions as a elite-level research and development facility for multiple sports in coordination with the New Zealand Academy of Sport.

Students considering this option are expected to have a relationship with the sport, be more mature in their daily lives, and seeking an opportunity to develop specific aspect of themselves while enjoying an overseas experience. There are also unparalleled opportunities to explore New Zealand’s outdoors.

Previous programs have experienced 7-8s average improvement in 2K PR with many moving into the thirties and twenties. Alumni have been recruited at selective universities, though we actively discourage undertaking this program with 2K or recruiting as an end-goal instead of seeing it as a byproduct. Students in Dunedin do not attend a regatta by program design; emphasis is placed on internal resilience instead and success in Dunedin requires deeper motivation. Admission to the program is selective.

Sparks also runs a partner program via Nelson Rowing Club in Nelson, New Zealand for less experienced athletes who are seeking a less intensive New Zealand experience.

Who May Apply

This is truly a college level opportunity. Student athletes must be able to demonstrate a prior relationship with the sport and athletic drive before being considered for this program. All students who wish to apply for the limited number of positions in the program must by necessity be more mature in their daily comportment and decision-making than the average high school athlete.  Maturity and thoughtfulness are -- specifically -- a requirement to find enjoyment here.

The program is sometimes an option provided by US college coaches to prepare incoming first-years. Successful completion of the program will allow students to demonstrate to colleges that they are ready for similar demands at top American universities. And all of these firsthand experiences will unfold within a protected environment.

Students will submit a short initial application. After this, a second round will require a letter of reference from their coach or someone similar. Finally, students will be asked to interview. See the application tab to apply.

Deepening a Relationship with the Sport

Rowing at Otago requires that athletes possess a prior relationship with the sport given the collegiate training environment, highly variable conditions, and a certain level of demand from their program peers that they be open to development both athletically and personally while in New Zealand. Many athletes have learned to scull and row small boats for the first time, but all who attend encounter challenges of one type or another -- mental or physical -- they work to overcome as they broaden their athletic and personal experiences. Overcoming these challenges is the real point of the program (and dare we say rowing in general), though a lower 2K is usually a byproduct.

Rowing in Dunedin also offers the opportunity for athletes to go on a training road trip and spend time in the “adventure capital of the world” Queenstown as well as a few other scenic venues on the South Island during the course of training.

Questions may be forwarded via email here or find the application tab here.