New Zealand Development Program

A Journey to The Other Side of The World 

As of 2020 based on data collected over the last five years, your chances of winning a medal at the Junior World Rowing Championships if you live in New Zealand are about one in five hundred thousand. That may sound like hard odds, but your chances if you live in the US are about one in thirteen million. 

The kiwis are very good at developing rowing talent. That's why so many are recruited to row at the top level of Division I every year.  

Athletes do a deep dive into their relationship with the sport. The Dunedin cohort is a thoughtful, extremely mature (collegiate athletes have undergone this program) group of people seeking more from the sport, both on and off the water. 

Real Challenge Supported By Real People. 

This is the most challenging and special experience we offer. The meters generally can run over 100K a week on the ergometer and in the shell. High performance athletes with international experience row out of the club. Select athletes also train at the Dunedin High Performance Centre, which functions as an elite-level research and development facility for multiple sports in coordination with the New Zealand Academy of Sport.

The weather in the "roaring 40's" latitudes is extremely variable, and it's winter in the southern hemisphere. Many athletes leave the Northern Hemisphere summer to travel to a truly different world - and a temporary space where jaw-dropping beauty is as common as sitting on the ergometer on a windy morning. 

We have the opportunity to get outside and see the beauty New Zealand has to offer. Athletes undertake a "training road trip" and spend time in Queenstown, the “adventure capital of the world”, see Milford Sound, and a number of scenic New Zealand venues while they meet Kiwi juniors along the way.  

We learn to respond to challenge together with work and reflection. The program utilizes mindfulness as a method of confronting challenge and is heavily supplemented by the Kiwi cultural mindset towards cheerful embrace of challenge, which has been a catalyst in the country's outsized success in the sport. The Kiwi support team for the program is outstanding, including a nutritionist and a trainer. As one former NZL camper put it: “It is not so much a camp, but a program that has taught me who I am as a rowing athlete and in some ways, a person."Finally, we provide community service such as teaching Special Olympians how to row as the camp reaches beyond rowing in its spectrum of experience. 

Determing if You're A Fit

It is the desire to use rowing as a ramp to reach deeper within and address how you approach challenge – mental and physical – that characterizes Dunedin Program athletes.

Talent is relative: many come to Dunedin with less than perfect 2Ks - or have never been in a small boat. That said, both of these issues can be remedied during the program.

Finally, one hour of college counseling with any of our experienced team of former Olympians and Division I coaches (normally $400) is included upon completion of the program.

If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

Set Up A Call To Talk Further

New Zealand Development Program

Glen Sinclair

Rowing New Zealand High Performance Board CEO & Head Coach,
Otago University Rowing Club

Glen directs program operations. He won seven national premier lightweight titles, was a member of the New Zealand Under-23 team in 1996 and the New Zealand University team from 1995 to 2001, graduating from Otago with an education degree. He has been head coach of Otago University Rowing since 2003 and the Otago high performance squad from 2006 to 2008. He has been president of New Zealand University Rowing since 1999 and manager of New Zealand University teams. He has played a key role in integrating university rowing into the fold of New Zealand rowing, and was elected to the board of Rowing New Zealand in 2010 and frequently travels abroad to represent Otago and New Zealand.

Brad Hakes

New Zealand Development Program Director

Brad grew up in the small town of Summit, NJ before heading to boarding school in Massachusetts. Already in love with fitness and mental discipline, Brad picked up rowing and enjoyed four years of dedicated growth and development in the sport. He values the sport's capacity to test one's psychology and it's broad value as a tool of self-development, as well as its unique and often inspiring cultural aspects. Brad assisted in coaching his high-school team- Deerfield Academy- for one season before heading to Stanford for undergraduate. There, he tried out rowing, but gravitated heavily towards professional and intellectual pursuits, becoming interested in culture, psychology, introspection, and the intersection of technology, sociology, and philosophy. He has since worked at genetic engineering and gov-tech startups in the Bay Area, currently lives in San Francisco, and is most looking forward to bringing some of his recent learnings about psychology back to rowing. 

New Zealand Development Program

  • Who:  Experienced athletes aged 15-19 who can demonstrate high maturity.
  • When:  June 29 - July 31, 2020 
  • Size:  12 athletes maximum 
  • Cost:  $6,595
  • Where:  Dunedin, New Zealand at University of Otago. Meals are provided through University College, 600m from accommodation and on the way to and from the boathouse. Rowing occurs at the Otago University Rowing Club on Otago Harbor.
  • Questions: We'd be glad to speak with you; click on the live chat in the bottom right corner.
  • Apply: The program requires a writing sample and video interview after tution deposit for admission. At Sparks, we admit students for their ability to contribute to the community and see performance as a by-product. 
  • Camp Forms: Camp Forms may be found on your dashboard within 6 weeks of camp. 
  • Supervision:  The small program size allows for close overwatch, and live-in pastoral care is available. That said, students are expected to conduct themselves on the same level as their Otago University athletic peers. In the case of a group of 12, two Sparks operations staff accompany the camp for a 1:4 staff to student ratio. 
  • Refunds and Cancellation: Refunds minus an $800 deposit (after acceptance to the program) are available until May 1. After May 1, refunds are not available. As a policy, we also reserve the right to cancel programming and issue a full refund up to 30 days prior to program start. 

    If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

    Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

    Set Up A Call To Talk Further

New Zealand Development Program

Who May Apply

Maturity and a tendency to thoughtfulness are – specifically – a requirement to find enjoyment here.

Dunedin athletes go through our most extensive admissions process. Students must be able to demonstrate a prior relationship with the sport and athletic drive before being considered for this program. 

Our programming is open to all regardless of speed. More important to us is your ability to live, train, and support others in a community committed to utilizing challenge for personal growth. This is unlike a traditional training camp in that objectives for the community are just as important as individual training objectives. Personal improvements in speed are a byproduct of a larger process meant to allow athletes to confront challenge more effectively. 

Successful completion of the program allows students to understand how they best perform.

Sparks New Zealand Admissions Process

Step 1: Submit the intial program application.

Step 2: Make the full program tuition deposit; we will accept the deposit to hold your place pending a positive admissions review. 

Step 3: Write a 500 word essay discussing a meaningful experience and what it taught you. The experience does not have to be rowing related. We are interested in your ability to support yourself and others, your thoughtfulness, and your ability to work in community to overcome challenge. The essay will goto the New Zealand Program Director. 

Step 4: Video conference with New Zealand Program Director

Jun 29 2020 - Jul 31 2020

Sparks New Zealand
Limited Availability
Sparks New Zealand Limited Availability OPEN

New Zealand Development Program

You'll fly across the Pacific, south of Australia, to the land of the long white cloud. Upon landing in Auckland, you'll follow the long green line to the domestic terminal and board your flight to Dunedin - a "city" of 127,000 people on the south end of the southern island of New Zealand. 

You'll be received in Dunedin by your program director and coach at the airport. If you haven't already encounted your program-mates on the trip over, you'll meet them as you pull into our base in Dunedin - the Sahara Guest House - for the first time. 

It will be cold, but it may seem magical as you meet with your group for the first and introductions are exchanged prior to exploring this small city at the end of the earth. The group will tour the boathosue and may even engage in a "welcome" piece on their first day (coach's preference! :) ) 

You will meet with your coach and go over your objectives for the trip in return for honest feedback prior to settling into your training routine - which will also involve a sport nutritionist, weight trainer, and other kind kiwis who also help national team athletes. 

Training and exploring the beautiful Otago pennisula when the weather is favorable will take up your time in the initial weeks of the program. Our training base may shift - there is an opportunty to spend a week training in the mountains, nearby Mount Cook, at an international standard course in a town of 1,250 people. 

You will embark on a road trip around southern New Zealand, training with kiwis at various clubs along the way. Many agree the southern part of the southern island is the most scenic spot in this most scenic of countries. 

Finally, you will return to Dunedin for some final testing, racing, festivities, and your goodbyes. Your coach and program director will take you to the airport - but as you leave New Zealand, the trip will become a part of you that you will remember long after. 

If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

Set Up A Call To Talk Further

New Zealand Development Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Training Objectives

This program has been used to better 2Ks prior to the collegiate recruiting process, but it is overkill for such a task. Your training objectives can be highlighted with the program coach at the start of the camp, however you should not assume you recognize the potential for your time in New Zealand until you speak with the program director and coach. 

Ultimately, this program is about more than rowing. You will examine your relationship with the sport and yourself - and your aptitude for handling challenge in a safe, encouraging, beautiful environment. 

What level of experience is necessary for camp?

Please see the "Determining If You're A Fit" Section under the Camp Overview tab and the "Who May Apply" section under the "Register" tab. 

A lot of people disqualify themselves for this camp specifically given they are intimidated by the question of the training volume. Our group handles this together - it's whether your intent is there that matters. 


What differientiates Sparks camps?

We are the only camp in rowing with a full-time staff that has academic and professional backgrounds in experiential education. We also have a summer operations staff (many are returners that teach during the school year) who buy into the idea of personal growth at camp not just for campers - but for themselves as well.

The result is a culture sincerely committed to the power of rowing as a personally transformative experience built on vulnerability, thoughtfulness, responsibility, and initiative. 

This does not mean other camps are relatively inferior; in fact, we feel such a perspective is not helpful. The camp needs to fit the athlete. Our focus is on utilizing rowing to create self-awareness for our camp community.

Where are camp forms found?

Camp forms are issued at least six weeks prior to camp on our site via your dashboard.

Tell me about safety at Sparks.

Our Program Director in New Zealand is a certified Wilderness First Responder. 

We employ safety and risk management practices from the adventure education industry, where some risk is inherent but must be quantified insofar as educational value. These practices are initially employed in program design and we work hard to train operations staff to seek to maintain an awareness of specific risks at all times. No outdoors programming can guarantee safety, however professional management of risk is key to the art of providing consistently excellent experiential education programming