Daniella Meier – Waikato Pathway to Podium Coordinator for Sport Waikato

Can you tell us about your current role?

My role as Sport Waikato’s ‘Waikato Pathway to Podium Coordinator’ is to facilitate the programme for the selected Waikato athletes. I look after providers, athletes, coaches, communication with national sports organisations (NSO’s), budgets, reporting and working in with High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) and Sport NZ, workshops, and coordinating athlete’s individual performance plans.

Daniella Meier

The Pathway to Podium programme is a HPSNZ and Sport New Zealand development initiative aimed at athletes who are deemed to be 1-3 years from entering the high performance system. Selection to the programme is dependent on the individual NSO’s athlete development pathways, as selection differs between sports. Athletes selected are those who are likely to become high performing athletes competing on the world stage.

The key areas in which athletes receive support and education are athlete life, performance psychology, sport nutrition and strength and conditioning. The desired outcome for Pathway to Podium is to have these athletes transition into the HPSNZ carding system having had experienced life as an athlete with an enhanced holistic approach to their sport.

We are able to have a regional touch on what we do with Pathway to Podium in the Waikato, which allows Sport Waikato to engage local businesses to provide the greatest opportunity for athletes.

How did your experience at the Centre for Sport Science and Human Performance help you find your first position after graduation? 

Obtaining my degree with the Centre of Sport Science and Human Performance directly prepared me for opening my own business as a performance coach in the industry. Post graduation, I wanted to incorporate my passions and deliver a product that incorporated all that I focused on during my Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science. For me this included strength and conditioning, mental skills training, sports nutrition and sports massage.

Due to the quality of lecturers, theory, and practical aspects of the degree, I felt confident in my ability to be able to deliver these skills to both athletes and clients. Progression came from here into running Pathway to Podium for Waikato, as I had both athlete and business understanding and experience.

Do you use any of your graduate training in your job, and if so, how?

I used my training every day in my performance coaching. This varied daily depending on the athlete or client I was working with. I would periodise and progress athletes through their strength and conditioning, work with athletes on a regular basis on mental skills training and help eliminate mental barriers within sport, aid recovery through sports massage, help develop athletes through their career, and look after some athletes branding and sponsorship.

Through Pathway to Podium, I use a combined approach that I obtained through my degree. I deal with a lot of different aspects of the programme, so am required to wear a few different hats. It is imperative in this role that I am able to understand and work with athlete life advisors, high performance strength and conditioning trainers, nutritionists, high performance directors, and coaches in order to relate to and facilitate athlete needs.

On a typical day (or week) in this position, what do you do?

My days vary significantly depending on the time of year in the Pathway to Podium calendar. Generally my day consists of meeting with athletes, liaising with high performance directors and coaches, developing strategies to grow Pathway to Podium potential in the Waikato, and organising workshops for athletes. No matter what time of year, my priority is to coordinate the best outcome for Pathway to Podium athletes in line with their individual performance plan.

What are the toughest problems you have to deal with?

It is difficult to identify challenges with such a strong programme. Everything that we implement or learn is all growth for the hub. The more sponsorship and funding we can generate for the programme, the more opportunities we can provide our athletes. This is a component we are always working on.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing the Pathway to Podium athletes grow and develop themselves and their sporting career through the programme is hugely rewarding. There is so much incredible content that HPSNZ has prescribed for these athletes at such a crucial time in their development. To be able to support their pathway is such a privilege.

What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new graduates from Wintec?

Communication is really important. It is easier to be effective in this industry when you can communicate with a range of different people, whilst still relating to an athlete. The ability to adapt in different situations is crucial to obtain a valuable outcome. Dependent on which area new graduates would have an opportunity in, continuity, commitment, passion and communication would be essential in a candidate.

Can you please tell me about your experience at Wintec?

I absolutely loved my tertiary education at Wintec. I had a huge amount of respect for my lecturers not only for their knowledge, but also for the fact they were some of the best in the Waikato or New Zealand in their profession on a practical level.

I always felt supported throughout my study and encouraged to follow my dream. The degree itself took a lot of hard work and dedication, however when the content is aligned with what you are interested in as your future, it is a fulfilling mountain to tackle!

If there was one key message that you would say to someone starting out in Sport Science what would it be?

Be a student of the game. Learn as much as you possibly can from respected practitioners. Get involved during your degree, don’t wait until it is done.

Volunteer your time, be passionate about what you do and be open to opportunity.​​​