As a cricketer, Paul Strang was one of the stars of Zimbabwe's golden era of the late 1990s, but now he is making his mark developing the next generation of New Zealand sporting stars through Pathway to Podium.
Paul currently works for Aktive -Auckland Sport & Recreation and we caught up with him to find out about his Pathway to Podium role, his thoughts on the future of New Zealand sport and how sport has influenced his life.
What is your current role with Pathway to Podium?Pathway to Podium is an exciting collaboration between Sport New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand. It's aimed at pre-elite and emerging athletes who have the potential to be future winners on the world stage and my role is to work alongside coaches to help educate the athletes in life skills that will help them first transition into the high performance environment and then flourish.
From your involvement in the programme, how do you think the future of New Zealand sport is looking?I think it's in a strong place. New Zealand sport-lovers can rest assured there is some real talent out there, with great role models backed up by increasingly strong systems and capability. My role is very exciting because I get to work with all these incredibly talented and passionate young people. And if we do our bit right we are helping to future-proof our sporting success.
You had a successful career in cricket as both a player and a coach, are these skills and attributes helping in your current role?I am quite fortunate in many respects that I'm closing the loop with this role. As a player I came through a strong school and pathway system to play for my club, province and then country before going into coaching. Now I am back at the start line helping other people to take the same journey. So I feel I'm well placed to be able to nudge athletes in the right direction.
One of the most important things I have learnt is that you can't rush it. Too often as coaches and even as players we are in a hurry. So I guess I now come from a more measured place where I understand the importance of balancing enjoyment for what you do, with a solid work ethic.
How has sport positively influenced your life?Sport has been a constant for me, from my earliest memories to now. So at different times it's had different influences on me and very much shaped how I view the world. Growing up in a country where sport is just what everyone did I learnt very quickly about fun, family support and connectedness. And also about fairness, winning and losing, and how important it was to train hard.
When I reflect back on it sport was a great teacher - it taught me so much about myself.
We saw cricket-fever run wild during this year's World Cup, how important are those inspirational moments to inspire the next generation? They are critical. I believe sport teaches us so much and is influential to society on so many levels. In a nut-shell, the BLACKCAPS captured the heart of a nation and inspired a lot of people. It was uplifting. It's a great springboard not just for cricket and the hard work the sport has done, but for all sport in general. I have learnt what a proud nation we are here in New Zealand, we love a good sports story and love getting behind our sports people. So hopefully the BLACKCAPS success fuels more people to get out there and play sport.
You are based at AUT Millennium, how do you regard the facilities there? The facilities at AUT Millennium are outstanding and also the environment is a very positive one to operate in given what we do as an organisation. The fact we are working with aspiring athletes in a building which has a significant high performance presence also serves as a great motivating factor for them.