Search for next big sport stars
Discipline on the water matters
WHEN WA Institute of Sport (WAIS) coach Rhett Ayliffe scouts for the next Olympic kayaker, he looks for commitment over talent.
“Our sport isn’t mainstream, so everyone starts on the same level,” the head rowing coach said.
“With kayaking and rowing, everyone comes to it with no skills, so anyone can be good at it.
“No hand-eye co-ordination is needed.”
However, Ayliffe said discipline and commitment were essential because kayakers had to repeat the same motion over and over again, “which is quite a unique skill”.
Ayliffe will be among WAIS coaches and staff searching for the next Olympian at a Talent ID (TID) weekend this month.
WAIS kayaker Sam Marsh was a Christ Church Grammar School student when he was identified at a TID event in 2013.
Athletes accepted into the WAIS rowing program must be part of a junior or under-23 national team and demonstrate potential to move to the next level.
“We’ll be looking for physical attributes, mental capacity and technical proficiency,” Ayliffe said.
Olympic rowers Amber Bradley and Natalie Bale were discovered after attending WAIS Talent ID events.
IN 1999, at the age of 13, Olympic sprint kayaker Jesse Phillips was plucked from the schoolyard at Aranmore Catholic College and identified as a future champion.
Now he will put the next generation of wanna be Olympians through their paces to help identify athletes of the future at the WA Institute of Sport (WAIS) Talent ID (TID) weekend.
WAIS staff, including Phillips, Performance Team Pathway director Jo Richards and physiologist Martyn Binnie, will work with the state bodies for rowing, canoeing and cycling to identify teenagers aged 13 to 17 who have the physical aptitude for the disciplines.
Phillips was tested during PE at school before joining the “cream” of Perth’s secondary students for more testing and eventually joining the WAIS kayak program.
“I had a boyhood dream of going to the Olympics,” he said. “It was always in the periphery for me but I didn’t identify with it until I got accepted into WAIS.”
Phillips made his international debut for Australia in 2003 and competed in the London 2012 Olympics, where he teamed with Stephen Bird to finish sixth in the 200m kayak sprint.
He went to the Rio 2016 Olympics as a kayak coach where he again worked with Bird, who finished eighth in his first individual international final.
Phillips said his journey had taught him what athletes need to succeed.
“So much of competing in Olympic-level sport is about your mental approach and burning desire to be the best,” he said.
Binnie said staff would conduct a range of generic tests so staff could profile the basic physical capacities – leverage, strength, endurance, power – required to perform in cycling, rowing and kayaking.
“Following the completion of this initial batch of testing, selected athletes will be invited to test for more sport-specific tests of strength, flexibility and endurance that will further highlight suitability across the different sports,” he said.
Richards said WAIS was in the unique position to be able to promote a pathway to Olympic sports though its programs.
WAIS head rowing coach Rhett Ayliffe with athletes Sam Marsh and Siena Zamin.
Olympic canoeist Jesse Phillips (above) was identified through a WAIS Talent ID weekend, before going on to represent Australia (left).