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Cosgrove: PM’s Sport Scholarships in Wellington

27 May, 2008
Prime Minister’s Sport Scholarships in Wellington

Speech notes for address at awards ceremony for Prime Minister's Sports Scholarships. Samuel Marsden College, Karori, Wellington

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Prime Minister the Rt Hon Helen Clark; New Zealand Academy of Sport (NZAS) North Island’s Board Chair, Warwick Nicoll and Board members Paul Cameron and Paul Veric; the NZAS’s North Island Chief Executive Peter Pfitzinger; Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) Chief Executive Peter Miskimmin; Labour’s Wellington Central candidate Grant Robertson; recipients of the 2008 Prime Ministers Sport Scholarships; special guests; ladies and gentlemen.

Good evening. It is a pleasure to be here.

This is the second Prime Minister’s Sport Scholarship ceremony I have attended this year, and I have to say it is inspiring to be in the presence of some of our hardest working, and best performing, sports men and women.

Congratulations to the athletes, coaches, support team members and officials who have worked so hard to get to where they are today. Being a Prime Minister’s Sport Scholarship recipient is a huge achievement.

For athletes, balancing your life between training to be an elite athlete and studying for a career outside of sport can at times be a real struggle. The purpose of the scholarships is to enable emerging and talented New Zealanders to concurrently pursue tertiary study and elite level sport development.

In this room tonight we have some of New Zealand’s best athletes who are also training or studying to be scientists, designers, teachers, lawyers, engineers, accountants and managers. These are kiwis who will contribute to New Zealand throughout their whole lives – in a sporting, a community and a professional capacity. They are juggling the pressures of their studies while aiming to reach their greatest potential in sport. This is an inspirational but very challenging goal.

That is why these Prime Minister’s Sport Scholarships are such a great initiative and why the government’s high performance network, the New Zealand Academy of Sport, provides athlete career and education advisors to help athletes juggle their busy lives.

Training to be a high performance athlete is hard enough, and to study at the tertiary level at the same time is extremely demanding. However study should never be the sacrificial lamb to sporting success. Gaining a qualification is important, as it will provide you with opportunities and successes beyond sport.

For coaches, officials and support team members the scholarships provide professional development opportunities so they can better support the athletes with whom they are working. Because let us not forget, for every athlete in the spotlight on the podium, there is a hard working team behind them.

I want to acknowledge the commitment that coaches, officials, and support team members make to high performance sport in New Zealand. The work that you do is exceptional. It is through your commitment and dedication that New Zealand is seen as a country that truly punches above its weight on the world stage.

I am sure the athletes sitting in the room tonight would be able to reel off a list of people that have helped them get to where they are now – at an elite level today, and also at a grassroots level when they were first learning the ropes. Without those volunteers, including mums and dads, who are willing to give up their time after work and on the weekends to help our children develop a passion and skills in sport, our athletes would never attain the outstanding results that they do.

The work undertaken by volunteers covers everything from coaching the littlies league, through to holding a fundraising cake stall, through to spending their evenings balancing the local club’s financial books and chasing up club members fees. Too often this work can seem to go unnoticed, and I personally offer my sincere thanks for your vital contribution to sport and recreation in this country.

For our award recipients here tonight, whether you are an athlete, a coach, an official or a support team member, I would like to acknowledge the commitment and often the personal sacrifices you also make. While your mates are sleeping in, or staying out socialising, athletes and coaches are at the track, on the court, or in the pool. And when you are not doing that, you are studying.

It is important to note that this year the Prime Minister’s Scholarships have been closely aligned to the government's High Performance Strategy, which means the bar has been set higher than in previous years. In order to win a scholarship, athletes, coaches, officials and support team members have to demonstrate a high probability of sustained success. So it is added credit to all of you here today who have met the tougher competition and higher standards required to win scholarships in 2008.

No doubt some of you will be preparing for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and others will be planning for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games or the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, or even the 2012 London Olympics. The Prime Minister’s Scholarships and the government's other support and services through Sport and Recreation New Zealand and the New Zealand Academy of Sport will help you achieve your goals.

New Zealanders are passionate about sport and we love to watch our fellow kiwis achieve on the world stage. But the pressures of elite sport are growing and the competition is getting tougher. These scholarships will help you on your way.

We believe in your ability to succeed and wish you the best for your future. New Zealand is behind you 100 percent. Congratulations.

ENDS

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