Penny Castle’s goal of being a future chef d’mission for a New Zealand team is a step closer after winning a scholarship to attend the Commonwealth Games on a High Performance Sport New Zealand learning tour.

A top rider, coach and ESNZ eventing performance leader, Castle is familiar with the elite environment, but is always keen to learn more.

“This is another part of the journey for me to be further educated so I can be more effective in what I do,” says Castle, who is one of 17 chosen for the tour. “I’ll be learning a whole bunch of new skill sets – really, the Commonwealth Games are a mini Olympics.

“When we go to a World Equestrian Games, it is just equestrian, but when we go as a team to the Olympic Games, you are in the village, have to fit into the New Zealand and then the wider team with all the other athletes from around the world.”

A chef had to be across everything, including understanding what the distractions are, putting procedures in place before a pinnacle event so athletes were better prepared.

Castle completed the CAP (Coach Accelerator Programme) last year, but continues to do personal development courses and is not long back from the first women’s retreat where she was one of nine to spend “an incredible few days” in the South Island.

“You have a lot of association with a lot of coaches you wouldn’t usually have, and mixed with what I do in equestrian, all makes you feel more ready for a leadership role. It is about understanding the best possible way to be effective.”

Her trip to the Commonwealth Games is all the more special because her 21-year-old son Jordan could be in the mix to cycle for New Zealand at the Gold Coast event. “That would be exciting,” she says.

The Commonwealth Games Learning Tour to the Gold Coast next year aims to accelerate the development of selected participants to prepare them to perform effectively as leaders and coaches at future multi-sport pinnacle events.

Key will be understanding and experiencing the complexity of such a major event, providing context and perspective for the performance environment that leaders and coaches need to manage, and creating greater breadth and depth of thinking to support future eventing planning.

Those going are a blend of high performance leaders, coaches and team managers, who are expected to have a role at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but have not previously had a leadership or lead coaching role at a multi-sport pinnacle event. The learning tour is led by HPSNZ.


By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison