Video: The era of the High Performance Director

The title ‘High Performance Director’ is relatively new in the world of rowing, but in a comparatively short space of time the majority of the world’s leading rowing nations have added such a role to the list of people who help their athletes achieve the best results.

The range of duties on a high performance director’s daily task list is extensive and every duty undertaken is part of a long-term strategy the team is working towards. They manage the staff of the elite programme including coaches, doctors, physiotherapists and other service providers. They are responsible for their programme’s funding and so must maintain contact with government sports bodies. When it comes to regatta time they take on the responsibility of ensuring that transport, accommodation and nutritional needs are in place for when the team arrives to race. The main purpose of any high performance director’s programme is the welfare of the athlete.

After the success of the British team at the London 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta, the role of high performance director was acknowledged as the backbone of success when David Tanner received a knighthood for his services to rowing.

Not every country’s high performance director is acknowledged in this way. Many play quite a ‘behind the scenes’ role. However, no matter how public a figure they are, the decisions they make bear enormous responsibility to all those involved: from athletes to coaches to government bodies and across the sport as a whole.

In this video Morten Espersen, the Danish man now at the helm of Rowing Ireland’s high performance programme, talks to World Rowing about the details of and need for such a role, even within smaller systems.