Mark Taylor’s public speaking has come a long way since secondary school.
In year 13 at Waitaki Boys’ High School, he fainted while giving a speech, so he was a little nervous getting up in front of Waitaki Boys’ and Waitaki Girls’ High Schools and making a pitch to get pupils to “give rowing a go”.
“To be honest I would rather slug out 2000m on a boat – public speaking is well outside my comfort zone,” Taylor said.
The New Zealand under 23 rowing representative need not have worried though. After the Waitaki Girls’ assembly on Tuesday, several pupils came forward and expressed an interest in trying the sport this summer.
Many had done the same after he talked at the Waitaki Boys’ assembly earlier this month.
And it is not every day you get the chance to train with one of New Zealand’s high performance athletes.
The former Waitaki Boys’ pupil has returned to his family farm near Glenavy after competing at the World Under 23 Rowing Championships, and is back training at the Oamaru Rowing Club.
He is inviting keen rowers to come and train with him on his “off days”.
“I will just be doing what they are doing – and try and get a bit of atmosphere and competition going,” Taylor said.
“We just want people coming down and giving rowing a go, it is the same opportunity I had when I was younger.
“The thing with rowing is you have to get to the point where it is fun to work hard – even if you don’t keep up with rowing it is really good training for winter sports.
“And if you have a team then you have a reason to show up.”
Taylor has learned a lot in his rowing career so far, and is keen to share that with others.
“I have picked up lots of things about things like nutrition, which can make a big difference at a young age.
“Once you get a taste of rowing and fully commit to it that is when the enjoyment starts.”
Taylor said he would love each Oamaru school to have representatives to cheer for at next year’s Maadi Cup in Twizel.
“I want Oamaru rowing to get back up there, it has a proud history.”
Next month, Taylor will be at the Oamaru Rowing Club on Monday and Wednesday nights, between 4pm and 5pm, and Sundays, from 10am to noon.
He encouraged people to come along, starting Monday, September 2.
The Oamaru Rowing Club’s “Learn to Row” programme also starts next month, after an open day on September 21.
The programme is open to anyone high school age and older, and runs for six weeks leading up to the Aoraki Regatta on November 2 at Lake Ruataniwha.
New rowers will be paired with experienced rowers to race over a shortened 1000m course.