The Outlet Southland

Rallying Community Spirit: The Julie Paterson Approach to Tennis Excellence

February 14, 2024 The Southland App Season 2 Episode 1
The Outlet Southland
Rallying Community Spirit: The Julie Paterson Approach to Tennis Excellence
Show Notes Transcript

Navigating the intricacies of sports management and leadership can be as unpredictable. Julie Paterson, CEO of Tennis New Zealand, joins host Brent Harbour to share about her career, from the grassroots of Netball Southland to the helm of Tennis New Zealand.  Julie reveals the interplay between fostering elite sports performance and strengthening community sports foundations, offering a fresh perspective on how professional and community levels of sport can thrive in tandem. 

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Brent Harbour:

Welcome to the Outlet. In this podcast, I talk with Julie Paterson, CEO of Tennis New Zealand. With the wealth of experience and leadership roles within sports organisations such as Netball Southland and the Southern Steel, julie brings a unique perspective to tennis management. We discuss how her background influences her approach to leadership, the balance between elite sports management and grassroots community engagement, and her vision for enhancing the tennis scene in Southland

Julie Paterson:

Hi Julie, welcome to the Outlet Podcast Hi Brent, thank you very much for having me today.

Brent Harbour:

You're very welcome. Now I want to talk about your experience and leadership roles within sports organisations, including Netball Southland and the Southern Steel. So how has this background influenced your approach to leadership and management in other sports?

Julie Paterson:

Well, hugely to be honest, I first started working in sport when I moved to Netball in Invercargill, Southland, and as the CEO of the Southern Sting, as it was at the time. So that was a massive learning curve for me. I had, prior to that, been working at the Invercargill City Council and had been in a role in promotions, and then ended up moving into tourism, and at the time I moved to Southland and was the lead for tourism at Venture, Southland. So then taking a transition into sport you know, I learned through the School of Hard Knocks.

Julie Paterson:

To be honest, it was a pretty rough start at the beginning, and being involved in sport administration is something quite different than most other experiences that I had had.

Julie Paterson:

I think one of the biggest learnings that I took from that time in my early years of working in sport administration was around trusting myself and trusting my ability to make decisions in an authentic manner, because I had started in a role with very little experience, and so I was looking at how other people were managing and leading and doing things that I probably, or managing things in a way that I probably wasn't that comfortable with. But that was the examples that I had in front of me, and it took a while for me to start to get enough confidence to be able to lead in a way that feels more authentic to myself and making decisions that I felt that are better with how I like to do things and how I expect to be treated and how I expect to be led. So it did take some time, you know, to work my way through that, but it has certainly been. It was a really good grounding for me and a really good start for me in my sport administration career.

Brent Harbour:

Yeah well, I think that's kind of like every job, though you see what's going before you and you think, oh well, perhaps that's the way we're supposed to do it. But it always takes time to find your feet, doesn't it?

Julie Paterson:

Yeah, it certainly does, and you're absolutely right. You know, and also come under quite a bit of pressure when you try to do things in a different way and you go, oh okay, well, maybe I haven't got this right because you don't have the experience to back up your thinking or your decision. So it did start out a little bit rocky, but I certainly loved my time working in Met Ball and you know I have a particular passion for women's sport and so it sat really well with me around working in a sport run largely by a woman, for woman and girls, so that was a very good grounding for me.

Brent Harbour:

So, as the CEO of Net Ball Southland and the Southern Steel. You played a really important role in both professional team management and also community Net Ball development, so I mean that must be difficult. How do you balance those demands of elite sports management and then grassroots community engagement?

Julie Paterson:

I think that's a really interesting one, and I wonder if sometimes that's where some sports come a little un-stuck, where they have a really really strong emphasis on high performance and let the grassroots get on with itself. I have always had a really strong affinity for community sport and the value that sport brings to community connectivity and engagement, and so I've always had a really strong interest in community sport and the people that are involved in community sport. I mean there's just so many amazing, amazing people that just are involved in working community. So understanding how important community sport is also to your high performance system really helps with making sure that that balance is right. You don't have high performing athletes if you don't have a really strong grassroots base. So it's critically important to understand the pathways or the connection between people, kids and largely kids getting involved in sport and then how that connects through to, eventually, those ones that are performing at that high level and ensuring that they're able to work their way through it yet. So you just can't have one without the other.

Brent Harbour:

No, that's right, because your grassroots is where you find your future superstars and people who might not be in the system in the right way, and you can develop them from there and keep them happy and mature.

Julie Paterson:

That's exactly right and I think also, your grassroots is where you find your audience and you know your community, that your core community, that that should be following your high performance sport and engaging in that as well. So it's really important and, like I said, you just can't have one without the other.

Brent Harbour:

With your background in sports management across various regions, just want to talk about you being involved in tennis now, so how do you envision enhancing the tennis scene, and in particular in Southland?

Julie Paterson:

One of the things that I did learn when I started working in tennis is that sport is sport and it doesn't really matter what size ball you are playing with. The basics of sport administration are very, very similar. A lot of that is around having good relationships throughout your own community. So you go into tennis New Zealand. The first thing for me was making sure that we had really close connections with our regional organizations and that we're working in partnership, because tennis New Zealand can't do what we're doing without the rest of New Zealand being engaged, connected, communicated with, but also working in an aligned manner, because we don't have a huge amount of money in tennis and what we do have we need to use really cleverly, and that is not just at our level. That's working in partnership with regions and associations, and so over the years it's been really important to stay really well connected in with associations, and tennis Southland, of course, is one of those associations.

Julie Paterson:

We have recently held a Davis Cup, as you'll be aware, down in Invercargill. We held that in September last year, and so that's a way of giving a bit of recognition, a bit of thanks, saying that you know, we think and we actually we really enjoyed hosting the Davis Cup in Invercargill. It was a great team working with tennis Southland but also, you know, southland Stadium and so on. Everybody that was so connected and engaged in that. So bringing people into it, getting people a bit of interested and excited, being able to profile our you know, our national team in Southland and then also connecting in around other events and activities. You know that we can work on together the Tiano tennis Invitational.

Brent Harbour:

That's been great for development of tennis in Fjordland and there seems to be a lot of interest amongst young players. So how do events like this impact the local tennis community and encourage growth of the sport in the region?

Julie Paterson:

they make a massive impact. The opportunity with those events is quite wide ranging one, you get an opportunity for young tennis players to see a bit of pathway. You know, if I get good enough I might be able to play in the Tiano Invitational one day. That would be really cool. There's the the profile of the players that are competing at that tournament, the opportunities that creates, but also the opportunity for perhaps non-tennis players to have a little bit of local you know tennis at that. That's interesting good level to be able to come along and watch the tournament.

Julie Paterson:

I think you know Tiano do such an amazing job of that tournament and that always comes down to the people. And when you've got a club like Tiano who are really, really engaged, very motivated to have a professional tournament and who are doing something every year to lift the quality of the tournament, you know more and more people are coming along. It's getting more and more profile and this year you know, the opportunity for us to be able to combine the Tiano tournament with the wildcard playoff for the ASB Classic. There's more and more opportunities in ways that we can, you know, connect and work in partnership with these tournaments that give that benefit both for our grassroots community, our kids that are wanting to play tennis, or already do play tennis, and then at that kind of tournament level as well that's fantastic.

Brent Harbour:

So what are some of the plans you've got for the future of tennis events in Southland in fact in, new Zealand?

Julie Paterson:

So we're continuing to build our tournament calendar.

Julie Paterson:

Prior to COVID, we had just started bringing back they're called the WTT tournaments, so these are the very entry-level professional tournaments, so 15,000 US dollar or 25,000 US dollar tournaments.

Julie Paterson:

We ran a couple before COVID and then we got shut down. So last year we brought back sorry, in 2022 we brought back a series of four tournaments and then in 2023, in December, we did say we are planning on extending that tournament circuit if we can, and that's really reliant on having regions who are able to access community funding, because we just can't do these tournaments on our own. So we are constantly on the lookout for areas that have got the courts that we need, the types of because we have cloud hard courts. Outdoor hard courts are fine in summer, but of course, we have a bit of a challenge around getting enough access to indoor courts for winter tournaments and then being able to connect into regions that have community funding or council funding that are really keen to see these professional type tournaments being held in their areas. That's our strategy is to continue to work with local communities and explore different opportunities also so that we can, you know, give a bit more profile to tennis in areas that might not have had as much at that pro level before.

Brent Harbour:

Well, it sounds like there's a whole lot of work going on. So if people want to find out some more online about tennis in New Zealand and the events, where's the best place to go? Julie?

Julie Paterson:

So just go to our website wwwtenniskeegui. You'll be able to find all sorts of information about tennis going on throughout the country on our website.

Brent Harbour:

Well, look, it's been wonderful to talk to you today and I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Julie Paterson:

No problem, thanks, brett, I really enjoyed it.

Brent Harbour:

On Buzzsprout, spotify, apple, wherever you get your podcasts. The outlet, the.

Julie Paterson:

Talk of.

Brent Harbour:

Southland. Thanks for listening to the outlet. The outlet is produced and published by the Southland app and supported with funding from the New Zealand Public Interest Journalism Fund. The outlet is available on the outlet button of your Southland app and wherever you get your podcasts.