The hard slog of Wanaka mountain biking coach Gavin Key has helped steer the course for many elite riders around the country, which has led to coaching credentials and podium success for a flurry of young proteges. Central Otago reporter Adam Burns caught up with the hard-working mentor and discovered what drives his love of coaching.
For Wanaka’s Gavin Key, working a second gig is not considered a hardship.
Over the past eight years he has forged a name for himself as a highly reputable national mountain biking coach, having coached hundreds of riders across varying levels.
The 48-year-old has managed to juggle the role around family commitments and his day-to-day profession as a landscaper at Ecco Landscapes.
It helps when mountain biking and coaching are significant passions, Key says.
“The drive to do it comes quite easy for me.
“They say if you want something done you ask a busy person.
“I enjoy it, which makes a huge difference.”
The athletes under his watch have benefited greatly at various age group levels and have tackled mountain biking terrain across the country.
Key said he has received significant support from the local Wanaka business community and the Otago Community Trust and Skeggs Foundation for travel costs.
Several of Key’s riders who compete at elite levels have had podium finishes at the National Series, Oceania, European IXS Cup, NZDH and Secondary School championships.
Mountain biking talent coached by Key includes Wellington’s Nikki Clarke, Oamaru’s Luke Hayman and Ryan Maney, of Napier.
Under-17 downhill riders Ethan Blanchard, of Auckland, and Albe Snep, of Wellington, represented New Zealand at the UCI Mountain Biking World Cup in Andorra in July and have been training with Key over the past three years.
Rotorua’s Finn Parsons – who won a secondary school national title under Key – was also part of a 25-strong Kiwi team which competed in Canada earlier this month in the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
Key’s deeds have been recognised at a regional level, having twice been nominated for coach of the year at the Otago Sports Awards in 2016 and 2017.
Despite the plaudits as a mountain biking coach, Key himself was never a competitive rider.
His background encompasses experience in surfing and as a freestyle snowboarding coach, and he approaches mountain biking from an “educational” perspective, he said.
He was then accredited as a coach by Cycling New Zealand in 2013.
Three years later he was selected for SportNZ’s performance advance coaching programme, which he said was an invaluable experience.
“I took a lot away from that.”
He now runs a youth development programme and said he valued the process of athletes “doing the small things correctly” first as opposed to focusing purely on results.
“I know the energy I put in and the life skills these young guys are getting out of it is huge.
“Seeing the growth, not just as athletes, but as people is super rewarding.
“That creates the bigger picture.”
As the mountain biking season kicks into gear, Key is grooming several elite riders for upcoming mountain biking dates, headlined by January’s National Championships in Dunedin.