Weather-dependent sport new territory for manager

Emma Barker has a go on rowing machine as she takes a break from her new role as the Otago Rowing...
Emma Barker has a go on rowing machine as she takes a break from her new role as the Otago Rowing Association’s general manager this week. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Emma Barker was blown away you could go to a rowing regatta and not get any racing.

To be fair, most people would be too.

That was not quite how her first regatta as the new general manager of the Otago Rowing Association went.

The wind proved disruptive at last weekend’s interprovincials at Lake Ruataniwha though, and half the schedule was cancelled.

That disappointment was part of the learning experience for the former Strath Taieri School principal.

She discovered first-hand that having some races cancelled was not uncommon, but was also told it is not unusual for conditions to wipe out the entire regatta’s programme.

Barker, who was born and raised in Dunedin, is completely new to rowing and took over from Lauren Jarvie in August.

She does bring considerable sporting experience. She is heavily involved in equestrian and is the board chairwoman of the New Zealand Pony Club Association.

Coaching representative hockey features on her CV too, as does having worked in sports development for Sport Otago.

After being a primary school teacher and principal at various schools in recent years, she had decided a change might be good after Covid-19.

An FEI level one international show jumping course designer, she had been involved in organising the Ride the Rhythm event at Forsyth Barr Stadium. She enjoyed it and it sparked her interest in a different job.

"Following Covid I made a decision I was going to have a change in career," she said.

"I was looking down the sport avenue so when it came up I thought that looks like something I can work around."

The role was part-time and she was still relief-teaching on the side. That meant she was free on many weekends to officiate at Pony Club meetings if there was not a regatta.

While the rowing aspect was new, she said there was plenty of crossover in skills she could bring from the equestrian arena. She was eager to learn.

"Not only do I understand the admin and management, but there’s also the governance and strategic planning side of a sport to make sure they keep being sustainable and successful and looking at new projects."

Coach development was something she hoped to boost, although at present she felt the set-up she had been left with was fairly good.

She would continue learning more about the sport and find ways to make contributions as she went.

Her next big task was organising the Otago championships, scheduled for December 12 at Lake Ruataniwha.


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