The best advice Naomi Fergusson, a former professional, world-competing triathlete, was ever given: “Be good to deal with”. Ultimately, an ability to build connections trumps prowess and “can make your life in sports more expansive”. 

Along with heading marketing and communications for Hastings District Council, Naomi’s vice-chair for Sports Hawke’s Bay, and says being a good sportsperson is about “being authentic”, while privately, among her mates, it’s also about “reinforcing the crazy in each other!” 

Since becoming a mum (she has two daughters, aged 3 and 7), she has returned to racing, more for the challenge and enjoyment than the competition, and to tick off her bucket list of experiences, from running a full marathon to the Tussock Traverse. Sports is her ultimate wrap-around, meeting physical, mental, social and wellbeing needs; “It’s like a therapy session”. 

She takes a whole of life perspective in her sports advocacy, with an aim to get people moving across the lifespan, but to also consider the whole person and the full career pathway when it comes to professional sports, underpinned by a “balance is better” philosophy. She is particularly attuned to adjustment (whether to one’s changing body or circumstance) and transitions, believing the ‘steps down’ from high performance to a more enduring involvement in sport deserves as much focus as the competition itself.

Valerie Adams, who continues as a mum in professional sport, is a role model, but Naomi also finds inspiration in her friends “who live an everyday life and face challenges (like cancer or caring for small children) and still get up and fit in the exercise”. 

And in local government, where women such as mayor Sandra Hazelhurst and Naomi’s “smart, switched-on” colleagues, Rebekah Dinwoodie and Bronwyn Bayliss, put so much time and energy into their roles without losing either themselves or their empathy. 

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