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Creating The Next Generation Of Athletes With Aidan Butterworth

Aidan is the Founder and Head Trainer at MAHI Performance based in Tauranga. MAHI provides strength and conditioning professionals that specialize in athletic performance for sports and tactical athletes. His experience as a trainer in the NZ Army Physical Training Corps and involvement in the NZ Special Forces led him to found MAHI Performance in 2015. Aidan has successfully positioned himself as one of the go-to experts in his field, he provides insight into what it takes to build a successful service based business and shares what he believes sets apart the good athletes from the great.

Tell us about what inspired you to work with athletes and how you made the transition into this niche. 

I guess it began before my training years when I was a communications operator supporting the NZ Special Forces. This was the military’s version of High-Performance Sport, but with far greater risk. Working and training alongside them introduced me to the environment in which they operated and what it was like to be the best in your field, what they endured to get there and the vigorous training it took to remain at that level.

I left this environment to become a trainer in the NZ Army Physical Training Corps (NZAPTC) (my dream job from when I first joined) with very similar ethos and values as the special forces. A lot of trainers within our trade have gone on to represent NZ in sport and therefore there were established networks with a few professional sports i.e rugby, softball, touch and triathlon.

These networks meant sports teams often reached out to our trainers and gyms to accommodate them in preseason training or provide outside training/stimulus in preparation for a new campaign. A few opportunities early on were working with the Canterbury Crusaders, Canterbury Wildcats, Wellington Hurricanes, Otago Highlanders and Wellington Lions.

A good friend of mine in our trade was the Assistant Trainer for the Highlanders and the Head Strength & Conditioning (S & C) Coach for the NZDF Rugby Team (now Defence Blacks) who invited me to shadow him in NZ Army Rugby which began my transition into sport. From here I became the trainer for the NZ Army Academy Rugby Team, then NZ Army Rugby Team and was fortunate to be selected as the Assistant Trainer for the Defence Blacks at the International Defence Rugby Cup in 2015. This is Rugby World Cup for Defence Forces played in the same country as the rugby world cup and at the same time.

This was my final sports appointment in the NZ Army before my departure in December 2015 and founding MAHI Performance.

These experiences in the Army highlighted the fact that I wanted to work in this environment, not only at the professional level but also amateur to provide grassroots sport with the tools, training and skills to pave a pathway and career in professional sport. My first appointment outside the Army was the S & C Trainer for BOP Mens 7’s team in 2016 and my recent appointment is S & C Coach for the WBOP Magic (netball).

MAHI trainers are leading professionals in the field of athletic performance in the Bay. What are the essential contributing factors to the success of MAHI Performance?

Service first. I believe we are here to serve our clients/athletes. Focusing our attention on providing a great service from when we first meet them and continue this for the lifetime of our relationship with all our clients and athletes.

Lastly, it would have to be continually seeking to add further value. Each year I reflect on the previous year and think about how we can add more value to our services for our clients/athletes, so they have access or are more supported leading to better results.

What does a holistic approach to athletic performance look like at MAHI? How important is the psychological aspect?

In my opinion it is looking at the athlete as a person first and identifying what they need in order to develop to be a well-rounded person which will then enable them to become a great athlete. Providing a holistic approach means we consider all facets which are required to create an exceptional person/athlete and are founded on the 4 cornerstones of Maori Health developed by Mason Durie:

  • Taha Tinana – Physical Health
  • Taha Wairua – Spiritual Health
  • Taha Whanau – Family Health
  • Taha Hinengaro – Mental Health

Ensuring we are able to cover all the above areas will hopefully make the athlete feel supported and allow them to perform to their full potential. 

This day and age, there is a considerable psychological aspect to sports performance but in varying amounts. I believe the persons up bringing or experiences they have had throughout their sporting career plays a role within sports psychology or their ability to handle pressure. Those experiences may determine they can cope or manage the stress/pressure better than their peers and vice versa, which reflects the degree of psychological support they require.

I was taught early on that to some degree, an athlete’s ability to cope with said pressure can be increased through physical training where someone like myself can contribute; however, to what degree is unsure. With the incidents that have occurred recently, I assume that psychological support in the form of sports performance will be around for some time yet, resulting in positive outcomes for all.

What are 3 tips you would give to fitness professionals trying to position themselves as the go-to expert in their niche?

  1. Build a reputation
  2. Never stop learning
  3. Put as much time into your business as you do your training

Over the years working with a variety of successful athletes, what do you think are the 3 essential traits that separates the good athletes from the great?

Open to feedback, suggestions and guidance.

Disciplined in following the process to becoming a successful athlete in their sport.

​Belief in their abilities, pathway and the faith that they will make it one day.

What’s next for MAHI?

Keep doing what we are doing but work on getting MAHI in front of the right people, so we are at the front people’s minds in regards of athletic performance so we can serve more athletes and sports teams in the Bay of Plenty.

Where would you like to see yourself and MAHI Performance in 5 years?

In 5 years’, time I would like to have more time to focus on leading MAHI, with a team of Strength & Conditioning Coaches to guide, mentor and grow to support the next generation of athletes.

For MAHI Performance, in 5 years’ time I wish for it to be the sort after brand and choice for aspiring and professional athletes to enhance and develop athletic performance throughout NZ.

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