Hockey New Zealand has appointed a full time assistant coach for each of the Black Sticks teams – a move that chief executive Hilary Poole says will significantly contribute to the success of the programme and the development of the athletes in the build up to the 2012 London Olympics.
Greg Nicol has been appointed to work alongside Mark Hager in the Black Sticks Women’s programme and Darren Smith has been appointed to work with Shane McLeod in the Black Sticks Men’s programme.
“We have 25 athletes in each of the national squads, plus another 10 development athletes competing in around 30 international tests a year per team, so this extra support will give Shane and Mark more time to coach and will lift the performance of the teams,” says Poole.
Nicol and Smith will be based in Auckland and will work closely with the Black Sticks national squad providing practical coaching to athletes as well as assisting the national coaches with the planning and monitoring of the high performance programme and the individual athletes.
Another key part of their role will be to contribute to the direction and longer term development of the eight Regional Talent Programmes, providing guidance to the regional high performance coaches and ensuring that this is consistent with the national direction.
“We were searching for coaches who had international experience in national assistant roles, had been part of an Olympic programme and had a strong knowledge of hockey in New Zealand – and both Greg and Darren were stand out applicants.”
Previously, Hockey New Zealand had employed coaches in part time roles predominantly around international competitions.
Greg Nicol - Assistant coach Black Sticks Women
Nicol was previously Managing Director of Kelt Capital (2007-2011), a successful hockey academy based in the Hawke’s Bay that develops players from a beginner through to an elite level.
Nicol was an assistant coach for the Black Sticks Men at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He has also been a specialist coach for the South African Men’s team and has held various coaching positions in the United Kingdom.
As a player, Nicol played 200 international tests for South Africa and has scored 245 goals – the third highest in the history of the sport. He attended the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where he was top goal scorer and also the 2004 Athens Olympics. In 1999, he was voted as one of the top five players in the world.
“The Black Sticks Women are really gaining momentum and they have had some great results lately, so to be involved full time and assist them to achieve on the world stage is a fantastic opportunity,” says Nicol.
Nicol’s first official role with the team will be at the Champions Trophy in Amsterdam at the end of June, he will then coach Central’s Mysticks team at the National Hockey League before relocating and working alongside Mark Hager in Auckland.
Darren Smith – Assistant coach Black Sticks Men
Smith has worked with ex Black Sticks Men’s coach Kevin Towns and current national coach Shane McLeod in assistant roles previously. More recently, Smith has been coaching the Kuala Lumpur University team in Malaysia (UniKL) taking them from bottom of the table to fourth in the league.
Smith was high performance director for the Midlands hockey region (2007-2010) and was responsible for developing its high performance plan, providing training opportunities, establishing a talent identification process for players and coaching Midlands National Hockey League team and Under 21 sides in national tournaments.
As a player, Smith has played 212 international tests for New Zealand between 1995 and 2006 and competed in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, Manchester Commonwealth Games (Silver medal), 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. In 1998, Smith was named New Zealand’s player of the year.
Smith is currently part of SPARC’s Coach Accelerator programme – a programme that aims to develop a small group of elite coaches who are capable of coaching World, Olympic and/or Paralympic champion athletes within the next five years.
“I’ve been with the Black Sticks Men’s team since 2007, but only on a part time basis. To be able to dedicate 100% of my time to this will really help to lift the performance of the athletes and develop the wider programme. From a regional perspective, to be able to share my knowledge with those involved in the Regional Talent Programmes and help develop athletes into Black Sticks will be a real privilege,” says Smith.
Source: Hockey New Zealand Media release
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