So, what do you do next in hockey when you have won just about every major tournament as a player? That was the dilemma faced by Legendary Australian international Katrina Powell, who was a central figure in the all-conquering Hockeyroos team that dominated women's hockey for the best part of a decade.
Steve Jaspan, Chairman of the FIH High Performance and Coaching Advisory Panel, recently chatted with Katrina and brings us fully up to speed on her remarkable transition from iconic star of the field to coach and mentor for the next generation of superstars.
Katrina Powell played for the Hockeyroos during their golden age, representing Australia 252 times and scoring a whopping 141 goals between 1994 and 2004. Her display cabinet contains two Olympic Gold medals, one World Cup Gold, one Commonwealth Games Gold and three Champions Trophy Gold medals plus a handful of silvers. She has travelled the world playing hockey, proudly representing one of the great sporting nations.
After retiring in 2004 she was itching to get her teeth into coaching. She took a two year coaching scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport before becoming National Junior Women’s Coach in 2007 and coaching the Aussie team at the Junior World Cup. She is currently Head Coach, Women’s Hockey at the New South Wales Institute of Sport.
When I asked Katrina what enticed her into coaching she replied: “When I finished playing I felt I had something to offer those coming after me and I wanted other young women to experience what I had at the highest level. Not just medals and success but also self-confidence, life skills and the wonderful experience of playing in top world competitions”. Katrina, however, found that going straight into coaching after being a player was a massive challenge. Notwithstanding having captained the Hockeyroos she found that she was coaching players whom she had played with and had to find a balance between the demands of coaching and friendships.
The challenge of seeing players and teams enhance their skills and lift their performances is something that has given her enormous satisfaction. She concedes that playing in the golden age of Australian women’s hockey under fabulously successful Master Coach, Ric Charlesworth, was a great inspiration.
But a career in coaching can be tough for women. When asked why she believed there are not more women coaching Women’s National Teams she points to the fact that many athletes retire and start families, only returning to hockey coaching much later. This is especially difficult with the game evolving so fast. Travelling, massive time commitments and irregular hours can make this very difficult for female coaches to coach at the highest level.
She believes that women interested in high level coaching need greater support, including at home, and must be assisted when they are re-introduced to the coaching world at the appropriate stage of their lifestyle.
The massive contribution Katrina - affectionately known as Trini to her friends and team mates - has made as a player, coach and mentor provides a superb role model for the hockey family and sport at large. It is also marvellous that a player with such an incredible CV wants to give back so much to hockey and the young players of today. It also sends a salutary lesson about the enhanced support needed in one of the most demanding areas of our wonderful game.
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