Hockey New Zealand recently announced the appointment of the new National Coach to lead the Black Sticks Women towards the Beijing Olympics. The new coach is Aucklander Kevin Towns, who has coached the Black Sticks Men for the past six years.
Hockey New Zealand CEO Ramesh Patel said: ‘After considering some very high quality applicants, the selection panel are pleased to confirm Kevin’s appointment. The women’s team are currently ranked 8th in the world and are entering a crucial period of competition with the goal to secure qualification for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Kevin is an internationally recognised coach and we believe he is the best person to lead the women through this important phase’.
Patel said he was happy that an opportunity had arisen to keep Towns in coaching. After six years with the Black Sticks Men’s side, Towns had been looking for a new challenge, including looking at possibilities outside of hockey. ‘Kevin has been considering his future options, including an offer to return to his information technology career. But he still has a burning desire to coach and this role provides him with a fresh challenge.’
Towns takes up a two-year contract through to the end of 2008, a period which includes the Beijing Olympics.
Patel said Towns was taking on an exciting and promising side: ‘The Women have maintained their top six World Ranking under the leadership of Ian Rutledge for most of the past four years. Highlights have included qualifying for and finishing sixth at the 2004 Athens Olympics and winning the 2005 Champions Challenge.’
‘After a difficult past six months their ranking has slipped to eighth, but I think Kevin is in a good position to build on the sound work Ian has done developing younger players.’
Commenting on his appointment Kevin Towns said: ‘The Women have been ranked around the top six for the past nine years. My goal will be to build on what has been done and I am really looking forward to that challenge.’
With reference to the ending of his role with the New Zealand Men’s team Towns said he believed it was a good time to introduce new strategies and performance levels, given that he had been at the helm of the side for six years.
‘The nucleus of the side is a mature group, capable of coping with change without impairing performance. There is sufficient time to introduce new strategies prior to the Olympics and I also think the change will inject new enthusiasm and lessen the chance of multiple retirements after Beijing.’
In addition to coaching the National Men’s side for the past six years, Towns also coached the New Zealand Men for a four year period between 1989 and 1992. Two of his recent career highlights have been coaching the Men to a Silver medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and winning the 2006 World Cup Qualifying tournament in China.
He has previously coached Women’s sides. He was involved with the Women’s Academy between 1994 and 1996 and has coached the Sommerville Auckland women’s club side.
Towns will meet with Ian Rutledge this week to transfer knowledge and finalise the National Women’s squad and National Development squad, which will both be named at the end of the month.
The Black Sticks are scheduled to play a test series against Australia in New Zealand next May in preparation for the Champions Challenge in Azerbaijan in June. That will be followed by a test series against India in New Zealand in August leading up to the Oceania Olympic Qualifying Series against Australia.
It is anticipated that the new Black Sticks Men’s coach will be announced at the end of November.
Source: Hockey NZ
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