Business, Goals Edition Katrina Powell
By: Katrina Powell • 4 years ago •
Growing up, my family was heavily involved in the St Patricks hockey club in Canberra. My Dad played and my sister and cousins are still involved with the club. My Uncle was playing first division when we were growing up, so the whole family would go out and watch him.
I loved playing sport and being part of a team. I was always very competitive and I loved doing what my sister did. She was playing, so I had to play too. We both went on to win two gold medals from the two Olympics that we went to together, so I followed her from the start.
National Team with New Knees
When I was 18, I had to move from Canberra to Perth to be part of the AIS National Program. I had a bit of a late start as I had two knee reconstructions. I had my first knee reconstruction which put me out for 10 months. Then, 18 months later, I had the other knee done giving me another 10 months off.
I think my knees were always going to pop. My sister played the same amount of hockey and never had any problems, so I think I was always prone to it. I remember thinking after the second one “Well, that was always going to happen. Now that they are screwed back into place they will be amazing.” and they have been.
It was very difficult at the time but now, as a coach, I have real empathy for what athletes go through and how to let the process happen and not try and rush it. After my knee reconstructions, I played for 11 seasons with the national team, so allowing for the proper rehab if really important.
At 21 I started playing in the national team and retired when I was 32. I went to Atlanta 1996 with my sister Lisa, then we both played at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and the I played without her in Athens in 2004 as she had retired. My sister had played in Barcelona without me and I played in Athens without her, so our records are the same. I played in the national team for a decade with the last few as Captain.
Having been an elite athlete, at the end of my career I thought I had something to give back. I’m a natural introvert, so at school, standing up and talking was not something I would choose to do. However, the skills that I got through being involved in elite sport and what I learnt over my time, especially in the national program, meant that by the time I had finished as Captain, I knew I had something to offer. At the time it felt like a natural progression to step into and I was also lucky that they are always looking for more female hockey coaches. So when I retired in 2004, I got the opportunity to do an AIS coaching scholarship course in 2005/2006.
Then I had even more to offer and the AIS provided the opportunity for me to coach as a trainee before having to actually step out there on my own.
Athlete to Coach
Transitioning from athlete to coach was really interesting. I was working as an assistant coach in an environment that I had only stepped out of myself. At the start, I felt I had to separate myself from those players I had just played with and be less personal with them. I was just a sounding board and support to them but I found that I came full circle and stepped too far away. I then realised that I had to build better relationships with the athletes. There is definitely a line between athlete and coach but I had put too much of a gap between us.
When I moved from Perth to Sydney, the development players were younger. I think the players were a bit intimidated at first. We had meetings and talked about where they were meant to be doing, but I realised after a few months that I hadn’t built a relationship.
The simple change I made was that anytime I had a meeting with an athlete for any reason was to go to a coffee shop for a chat. The meeting room atmosphere was very officious and I was working to an agenda, rather than actually listening to the athlete and hearing their concerns. In the coffee shop, it was much more informal and I was able to give more and get more.
The AIS now have an intake every year for their High Performance Coach program in labs in Canberra. This course is actually run by Melbourne Business School and I found it really beneficial. One of the best things I learnt on the course was about myself.
You have to be more aware of yourself and your own personality and the perception that the athletes have of you. The relationship and what you can impart is more important than what you know. That way it is all about the athlete.
I also learnt a lot about empathy. I thought I had a lot of empathy because I had been an elite athlete and been through knee reconstructions but I wasn’t actually listening to their concerns. When I thought I was being empathetic, I wasn’t. I was too quick to tell them it would be OK and not to worry about it.
Sometimes, the step back to work out what your strengths and weaknesses has to be done externally. You don’t know what you don’t know, so getting to know yourself would be my first step to becoming a coach.
One of the biggest tips I would give to new coaches would be to go and see other coaches and ask for help. Even other sport coaches are very willing to help but at the end of the day you have to put your own personality on it.
My Biggest Influence
I was coached by Ric Charlesworth and he would be the biggest influence on me as a coach. There were certainly some times when it was frustrating and hard work as he had really high expectations. When you are tired and worn out and anxious about selections, that stuff is really draining, but he pushes you out the other side and that’s how you achieve more.
He got me to be the best player I can be, which is the answer. It’s what every athlete is aiming to be. If you are the best you can be, then you are successful, but he also gave me lots of life lessons. He is a perfectionist and wouldn’t ask anything that he wouldn’t do himself.
I remember that feeling of sitting on a plane, going to the Olympics, knowing you have done everything possible and then some. That there’s been no skimping. Confidence comes from preparation. That deep seated knowing that you can do the task set out ahead of you.
We also looked at morale questions. If you were given a goal but you knew you didn’t touch the ball, would you claim it or do you tell the umpire? Is that different in a game where you are three-nil up versus when it is an Olympic Final at 1-all with 5 minutes to go. For myself, I don’t need to cheat myself. You could easily justify it, but I don’t need any goals handed to me.
All of this was included in our education as people as much as hockey players. I still keep in touch with Ric and will be seeing him next week at a camp with Hockey NSW.
When working with a team, it’s essential to go back to the values of the team and have everyone on board if you want to succeed. The group goals have to be agreed on, even with things like being at training on time. Working out what the team wants to achieve and then working towards the goal. We then empower the group to call each other out on behaviours that they don’t want or if they are not performing.
One of the things that Ric taught us was that he shouldn’t need to be at training. The team should be able to coach themselves and are internally driven. I like the idea of “What are you doing when no-one is watching?”.
My perfect coaching session would be when I’m not there. My team is working so well that they pull each other up and give technique tips. It takes a lot of hard work to get better and the goal as a coach is not to say much.
I’ve been coaching since 2005 and I realise how easy it is to just rock up to training. Being out on the field means you have more control. That has been hard to give up. I loved scoring goals, I loved playing for Australia and I love keeping fit.
Some of my young players have left and now play for Australia. There are definitely a few frustrations in coaching but also an incredible job satisfaction.______________________________________________________________
Katrina Powell is the Head Coach – Women’s Hockey, a three time Olympian, Double Gold Medal winner and fabulous coach and still studying business. In her career she has represented her country 252 times, and scored 141 goals.
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