From Athlete… To Coach… To… Being a Slow Driver..?

It’s been a little while since I have written anything, guess I have been keeping myself busy and figuring out what my new normal is.. I can conclude that ‘normal’ is something that may change yearly, monthly or weekly – Being less worried about ‘normal’ and more content with ‘what is’ seems a much better approach going forwards!

Soo… Since August last year which can I see was my last piece of writing – There have been a few big changes. Starting with deciding to take on a role coaching the two – sometimes three New Zealand Nacra 17 Teams through to Tokyo (assuming they still like me by then :)), dropping to part time (3 days a week – and often only 2) at EY, and recently switching out my car to a plug in Hybrid – This may seem like much less of a big change but I will explain further below!


Starting with the Coaching. How did I get here? Considering that post Rio I remember saying on multiple occasions that “No, I don’t want to be a coach….”, so either I have a short term memory or as it happens with time and space – I see things a little differently now! My foray into coaching began last year with the desire to utilise a few of those many campaign skills that I had developed over the course of my Olympic sailing career, and also as a way to keep travelling and maintaining the mildly nomadic lifestyle that I am most accustomed to.

What I have discovered since then, with stepping away from one-off regatta coaching and delving into a more intensive complete campaign oversight with my athletes, is that there are many pieces of the coaching puzzle that really mesh with my values as a person. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with some brilliant people – from the athletes to the support personnel around the edges, all with that desire to be doing everything possible in the pursuit of performance and that willingness to not shy away from those tough conversations – Two things that I as an athlete completely subscribed to.

IMG_9610The discoveries I have made about myself these past months are multiple, figuring out my own coaching philosophy – Guided by my experiences as an athlete, as a woman in the still mildly male led arena of sport, and by the desire to be true to myself in everything I do. The realisation that I am very much about person first, athlete second and performance third – That performance is what will eventuate from a self aware, resilient and confident person, who trains hard, does all that is required, doesn’t take any shortcuts and is brutally honest along the way. I consciously choose to put the person first – as an athlete that’s what you take home at night after training, and that’s what you are left with when you choose to step away from competition. I have seen too many athletes who finish their sporting careers as people with too many scars to carry from their athletic lives, where as an athlete they were simply a performance tool – Not respected as a person.

If you follow NZ sport at all, you will have seen various reviews of sports organisations within NZ as well as the Cottrell Report which focuses on athlete wellbeing, the duty of care (or lack of) for athletes by their sporting federations and the imbalances in power that often seem to exist within sport nationally (and also internationally – as there are similar investigations currently ongoing in the UK among other places). As an ex. athlete, these reports often strike close to home – Not always from my own experiences, but always from someone I know within or on the edge of the system. I feel lucky that I am now in a position where I can try and have a positive effect on not only my athletes, but also on the system that surrounds them, to fight the battles that need to be fought, and continue to be able to speak for those that don’t feel they can speak up.


Back to me: An unintended consequence of this move to coaching has been that I really have no interest at all in competing myself in the near future, I can still be a part of something I really love, and the change to this side of the fence has once again highlighted the reduced level of stress that I feel, compared to when I was competing myself. I feel so much more free to be me, to do what I want, to cut myself some slack – I can miss a day or three of fitness and not feel like a failure anymore, I can eat or drink what I want – Still quite exceptionally healthily most of the time – But I guess that’s just my norm! And more importantly, and more overridingly, I don’t feel like I am constantly trying to prove my own worth. Which is very freeing I can tell you that!!

To the EY side: They have been amazing, giving me the flexibility to work for them when I can around the coaching, with the understanding that the coaching role is my top priority through to Tokyo 2020. Not many companies have the width of thinking to make something like this possible, and I am hugely thankful for that. For me, the ability to change up my weeks, and head into the office for a few days when ever I can, is the perfect way to keep some perspective, to keep learning and developing myself as a more rounded individual. I get the chance to work alongside some incredibly smart and forward thinking people, and importantly remember there is much more to life than just sport!

Lastly – Something that has had much more of an impact on my daily life than I thought it would – A car… I had been looking down the EV/Hybrid path as a way to have a bigger car but without the added fuel usage, and as someone who is trying to do what I can for the environment. Be it by reducing my packaging and plastic – from being picky about what I buy, to never buying a coffee take-away unless I have my keep-cup, to bees-wax wraps instead of gladwrap (I really do love the wraps!) – and many other little things to stop chucking so many single-use pieces of plastic in the bin * as a side note: I challenge you to see just how much waste you throw away weekly – It’s scary when you start noticing – And then see what little steps you can take to minimise what goes out in the rubbish every week.*

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But back to the car! A good friend happened to be selling his family car, and so I tried it out for a day in the life – Retrieving a coach boat, driving it around, driving myself around… And I absolutely loved it – But not for the reasons I might have thought I would. I was suddenly so much more relaxed in the car – I am someone who tends to zoom around from appointment to appointment, in a rush, getting grumpy at slow people (like all kiwi drivers – nuts once in their cars!) 😀 But driving this car – a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (the only Hybrid rated to tow that doesn’t cost the earth), and trying to remain in the ‘green – battery only zone’ made me suddenly the most relaxed driver.  To be fair I probably annoy a few of you by taking off slowly at the lights, and coasting down the hills, but I am for the first time completely happy to just be cruising… It’s my happy place when I get in the car, the rushing is forgotten, the quiet of no engine noise, and the goal of seeing how far I can stretch the battery has completely changed my time at the wheel, and positively impacts the rest of my day as an unintended tool in being a little more present in the moment. Who would have thought!!

To sum up, it’s been an awesome summer, with plenty of water based fun and adventure, but as the days start to shorten its time to take off again, I head off to Europe in a week for the with my two teams, I will be in Palma, Genoa, Athens, Weymouth and the UK before heading to Japan in June – I keep being asked at work if I am excited to be going, or something like that – But really, this is just back to the same routine as the last twelve years, but with a little more chill thrown in the mix! And finally a chance to spend some time with PJ again 🙂


5 Replies to “From Athlete… To Coach… To… Being a Slow Driver..?”

  1. Hi Jo Thanks for keeping us up to date with your new post! We often think of you & wonder what you’re up to. Do hope your sailors do well in the up coming regattas! Enjoy life…travelling, coaching, working & your new car & catching up with PJ! All the best Jill & Mick

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Great update Jo. I’m with you on the car thing. When my wife got a Prius several years ago, I found myself very relaxed using the battery top up ‘stars’ and fuel usage as measures of performance rather than the speedo (the only measure) in my own car!



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