Good coaching is about developing a lifelong love of sport in people and in a commitment to seeing the quality and number of coaches grow in Northland, the Northern Advocate has teamed up with Sport Northland to publish a question-and-answer feature on one local coach per month.
The aim is to highlight coaches from an array of codes to give an insight into the nuances of coaching and the people who dedicate themselves to the discipline.
The sixth monthly coach profile is Sam Walker. Despite only being 34, Walker has been wearing the coach’s hat for 18 years and has become a staple in the Northland cricket and football communities.
Name: Sam Walker
Hometown: Portsmouth, England
Sport: Cricket and Football
Occupation: Donovans Trade Supplies employee
Current coaching role: Onerahi Central Cricket Club and Kamo Soccer Club coach
Cricket: England and Wales Cricket Board level 1-2, New Zealand Cricket level 2
Football: Football Association England level 1
Favourite author: To be fair, I am not a massive reader due to being more of an outdoors person, and I can’t tell you the last book I read other than a sports autobiography.
Favourite movie: Tin Cup is a favourite, as is The Equaliser.
Favourite meal: A boring answer here, but I am partial to spaghetti bolognese – Italian would be my go-to restaurant.
What is your playing background?
Cricket has been a part of life since as far back as I can remember, from playing in the back garden with my brothers to playing club cricket, junior representative cricket back in England all the way through to senior club sides both in NZ and England.
Representing Northland was a highlight of playing cricket in New Zealand. Seeing the amount of passion people have for Northland sport was amazing to witness.
Football has also been a part of my whole life growing up in England. During the winter months, my brothers and I would be outside kicking a ball whenever we could.
I was involved with junior sides from the age of five and progressed through junior age groups teams to senior football. Upon moving to New Zealand, I became heavily involved with the Kamo Soccer Club.
How did you get into coaching?
Dad owning a sport shop and sponsoring a local coaching company was a positive. As soon as I turned 14-15, I would go along and help out the coaches delivering sessions.
This led to a part-time job on weekends and then into longer hours to help me through my studies at university.
What is your coaching experience?
I’ve been coaching for 18 years after taking my first coaching course at 16.
Havant Cricket Club (England) – Junior team coach
Totton and Eling Cricket Club (England) – Junior/senior team coach
South East Hampshire Cricket Association (England) – Junior team coach
Kamo Cricket Club (NZ) – Coaching all junior/senior teams
Northland Cricket (NZ) – Cricket development officer working with schools, local clubs and Northland representative sides
Onerahi Central Cricket Club (NZ) – Coaching all junior/senior sides
Team Elite (football coaching company, UK) – Coaching all ages
Kamo Soccer Club – Junior coaching coordinator as well as junior/senior team coach
What is your most memorable moment coaching?
I think most people would say winning championships and hands-down, that’s a great reward for the work you put in over the course of a season and is well deserved.
But seeing people that you have helped along the way develop their sporting careers and move up the sporting ladder – whether that’s in your sport or a different sport – I would like to think that some of the advice I gave them has helped them achieve, which is great.
Who is the most influential coach/person in your life?
I can’t look past both my parents and I can’t have enough gratitude for them both from throwing/kicking a ball with us to ferrying us to trainings and games. Nothing was ever too much trouble and they certainly clocked up the miles in driving us around.
Also, my first cricket coach Peter Haslop. It was Peter who really got me interested in coaching, seeing the satisfaction that helping an individual improve brought him and his continuous smile made me feel like I would love to do the same thing.
In NZ, being able to work alongside Karl Treiber for cricket has also helped me develop and improve as a coach.
How has your coaching changed?
At the start, I was very disciplined around technique. This is how it’s taught to the coaches and in the book, therefore, this is how it should be done.
In reality, everyone is different we’re not robots and different things work for different people. As long as the fundamentals of the skills are followed, how you get there really doesn’t matter.
How has coaching/sport changed?
In my opinion, coaching sport has become more challenging since my early days. In the past, they used to let anyone who volunteered their time become a coach, but nowadays we need to have background checks and certificates which may put people off.
Coaches must be on their toes due to the vast sporting options on offer nowadays, all sports are challenging each other for numbers, so we must be able to put on fun and enjoyable sessions all the time.
What is your number one coaching tip?
Be positive. Young athletes and even adults want to be around positive people. It’s vitally important for kids to develop confidence and feel like they are in a secure and supportive environment.
By being positive, it will also give off the feeling of enjoyment and that’s why 90 per cent of people play sport – for the enjoyment.