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Coaches pick up the challenge of connecting online

Tuesday 27 October 2020 3:14pm

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Associate Professor Tania Cassidy

Coordinated by Otago alumni Carmel Leslie (Otago Academy of Sport), Grant Milne (Sport Otago) and Associate Professor Tania Cassidy from the University, this year’s Connecting Coaches Conference theme is Adapting our coaching in a changing world: Connect, create and communicate.

Responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the first online version of the biennial conference, which will be held on 27-28 November.

Associate Professor Cassidy says one of the unexpected benefits of running the conference online is that all the presentations will be recorded and made available to those who register.

“So, if the dates don’t suit, or you can’t travel to Dunedin, you don’t miss out because you can download the presentations anytime for an entire year,” she says.

During the two-day conference, 20 speakers will make links to the theme of adapting, connecting, creating and communicating as they cover topics ranging from athlete wellbeing, the elite coaching space, athlete voice, youth sport, and Māori and Pacific sporting experiences.

A star-studded line-up of presenters includes Silver Ferns World Cup winning coach Dame Noeline Taurua; Liverpool Football Club women’s assistant coach Emma Humphries; Olympic snow sports medallist Nico Porteous and Athletic NZ’s successful Paralympic head coach Raylene Bates.

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Jamie Joseph and Heath Mills

Several top-ranking University of Otago alumni from the global sporting arena are also among the speakers, including head coach of the Japanese rugby team Jamie Joseph; Chairperson of the South Pacific Rugby League and Sports Club Dr Gianni Leoni; Chief Executive of the NZ Cricket Players’ Association Heath Mills; and former NZ representative artistic gymnast Amy Hoosen.

Completing the alumni line up is Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson who will be speaking, amongst other things, about Te Reo and wellbeing within rugby (professional, regional Māori teams and club).

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Amy Hoosen and Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson

Associate Professor Cassidy says she has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the speakers to participate in the conference, which has highlighted to her the benefits of developing connections and being creative.

“The aim of the conference is to support coaches to build their capacity to be adaptable. If 2020 has taught us anything it is that we need to be flexible in our thinking, work together and adapt to what is in front of us.

“The breadth of topics will appeal to those who recognise coaching to be a complex enterprise that requires more than just technical and tactical knowledge.”

In the spirit of creativity, and to overcome Zoom fatigue, the organisers are using Graham Norton as their “muse” and will be having conversations with the speakers from the couch. They have promised there will be no “red chair”.

The conference is open to all, at a cost of $99, with recordings available for a year. People are welcome to join from overseas. Those who register may also be eligible to apply for the University of Otago and Otago Community Trust scholarships that will cover the cost of the registration.

For registered conference-goers who live in Dunedin, an in-person social event will be held at the University Oval Long Room after the Friday sessions.

Further details on the conference, scholarships and registration can be found at