Do your best but make sure you enjoy it

Jolene Casey is passionate about the future of southern hockey. PHOTOS: LINDA ROBERTSON
Jolene Casey is passionate about the future of southern hockey. PHOTOS: LINDA ROBERTSON
Jolene Casey is officially a new face at the Otago Hockey Association as its community hockey manager, but she is very familiar with the turf. Hayden Meikle tracks her down for a chat.

What is your background in hockey, Jolene?

I think I had a hockey stick in my hands before I started school. So it’s been in the blood for quite some time. We weren’t really a hockey family but my mum was a very keen sportsperson, and got both my brother and I into sport very early on. We were encouraged to give everything a go but hockey was the one that stuck. Then I was lucky enough to have Jenny McDonald, the former Black Sticks captain, as my coach at Outram School. Her and Mum worked quite closely together as coach and manager.

What was the key thing you learned from Jenny?

Just to enjoy it. Play hard but play fair. I guess that’s something I’ve taken into my coaching. You’re out there to do your best, but you play better hockey when you are enjoying it.

Did you play right through the grades?

Yeah, I played for Otago rep teams right through. Then I had a bit of a break when I had kids. Then I went back to playing for West Taieri and Otago women’s masters teams. I’m still playing now — just over 40 years, ha ha.

Casey talks to Sam Schell (16) at an under-18 development squad training session at the McMillan...
Casey talks to Sam Schell (16) at an under-18 development squad training session at the McMillan Centre.
When did you start coaching?

I’ve been coaching primary school teams for 20-odd years. Then I started managing at rep level when my own boys were playing and got into coaching as well. I coached at John McGlashan College, and I’ve coached the Otago under-15 boys and under-18 men.

Apart from Jenny’s initial influence, any other coaching role models or mentors?

Probably my mum, Lyn Donaldson, to be fair. She’s been a huge influence on our sporting lives. Always there for support and encouraging us through. Even now, when I’m away with rep teams and things, she’s very helpful with keeping an eye on the family.

How old are your children?

Three boys. All hockey boys. Hamish is 12, Nick is 16, and Liam is 18.

Where do you teach?

I’m just finishing up at East Taieri primary. I’m the PE specialist and sports director. I’m doing teaching and the Otago hockey role part-time at the moment, before I move into the hockey role full-time next term. So everything’s a bit chaotic, ha ha.

Excited about the new job?

I am. Really looking forward to it. Just growing participation numbers, from the teeny tots through the masters. And we just want to deliver the best hockey we can for our community. I was a board member at Otago but I’ve jumped off now I’m joining the staff.

What is the state of hockey in Otago?

Really good. It’s been great to get the new turf out at King’s High School, which has helped grow our numbers. We were really at capacity with just two turfs. Numbers are growing nicely. Hymie Gill is running some amazing programmes in the pathway performance area, so it keeps some of the older players engaged and keen. And with the Sport New Zealand Balance is Better programme, we’re able to keep a lot more of those children involved. So at under-15s, we took four teams away this year instead of one girls team, so it kept more kids engaged and pushing through for under-18s and further. Club numbers are up too, which is great.

It seems like, pound for pound, Otago produces as many talented hockey players as any region.

Absolutely phenomenal. We just had North-South teams released, and from our Otago 18s boys, there are five of them in the junior South team. That’s pretty cool.

Why do you love the sport? What’s kept you going this long?

I think it’s the camaraderie. There’s kind of a family feel at Otago hockey. Everyone supports each other, on and off the field. I love a challenge, so it’s good to have something to dip your toes into while you feel fully supported.

Your job is about the community but do you also get into hockey at the elite end?

Yeah, I love it. I’m a trainer for Hockey New Zealand as well, and I’m also part of a women in coaching group, so I do a wee bit across the country. It’s nice to have that interaction at the top level.

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