Coaching and managing now Kitchen’s focus

Shelley Kitchen at the opening day of the New Zealand Squash Masters at the Otago Squash Club...
Shelley Kitchen at the opening day of the New Zealand Squash Masters at the Otago Squash Club yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh.
One of the biggest names in New Zealand squash is in Dunedin this weekend for the New Zealand Masters Championships.

Shelley Kitchen will compete in the over-35 category, as she looks to defend the title she won last year in Napier.

It has been nearly 20 years since she played in Dunedin.

"I’ve played with a lot of these players before in my junior career, and seniors, so it’ll be nice to see everyone again and get down to Dunedin," the 2006 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and former world champion said.

The event began yesterday, although Kitchen (36) did not play, having a first-round bye as the No1 seed. She will also compete in the team’s competition for Northland.

While she had been training for the event, coaching and managing are now her primary focus.

Based in Auckland, she works as the high-performance manager for Squash New Zealand and was recently named coach of the New Zealand women’s team for world championships in Paris in December.

"It’s the first time I’ve coached a women’s team.

"I coached a New Zealand juniors team this year at the Oceania’s, which was in Australia, and obviously, I’ve played in lots of New Zealand women’s teams. So coaching and managing will be quite a bit different, but I think I’ve got enough experience and know the girls pretty well."

While the team was seeded lower than hoped, Kitchen felt it had a chance to finish in the top four.

Joelle King is ranked in the world top 10 and is the team’s No1 player, while Megan Craig and Amanda Landers-Murphy are capable of beating highly-ranked players on their day.

The team is due to fly out on November 27, giving it three days to prepare for the first day of games.

Despite the team only being named three weeks ago, Kitchen had been working with the players all year in her role as high-performance manager, along with the country’s other top players.

"Everyone does have their own schedule," she said.

"No-one’s based in Auckland, where I am. So I’m just monitoring their tournaments, I guess, making sure they’re training right.

"They all work as well. Joelle King doesn’t work, but the other members of the team do work and try to play squash fulltime. So they’re pretty busy girls.

"Getting them together is a bit of a challenge. So everyone’s sort of off doing their own thing and I’m just monitoring that, really."

Living in Auckland with girls aged 6 and 4, playing was not such a big focus for her any more, although she did try to remain active.

"Not that much, because I’m busy with my family and coaching and that," she said when asked how often she played.

"I played the nationals a few weeks ago, but just played in the teams event for Northland. I didn’t play the individual.

"And I’ve just been training for the masters, so just trying to play a couple of times a week, as much as I can really, it’s good to keep playing.

"I need to be on court with the girls when I go over to Paris, so it’s good to be able to stay fit and play with them, as well."

She was also planning to run the Kerikeri half-marathon next month.

Kitchen thought New Zealand squash was in a good place, with successes at the junior level and some talented prospects coming through the ranks.

Several high-profile tournaments would be held in the country next year, providing opportunities for the country’s top players to earn PSA world rankings points.

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