Tietjens asks whether players have too much power

Gordon Tietjens
Gordon Tietjens
Former New Zealand sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens has questioned whether players are gathering too much power in the modern sporting environment.

Tietjens’ comments come in the wake of suggestions long-serving Black Sticks coach Mark Hager, who has a reputation for working his players hard, created a negative environment.

Those claims emerged after Hager inadvertently sent an email, which was critical of the work ethic of three of his players, to the entire squad rather than just a member of his coaching staff.

Hockey New Zealand and its players’ association will meet on Monday to discuss the issue. Hager could not be reached for comment yesterday but Tietjens wondered whether what we might be witnessing was another example of the players asserting their increased clout.

"If you go back to when I coached [the All Black Sevens] I just felt we were empowering the players too much," he said.

"Their focus should be solely on getting better at what they do and being focused on their game as an athlete.

"If I looked at it from the hockey perspective with Mark, it was only a couple of months ago he won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

"Then they go out and don’t perform as well as they would have like at the Hockey World Cup. And, of course, out of that now there is, I suppose, ill-feeling within the camp.

"It is really disappointing that it couldn’t be dealt with between the team and the organisation."

Tietjens coached the All Black Sevens for 22 years and had a tremendous amount of success. But he felt a shift in the power dynamics during his final 18 months in the job.

In the build-up to the 2016 Olympics, the players had a lot more say about how they went about their preparation for the tournament.He was uncomfortable with the change. Like Hager, Tietjens has a reputation as a tough taskmaster when it comes to fitness.

"But now you’ve got the captain and three or four others who basically decide by majority what your training session is going to look like. So that is taking away from your coach the power ... and empowering the players to make those decisions.

"I suppose that is what you are dealing with and it is a real challenge as a coach and I feel for those coaches.

"Mark is a very, very good coach, I can assure you. Tactically he is good and he has got to have control.

"My personal opinion is, if he feels certain players need to get fitter, then he has to be able to put in place methods of getting them fitter.

"I have a real belief that working hard for each other around what was required for conditioning really unified our teams."

Empowering players did not appear to help Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby. She stepped down last month after a Netball New Zealand review found the "team needed clearer direction, structure and boundaries, on and off the court".

Arguably, she gave the players too much leeway and was then made a scapegoat.

"I felt for Janine Southby because she lost a massive amount of experience with the loss of some real key players.

"She had to bring on some new players and that does take time. That’s all I’ll say about that."

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