But the 39-year-old was a fantastic athlete in her own right' />

Kirsten Hellier is better known by her other name these days - Valerie Vili's coach.

But the 39-year-old was a fantastic athlete in her own right, winning a Commonwealth Games javelin silver medal in 1994 and representing New Zealand at the Olympics and world championships.

She has been the force behind Vili's rise to Olympic and world shot put supremacy - and this from a woman who doesn't even describe coaching as a job.

Although make no mistake, Hellier treats coaching seriously.

Hellier, a sports co-coordinator at Macleans College, spent this week sharing her knowledge and inspiration with coaching hopefuls at seminars in Auckland and Wellington.

The seminars - run by Athletics New Zealand, the Lovelock-Davies foundation and Coca Cola - also featured American Ron Warhurst, who coaches Olympic 1500m bronze medallist Nick Willis, and British-based Kiwi high jump coach Terry Lomax.

Hellier takes a few questions from the Herald.

What inspired you to be an athlete and then a coach?
Our family came from Tokoroa but I grew up in Western Samoa after my father went there to help build a hospital.

I had limited contact with sport in Samoa and about the only thing I did was throw stones which might have helped I suppose.

When we came back to New Zealand I went crazy on sport and did everything after starting at Macleans College.

The first time I picked up the javelin I think I threw it about 20 metres and it wouldn't have looked overly beautiful.

I don't recall thinking 'This is what I want to do for the rest of my life'. It was just another sport at first.

After the 1994 Commonwealth Games, I was just going through the motions and needed a break.

As fate would have it, three weeks later I found I was pregnant with our first child (she is married to Patrick).

I'd intended competing again and trying to qualify for the 1996 Olympics, but I had a few injuries and the body just never recovered.

I had shoulder and toe operations and probably tried to do too much too soon. I was really enjoying coaching at Counties-Manukau and the thought of going back and hammering my body again didn't appeal as much as hammering somebody else's.

Did you fancy yourself as a future star in a particular sport when you were 13?
Don't know ... I was doing every sport but maybe had an inkling I would end up doing athletics.

My dad Lionel Smith was a high hurdler who represented New Zealand at the Empire Games in Auckland in 1950.

So athletics was in the blood - my brother got fast twitch fibres in the legs but with me it stopped at the waist.

I got it in the arms.

What's are the proudest moments of your sporting life?
From 1990 onwards I was self-coached and got to world, Commonwealth and Olympic games.

Getting myself to that level gives me a great deal of pride.

Winning the Commonwealth Games silver medal was also very special, and being an Olympian.

Worst moment?
Having to admit my career was over. It took a lot of soul searching ... realising the body wouldn't do what I was asking it to do and that my focus wasn't the same.

I was thinking more about the athletes I was coaching than myself.

There was a day I remember distinctly when I woke up and said 'That's it - I'm calling it quits'.

How much control do you have over whether Valerie wins or not?
It is huge on a day-to-day basis. My job is to get her right for the day and her job is to go out on the day and do it. We are a team - we don't do it independently.

I write the programmes but I'm constantly getting feedback from her.

Val describes it like this - I'm the pilot of the plane and she's the plane.

What are your aims this year?
For Val to consistently throw over 20 metres and to defend our world championship title in Berlin in August.

What is the best part about your job?
For a start, I don't consider it a job. I don't get paid for it. I get grants to cover the loss of earnings from school while I'm away - anything up to six months a year.

Maybe not regarding it as a job is a good thing. It is something I love to do as opposed to something I have to do.

As a sports co-ordinator, I get to deal with kids when they want to do something and not when they have to do something.

Worst part?
Time away but having said that, my kids know no different.

Jarod is 9 and all he knows is that mum and Aunty Val go off and do their thing and Mikaela, who is 13, is pretty immersed in the whole thing as well. It's not a glamorous job - you spend your time in hotel rooms or training venues and don't see the sights.

Juggling work commitments and those to Val and the other athletes I train is difficult.

You are talking about athletes vying for Olympic Games and world championships so it is massive. For Val it is really huge because the expectations are so high and we are determined to keep on top.

If you weren't a coach/teacher, what would you be doing?
I always wanted to be a policewoman ... unfortunately my parents separated when I was in my sixth form year and I left school.

It was a case of having to, all hands on deck. I was with my mum and I got a job in a sports shop, then managed it and I had all my athletics going on.

Suddenly you wake up one day at the age of 25, discover you are pregnant and well, OK, I'm not going to be a policewoman.

Who is the most inspirational coach you have dealt with?
I couldn't go past my first coach Max Steward from the Manurewa athletics club.

He was by no stretch of the imagination the world's best coach but he taught me about the type of person I wanted to be, that it wasn't just about the sport but the balance in life, the friendships and those sorts of things.

Even when I outgrew him as a coach we still had an amazing friendship to the point that he was kind of a surrogate dad for me. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2003.

Did you have a favourite venue to compete at?
I loved throwing in Christchurch. You always used to get a nice warm breeze down there and I can't ever recall competing there when the conditions were horrible.

Who would play you in a movie?

That's a tough one.

She'd have to be a hard arse [laughs] ... blonde hair, blue eyes, Charlize Theron would be great although she didn't look too great in the movie Monster.

People you admire?
I like reading about the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi – people who have impacted the world in great ways.

Hobbies away from coaching?
I like to keep fit.

I'm a firm believer in practising what I preach and I ask my athletes to be disciplined and healthy. I go to yoga, run, train in the gym. That's my time out.

Does your sport and Team Valerie get the attention they deserve?
It doesn't bother me if people don't recognise me. Valerie gets plenty of publicity and being the stature she is, she is easily recognisable.

Her results have been fantastic and she deserves every accolade she gets.

In dollar terms though there are frustrations.

If you look at what an All Black gets, or even a Super 14 player who warms the bench, they get ten fold the return Val and I will ever get.

We have both had good offers to go elsewhere in the world but this is our home and where we want to be.

It would not be so easy for Val to move of course but I would be stupid not to look at the offers at some stage.

But I have a commitment to Val and the other athletes I coach.

Does rugby get too much attention in New Zealand?
It's part of the culture and it has been around for a long time so the attention it gets is based on that.

You can't argue with that. All we can do is try to lift the profile of our sport.

Name one career ambition you would like to achieve before retiring as a coach?
Actually, I've achieved them all.

I knew it would happen but never envisaged that at the age of 39, I'd have an athlete who has achieved every title possible in track and field.

If I was run over by a bus tomorrow, I could sit quietly in my little coffin and say I've achieved everything I set out to.

But it continues ... we have a world title to defend and the Olympics again in three years.