Good coaching is about developing a lifelong love of sport in people and in a commitment to seeing the quality and number of coaches grow in Northland, the Northern Advocate has teamed up with Sport Northland to publish a question-and-answer feature on one local coach per month.
The aim is to highlight coaches from an array of codes to give an insight into the nuances of coaching and the people who dedicate themselves to the discipline.
The seventh coach profile is Ashleigh McCaw, a woman cultivating Northland's next generation of gymnasts, tumblers, cheerleaders and much more.
Name: Ashleigh McCaw
Sport: Gymnastics, tumbling, aerobics, cheerleading, athletics and swimming
Current job: Director and coach at Active Attitude
Current coaching roles: Active Attitude after-school club programme coach, Active Attitude "coach in training" programme co-ordinator, aerobics, tumble and cheer competition coach, Northland aerobics coach, gymnastics, swimming and athletics school programme co-ordinator.
Playing background: I did gymnastics as a sport from age 11 and through my teenage years, representing Northland for a few years during that time.
Coaching experience: I started out coaching gymnastics at age 14 and have been coaching sport ever since (17 years).
Training/Qualifications: Bachelor of Sport and Leisure (Hons), Fitness Business Diploma, Certificate in Personal Training, Certificate in Sports Administration, Coaching New Zealand (Level 2).
Favourite book: A book that I've recently enjoyed reading was Life is Short, Don't Wait to Dance by Valorie Kondos Field – I enjoyed reading about Miss Val the gymnastics coach who didn't grow up in the sport and as a result the unique perspective she could bring to her coaching.
Favourite meal: Sunday roast with my nana.
What is your why?
Providing opportunities for young people through sport and physical activity.
Who has been the most influential person in your life?
Rowena McEvoy - she is one of the founders of the Max College of Fitness. She is one of the most positive, dedicated and disciplined people I've met.
What has been your most memorable moment coaching?
Seven of our athletes have been working towards a pretty big goal over the past six months – to hit qualifying scores to be able to represent NZ in a competition in the United States this year (which won't take place due to Covid-19).
Seeing them step up to the level of commitment of training, focus and teamwork required (and seeing that same dedication and support from their parents) was pretty special and it is a great culture within the team.
How did you get into coaching?
I got into coaching at 14 through Gymnastics New Zealand's "Coach in Training" programme. The programme involved attending coaching modules and practical coaching experience throughout a two-year period.
How has your coaching changed?
Over the years, I have come to challenge myself to look beyond the way things have traditionally been done. I chose to get my personal training qualification and do a sports degree because I wanted to have a good understanding of pedagogy, biomechanics and anatomy.
I was often getting injured as an athlete and it definitely made me more curious of coaching practices and how we can better teach movements and condition athletes without putting young bodies through unnecessary stress.
This often involves me collaborating with other coaches, specialists, physios, etc - the learning never stops, so my coaching is forever changing as a result.
How important are coaches?
Coaches have the ability to nurture a lifelong love for sport and spread their passion. This then has a flow-on effect to the future involvement of consumers in sport whether they be participants, spectators or officials – connection is required for people to remain involved in sport for the long run.
What is your number one coaching tip?
Be creative and be inquisitive – know the "why" behind the skill, drill or conditioning exercise, don't just copy another coach or team. It's important for coaches to be engaged in their own learning, so they are able to establish the best methods for the athletes and teams they are working with.