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 piece on one local coach per month.

The aim is to highlight coaches from an array of codes to give those interested an insight into the nuances of coaching and the people who dedicate themselves to the discipline.
Name: Dave Alabaster

Age: 60

Hometown: Born in Christchurch, moved to Whangārei at seven years old.

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Sport: Football

Current title: Northern Football Federation, Football Development Manager - Northland

Playing background: Fifteen years playing in the Northern, Southern and Central Leagues

Training/Qualifications: NZF Level 3, National Academy Coaching Licence, NZF Coach Educators Licence

Operating out of ASB Stadium in Whangārei for the Northern Football Federation, Alabaster says his role doesn't often feel like work. Photo / John Stone
Operating out of ASB Stadium in Whangārei for the Northern Football Federation, Alabaster says his role doesn't often feel like work. Photo / John Stone

Coaching experience:

Over 40 years coaching at club, representative, regional and national academy levels across junior, youth and senior levels (male and female).

Favourite author: David Baldacci, Lee Child

Favourite movie: One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest

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Favourite meal: Sashimi, anything seafood

What has been your coaching role this year?

For the first time many years, I have no specific coaching role. Whilst I have been filling in and helping out, mostly in the junior talent space, my focus this year has been as a coach educator, coach developer and mentor.


Why do you coach?

To inspire others to be the best they can be so that together we can change the world we live in for the better.


How did you get into coaching?

As a teenager I was encouraged to coach and found it enjoyable. Very early on, I realised how little I knew about the game and how much coaching taught me about my own game. I vowed that Northland footballers should have more opportunities than I had as a young player.

Alabaster's commitment to football saw him awarded a Life Member Award by the Northern Football Federation this year. Photo / John Stone
Alabaster's commitment to football saw him awarded a Life Member Award by the Northern Football Federation this year. Photo / John Stone

Who is the most influential coach/person in your life?

Alan Jones/Roger Wilkinson: inspired me to be a full time coach
John Herdman: inspired me to change my coaching philosophy
Jim Taylor: constantly challenges who I am


What is your most memorable moment/experience coaching?

Northland United being promoted to the Northern Premier League after losing 0-1 away at Kawerau and thinking we had blown it. A rollercoaster of emotions, incredible celebrations in the dressing room and a hell of a night.


How has your coaching changed?

It's become less about me and more about the players, become less about results and more about development, become less instructional and more questioning, and you realise the importance of fun (the players and me).

While he does spend a fair few hours in the office, Alabaster can often be found patrolling the fields at local football games during the winter. Photo / John Stone
While he does spend a fair few hours in the office, Alabaster can often be found patrolling the fields at local football games during the winter. Photo / John Stone

How has coaching/sport changed?

The quality of the experience, particularly in the junior space, has improved dramatically from when I played and began coaching. The introduction of small-sided games in particular, have had a massive impact on how football is played and coached in NZ.

Sport in general is a lot more "customer"-focused and coaching has become much more player-centred. Football coaching has evolved from an emphasis on physical improvement, to technical development through to now, where the focus is on teaching "game intelligence".


What is the most important thing you do as a coach in the sector?

Recruiting, developing and retaining coaches and coach developers is essential in continuing to improve the experience of those participating in sport, especially at grassroots level.


What would be your number one coaching tip?

Ask questions, listen to the answers and never lose sight of why your players are there.