Athletics NZ’s new High Performance Throws Co-ordinator Dale Stevenson started work in his new job in Christchurch on Monday. Steve Landells caught up with the former Australian international shot putter to talk more about his new role.
What was your motivation to apply for the job?
DS: There were two main reasons. Firstly, I have a passion for athletics. I’ve had many great experiences and met some great people in the sport. The second reason is New Zealand is currently a very fertile place for throwing. I feel like New Zealand has some good times ahead in the throws led quite capably by Valerie Adams and supported by Tom Walsh - not forgetting the likes of Beatrice Faumuina, who succeeded before them. There is plenty of talent, will and resources here that can make New Zealand a real powerhouse in the throws.
Why do you feel New Zealand is enjoying so much success in the throws?
DS: There is no one single reason in the same way that there is no one single reason why Jamaicans are so good at sprinting or Kenyans at distance running. There are biological, geographical and sociological reasons and it seems at the moment as if a lot of these factors have lined up in New Zealand for the throws. The country has the talent physically, it has some great role models to follow and there is an established pathway, which is something I know Athletics NZ are working to hard to further develop.
What will your role entail?
DS: Primarily I’m here as a support facility for the athletes and coaches in the New Zealand throws community focusing on the juniors, the development ranks right through to high performance and the elite level. I will be working directly with the athletes and established coaches to make sure they continue to develop and grow their skill set. We also hope to get a talent ID programme off the ground, where we will hope to maybe find a few new faces. I’ll probably have a clearer idea of how the role will develop over the next six months or so.
Will you also be working closely with Tom Walsh?
DS: Yes, particularly when Tom is overseas. I’ve got a long established relationship with Tom. I competed against him for many years. Tom’s also been coming over and staying with me in Melbourne for a number of years to compete on the Australian circuit. We’ve got a good rapport. He has proved himself to be world-class thrower and I hope to be able to help him take the next step at the World Championships in Beijing on to the Rio Olympics. When he is overseas I will be with him to provide some unified coaching support. On the road competing in Europe for months on end can present its challenges. Hopefully I can act as another set of eyes during technical sessions and I hope to be able to help him out in other ways in his quest to win medals on the world stage.
Were you surprised by Tom’s breakthrough success in 2014?
DS: I was not surprised by his success but his breakthrough was a shock – and I think Tom will admit that. The fact he managed to sneak on the podium (at World Indoors) came as a surprise but it was not unbelievable when you know the guy, what he does behind the scenes and his dedication and work ethic. He really has a love and passion for his event and wants to expand his knowledge further.
Is it true he built you deck when he stayed in Melbourne with you earlier this year?
DS: Yes, he built the deck in exchange for free board and food. It was a good way to build a rapport.
What are some of the biggest challenges you expect to face in your role?
DS: My biggest challenge will be not having a huge breadth of knowledge in direct coaching. I will have to make sure I am considered and listen much more than I speak. I’ll be working with other elite coaches, who are much more experienced than me. I feel like I am prepared for that and I think I’m going to spend a big part of my initial role listening and finding out about people and their hopes and dreams for throwing in New Zealand.
What is your previous experience of New Zealand?
DS: I’ve been here a few times and last year competed in Timaru after Tom invited me over for the multi-event throwing competition – which was fantastic and one of the most fun meets I’ve ever done. I came over with my partner, Lauren, and Tom’s father loaned us a car for a week. We drove around the South Island - it was fantastic. Even before this role came up I said if I had to live somewhere other than Australia then the South Island would be a pretty strong contender. The stars have now aligned to make this happen.
You officially retired from athletics after the London Olympics, but are still aged only 26 are you comfortable as a retired athlete?
DS: I am very comfortable. My motivation for being involved in athletics was different at the beginning compared to the end of my career and it got to a point when I wasn’t enjoying the sport. That was part of the reason I stepped away from athletics. Yet it was good for me. It made me realign those values for why I first got involved in the sport. I feel like my competitive days are over but I still feel like I have a lot to give the sport.
What are your aims and ambitions in the role?
DS: I hope to create a real sense of community among the throwers – both athletes and coaches. This can go a long way to achieving good results through building an enjoyable training environment for athletes to work in. My biggest goal is to help athletes and coaches achieve their goals, and if I do that I’ll be immensely satisfied.
Name: Dale Stevenson
Achievements: 2010 Commonwealth Games shot put bronze medal, 2012 London Olympics 25th.
Also a former Melbourne Harlequins Rugby Union loose-head prop.