News & Updates

20 October 2023 • Community

Athletics for Everybody – Steph Dickins

New Zealand Black Sticks international was a talented athlete through her teens and credits her athletics background for providing a springboard for her future hockey success. Credit: Simon Watts/BWMedia

As part of our Athletics for Everybody campaign we focus on a number of individuals who formed their foundation skills at their local athletics club before going on to flourish in other sports. In the first of the series, we speak to former national age-group athletics champion and Black Sticks hockey international Steph Dickins.

Steph Dickins may now be firmly established as an Black Sticks regular, but the role athletics played in her career development should not be underestimated.

A former national U20 400m hurdles champion and New Zealand U18 heptathlon gold medallist, Steph boasted an eye-catching track and field CV and looks back with huge fondness on her time in the sport.

Raised on a beef and sheep farm in the Manawatu, Steph impressed in athletics days at school and after winning the 2008 New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country title in New Plymouth as a Year Nine student she was asked by coach George McConachy to join Palmerston North Athletic and Harrier club.

Encouraged by her performances, Steph leapt at the chance and with her mum dutifully carrying out the two-hour round trip from the family farm to training, she has many happy memories of her time at the club.

“My mum was a real legend driving me out to training and I just remember being part of my training group, which was so much fun,” says Steph. “It was always so much more than turning up for training and then going home. Training was always different and interesting. We’d work on co-ordination drills, we’d mix up the training between long and short interval training, hurdles and at the end of every year we’d all dress up in a fun costume and race each other.”

A member of the Palmerston North Club until the age of 18 and also Feilding Moa Harriers, Steph claimed national U16 and U18 titles in the 300m hurdles and in 2012 captured the U18 national heptathlon title.

After moving north to study in Auckland she continued with athletics for two more seasons training out of North Harbour Bays club under the coaching guidance of the late Russ Hoggard. During this period, she secured the New Zealand 400m hurdles U20 crown – a personal highlight from her time in athletics – before opting to focus on her hockey career.

As a 64-times capped Black Stick, who has represented her country at both the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games she has no regrets but acknowledges the role athletics has played in her overall sporing development.

“It helped hugely,” says Steph, 28. “It is interesting we did some fitness testing (as part of hockey training) recently, repeat sprints of 30 seconds as fast as you can with the aim to measure overall fatigue levels. I may not have been ahead at the beginning of the reps but by the last one I had caught up. The credit for that goes to my athletics background because I understood pacing. We also do 1600m time trials in hockey. I may not be out of the box quick but I’m very consistent which again I put down to my athletics background.”

Steph who was also a 56.52 400m sprinter and a 2:12.57 800m performer had the pedigree to go further in athletics and she would encourage other kids to make the same step and join their local athletics club this summer.

“Socially athletics is such a cool way to meet people and learn those fundamental body awareness skills and movements,” she adds. “Athletics at your local club is a lot of fun and if you want to combine that and also engage on the competitive side, you have that option too.”

See what Steph has to say about how her involvement in athletics has helped in her hockey career here

***To find out more about how to find your local athletics club go here