News & Updates

24 April 2024 • Coaching

Kerry proves the King of the Hill

Kerry Hill was a richly deserved recipient of the 2023 Arthur Eustace Award for Coaching in Wellington in March. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich)

Kerry Hill was the 2023 recipient of the Arthur Eustace Award for Coaching. We chat to Kerry to look back on more than half-a-century of coaching athletes and how the sport has enriched his life.

Describing the joy of coaching as “medicinal” Kerry Hill has made a huge contribution in the sport for a period spanning more than half-a-century.

From guiding Gus Nketia to a World Indoor 60m final and Commonwealth 100m final (Gus ran a national 100m record of 10.11 en route to the final in Victoria), New Zealand pole vault record-holder Paul Gibbons to dozens of national medallists and hundreds of athletes up and down the land, there are few Kiwi coaches to have made quite the same seismic impact here in New Zealand or overseas than the Tauranga-based man.

Looking significantly younger than his 77 years and possessing an infectious passion and enthusiasm for his sport, Kerry admits a lifetime in coaching has delivered so much and to be given the 2023 Arthur Eustace Award for Coaching he describes as “a huge honour.”

“It signifies a lifetime achievement of being seen to do something that you love, and do it well,” says Kerry. “It is a tribute in part to all coaches, many of whom work 20 hours a week or more in all weather conditions all year around. To have been nominated by another coach (Southland-based Lance Smith) is super special. To be accepted by your peers – you can’t get better than that!”

Born in Golden Bay at the top of the South Island and raised in the Hutt Valley he showed an early aptitude for sprinting and long jumping as a primary school age student out of Taita AAC.

He was however no world beater through much of his schooling added; “I don’t think I won a race from the age of about ten to when I was 19. I don’t think I ever beat those other guys that used to win, I think they just disappeared.”

Later moving north to start teacher training he was then coached by the inspirational Dave Norris and under his guidance Kerry gradually improved. Describing Dave as his “biggest influence” he recalls the joy he got out of all of Dave’s training sessions.

“He was so funny, I have never met a better human,” he explains. “He is so impressive at everything he does. He was a great mentor and what I learned from him was immense.”

Kerry went on to enjoy an accomplished career as a sprinter/long jumper. He made the New Zealand team for the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games, finishing tenth in the men’s long jump, seventh as part of the New Zealand quartet in the men’s 4x100m relay and also competed in the men’s 100m at QEII Stadium.

He later appeared at two Pacific Conference Games and representing Oceania he finished seventh in the long jump at the 1977 World Cup in Dusseldorf. Boasting a long jump PB of 7.49m and a 100m best of 10.59 he stepped away from competitive athletics in his early 30s but already the coaching fuse had been lit.

With a passion for teaching and coaching, athletics seemed a natural add on. Long before hanging up his spikes he was asked to coach the son of a leading administrator and he was quickly hooked. A co-editor with Dave Norris of NZ Athlete Magazine for the best part of 20 years from the early 70s and editor of NZ Athletics Coach Magazine for seven years, Kerry’s hard-work

and enthusiasm for the sport was obvious to many and invited to attend a national coaching clinic at Nelson Girls College in the mid-1970s and from his coaching career was to rapidly accelerate.

After a three-year period based in London – where he coached at the prominent Haringey club – he later took on a role as a PE teacher at Westlake Boys’ High School. Here he successfully coached the first XV, softball and oversaw the North Shore-based school to the Auckland Top Eight boys’ school athletics title for the first time.

Loving his teaching role and the opportunity to coach multiple sports he was later given an opportunity to become Director of Coaching at Athletics NZ which he served from 1987-1994.

“I thought my role at Westlake was heaven but then when I was asked to be Director of Coaching at Athletics NZ, I thought that was even better,” he muses.

Kerry has since gone on to serve in a multitude of roles. For three years he worked as a Director of Coaching in Singapore and from 2003-2011 he was based in Doha as the Manager of Talent Development at the Aspire Academy, where he became the first and only coach in the history of Doha Rugby Club to be awarded a Life Membership.

Besides guiding Gus Nketia to the New Zealand 100m record and to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics he has coached ten individuals to the Olympics and served as a speed trainer for the 2016 New Zealand gold and silver winning Rio Olympic Sevens teams.

Coaching more than 100 national medallists from Colgate Games to New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships and Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships his versatility is impressive. Guiding sprinters, hurdlers, middle-distance, long/triple jump, pole vault, shot and combined events, his broad range of coaching ability is both rare and eye-catching and he has even steered athletes to national secondary schools road running medals.

Yet his Midas touch for coaching has also extended beyond athletics as he has served a consultant to the NZ Warriors, Auckland Blues and the Northern Force netball franchise and also coaches the two speed climbers – Julian David and Sarah Tetzlaff – who have been selected by New Zealand to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. He also counts three-time Olympic bobsleigh representative Alan Henderson as another former athlete he has coached.

So what is Kerry’s overall coaching philosophy?

“Coaches are leaders, and the best leaders all show the same trait – they talk less about themselves and more about the team!” he explains. “A coach needs to think boldly and innovate and use hard facts and data, but I think most importantly I want all my athletes to become better people, that is the priority. Better people make better parents, employees and athletes – in that order.”

Today working for Coach Force in Tauranga – in which his role is to coach coaches throughout the Bay of Plenty – he also serves as Speed & Power Co-ordinator at Waikato University Adams Centre for High Performance and as Athletics NZ relays development lead.

Coaching a squad of 30 athletes aged nine to 25 – including emerging Para sprinter Jaxon Woolley – he appreciates every moment at the track and looks back with huge fondness of his time as a coach.

“The most rewarding element for me as a coach is the lifelong friends I have made,” he says. “I’ve been toastmaster or a groomsman at several of the athletes’ weddings that is an honour. It has been a real thrill to teach them.

“Athletics has given me a very fulfilling life full of positivity and creativity,” he continues. “If I have a rough day and the car breaks down or someone steals the credit card I come to training and it is medicinal. As soon as I see the group training and everyone is positive and happy, it is contagious.”

Olympians Kerry has coached:

Gus Nketia (100m), James Dolphin (200m), Doug Pirini (decathlon), Paul Gibbons (pole vault), Alan Henderson (bobsleigh x 3), Toni Hodgkinson (middle distance), Sarah Cowley-Ross (heptathlon), briefly Peter Pearless (800m), Julian David & Sarah Tetzlaf (speed climbers, 2024)