News & Updates

11 May 2022 • Coaching

Kiwi coaching trio set for Gold Coast tour

11 May 2022 • COACHING Kiwi coaching trio set for Gold Coast tour James Sandilands (left), Christ Knight (center) and Damian Blocki (right) will assist and support 23 athletes to experience how to travel, live and train ahead of a pinnacle event (Damian Blocki's Photo: Getty Images)

Athletics NZ has organised an opportunity for 24 athletes to experience how to travel, live and train ahead of a pinnacle event as part of the pre-Oceania Area Championships (OAC) Tour, proudly supported by the City of Gold Coast.

The Tour, which is based in the Gold Coast in late-May before moving on to Mackay for the Oceania Championships (7-11 June), has offered the chance for three New Zealand-based coaches to assist and support the athletes. We find out more about the role the trio will play. 

James Sandilands

Christchurch-based coach James Sandilands is relishing the prospect of serving as one a trio of coaches on the Pre-Oceania Area Championships (OAC) Tour as he undertakes the next stage of his development.

The former New Zealand senior men’s 110m hurdles champion, who serves as an assistant coach to Athletics NZ Lead Coach for Jumps and Combined Events Terry Lomax, is rapidly developing a reputation as one of the country’s leading young coaching talents. 

And his selection as jumps/sprints and hurdles coach for the tour will undoubtedly help build knowledge and experience.

“To apply to be a part of the tour cropped up in conversation with Terry,” explains James. “Looking to the future I want to grow as a coach and be involved in teams, so to have that first exposure to being part of a team environment seemed like the next logical step.”

During the tour, James will be primarily focused on supporting the U18 and U20 athletes in sprints/jumps and hurdles and he is looking forward to learning more about working in such an environment and delivering the best possible support to the athletes.

“My focus is on the athletes,” said James, who personally coaches one of the athletes on the tour, New Zealand U20 high jump champion Adam Stack. “I would love to see some great results and hopefully learn from them and how they operate as athletes. I just hope to give the athlete whatever they need to do well and for all the athletes to enjoy their first tour experience.”

Chris Knight

A coaching career fuelled by a deep-seated passion takes its next steps for Chris Knight as the Southland-based builder features on the tour as a sprints and jumps coach.

A former New Zealand U20 high jump champion, multi-eventer and three-time national discus silver medallist, Chris took some time away from the sport before starting his coaching journey shortly after relocating from Christchurch to Invercargill just over a decade ago.

An all-round coach with a desire to coach all the technical events, Chris has built up a reputation as one of the leading coaches in the region working with the likes of New Zealand U17 long jump record-holder Quinn Hartley, the 2021 national senior javelin champion Jessica Senior, former New Zealand senior discus bronze medallist Jack Welsh, Trent Hogg, the 2022 U20 men’s national shot and discus silver medallist, and former national U20 400m bronze medallist Tim Baker.

Leaning on mentors such as Athletics NZ lead coaches Raylene Bates (Para Athletes) and Dale Stevenson (Throws) and Southland-based coaching stalwart Lance Smith has been of enormous benefit and over time he has developed a distinct coaching philosophy.

“My goal is to try and empower the athletes by giving them the knowledge, so that when I can’t travel with the athletes they can work out what they need to do to perform.

“It is always important for me as a coach to help the athletes not only achieve their goals on the field but off the field too, to help them become well rounded human beings. It is sometimes about those little wins and to see an athlete come off the field with a big smile on their face is worth a million dollars.”

With an innate curiosity to develop his coaching skills and having completed Level 3 IAAF jumps and throws courses he enthusiastically applied for one of the coaching roles as part of the Tour and was delighted when he was accepted. 

So what does he feel his role will entail with the 23-strong Tour team in Australia?

“For me, it will be about liaising with the athletes’ coaches before they head away, getting a plan from the coaches and helping implement that plan. My role will also be to keep the athletes grounded and calm to ensure the experience is as stress-free as possible.

“It will be a very different experience to say coaching at nationals when you coach individual athletes, hang out at the track all day and then go home. On the Tour it will be like I am a full-time coach for ten days.

“For me having that opportunity to learn from and work with the likes of Kirsten Hellier and other HP coaches will be an amazing experience.”

Damian Blocki

Damian Blocki describes the opportunity to be part of the coaching team for the Tour as a “privilege” and he hopes the experience will help enable him to take the next steps in his coaching development.

The former Polish international race walker, who coached his partner New Zealand’s 2018 Commonwealth Games 20km race walk silver medallist Alana Barber in the final years of her career before her retirement last year, can’t wait to engage in the role.

“It is a great opportunity to establish myself as a distance coach in New Zealand,” explains Damian, who will be focusing on the endurance athletes and race walkers on the tour. “It’s an honour and a privilege to feature as a coach on the tour and great chance to understand New Zealand coaches and athletes better and learn the Kiwi way.”

Damian started out his competitive career as a middle-distance runner before later converting to race walking, where he went on to represent his country at the World Championships and European Championships. He began coaching in his native Poland and since relocating to live with Alana on Waiheke Island last year he has expanded his coaching group to working with 11 young, emerging race walkers.

So how does he view his role in Queensland?

“I see my purpose to execute what has already been planned between athlete and their individual coaches,” explains Damian. “My communication between coach-athlete will be important. I know having been an athlete for many years how important it is to have the support of someone who can help find a solution. As a coach if you don’t know the answer it is important to keep an open mind, be curious and find an answer.”

Damian views the role as a “stepping stone” to a coaching future which he hopes can yield some good results.

“I see opportunities in New Zealand to coach at a high-performance level and coach on the world stage,” he explains. “The 2032 Olympic (and Paralympic) Games in Brisbane are just ten years away, and it is definitely a goal of mine to be coaching at those Games.”