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Volunteer coaches are the backbone of New Zealand sport, donating hundreds of thousands of hours a year to help our tamariki stay fit and healthy. Yet most coaches are time-poor parents who are lacking in training and practical support. Now an innovative new coaching tool created in New Zealand is being hailed as a game-changing solution to support coaches so they can help keep kiwi kids in sport.

“Coaches have a huge opportunity to influence kids’ lives positively in immeasurable ways,” says CoachMate Co-Founder Michelle Walshe. “Conversely, research shows that kids who are trained by an unskilled coach are five times more likely to quit the sport the following year. This can have a significant impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of those kids. We know kids who stay active have higher self esteem, do better in school, and have improved mental health outcomes… so we’ve made it our purpose to do all we can to keep our kids in sport and the way we can meaningfully do that is to make the job of coaching easier.”

“I’m a mum of 4 kids myself. I’ve been on the sidelines of a dozen different sports over the last decade and I’ve seen how demanding the role of being a coach can be. Nearly all volunteer coaches are parents coming straight from work to training – it can be tough to keep kids engaged and give them a great sports experience week in and week out.”

CoachMate partners with national sporting bodies to transform their analogue coaching resources into bite-size videos and personalised training programs available on a phone app. Coaches can learn an activity in under 90 seconds, plan practices in minutes and upskill at their own pace. What’s better is the app is FREE for all volunteer coaches to use.

“The PDF diagrams that are made available by sporting bodies aren’t always easy to understand by an untrained coach, so we made that our first focus. We’ve been lucky to partner with Golf NZ, Basketball NZ and NZ Football to bring their content to life – with more sports to follow.” says CoachMate Co-Founder Leigh Kenyon. “One of the great things to come out of this, is that all kids playing these sports, regardless of their ability, location or who is available to coach, can have a rich sports experience.”

“It’s important we remember that the volunteer coaches are the unsung heroes of sport. Without their nurturing, time and effort we wouldn’t be able to sustain an entire sporting industry. They are literally the incubators of our sporting future and now we have the ability to give that support back to them.”

For early adopters of the technology, Basketball New Zealand and Golf New Zealand, partnering with CoachMate was a no-brainer when they could see how it could transform their grassroot games. Both have already signed on and licensed the app for 4 years. In just the past few weeks alone they’ve had over 600 coaches sign up, impacting thousands of kiwi kids.

“I believe CoachMate is a real game changer for basketball in Aotearoa,” says Basketball New Zealand CEO and former Tall Black, Dillon Boucher. “By putting expert resources and guidance into the hands of anyone across the country, we’re not only lifting the standard of the game, but more importantly, we’re making it easier for people like parents and teachers to get involved in coaching – and to feel supported when they do.

“Our goal is to make coaching basketball as accessible and simple as possible, because we know that the kids want to play given Basketball is the fastest growing sport in New Zealand currently. CoachMate allows us to keep up with that demand and ensure that all kids across the country can have a great experience playing the game.”

“CoachMate is one of the best things I’ve seen in sport,” says Golf New Zealand CEO, Dean Murphy. “Our mission is to enrich lives through golf and through CoachMate, we can help parents and coaches deliver great experiences for young people. In our view, great experiences lead to a lifelong love of sport so through CoachMate we are able to further advance our mission and make our sport as accessible and fun as possible.

“Golf is often a sport perceived to be tough to start and hard to access. The reality couldn’t be more different so through the amazing content developed by the team at CoachMate, we can now demonstrate how easy, and enjoyable golf is for young people and their whanau.”

The arrival of CoachMate has seen a large number of parents, volunteers and teachers breathe a huge sigh of relief around the country. Leanne Su, a teacher at Pakuranga Heights started using the tool last month in Auckland for a weekly training session with girls from years 3 and 4 playing basketball.

“Originally we were reluctant to teach basketball for P.E and take sporting teams due to our lack of knowledge and confidence in skills,” says Leanne. “But CoachMate now provides us with every little detail that we need – from simple ideas, to learning progressions and even teaching tips to keep all of our tamariki engaged and involved! Along with being easy to navigate, the great quality videos are an absolute bonus as they are clear and engaging for both teachers and students.”

Launching during National Volunteers Week was a deliberate decision for CoachMate Founders.

“When you think of volunteers, our amazing youth sport coaches don’t necessarily spring to mind,” says Walshe. “But given they may be amongst our largest and most influential group of volunteers in the country – we wanted to make sure these people feel like the heroes they are!”

To celebrate New Zealand’s volunteer coaches, a number of well-known kiwis, as well as parents and kids, have shared a #CHEERSCOACH shout-out to the coach who had the greatest impact on them.

Kiwi football great, Ryan Nelsen says his local volunteer coach from age 5-12 years was an amazing man who inspired him to be the best he could be. “A big #CHEERSCOACH to Brian from me! He just had such an enthusiasm for the sport, for doing the right thing, for working hard, for training everyday to get better and most importantly to have fun,” says Nelsen. “I wouldn’t be who I am without him.”

For the purpose-led founders of CoachMate, they are primarily committed to solving New Zealand’s own grassroots problem first but then, the world awaits.

“We’re in deep discussion with a number of sporting bodies in New Zealand who are keen to come on board,” says Walshe. “But already that’s extended to Australia and beyond so we’re excited for the global potential of what this tool could help achieve for kids everywhere.”

New Zealand Football, New Zealand’s largest organised youth sport, is launching on CoachMate later this year with other sports to follow.

“New Zealand Football are thrilled to be working with CoachMate to help innovate the way we communicate our youth programs and get them into the hands of all our incredible volunteer coaches across Aotearoa,” says New Zealand Football Technical Director, Andy Boyens. “We appreciate the significant value our volunteer coaches bring day in and day out, to develop our young people playing the beautiful game. We’re excited to be able to support them back, by providing world-class technology to make the job of coaching easier and ultimately more rewarding for everyone.”

CoachMate is available on Android and iPhone, and is completely FREE for anyone in New Zealand to use.

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