Connecting Coaches Conferences


2018 Connecting Coaches Conference. University of Otago, Dunedin, 30 November – 1 December 2018. Photo: Chris Sullivan/Seen in Dunedin

Scroll to the bottom of the page to see links to video presentations from previous Coaches Conferences.

2020 Connecting Coaches Conference (300+ attendees across NZ).




Otago Academy of Sport proudly hosted the 2020 Connecting Coaches Conference (Online), supported by Sport New Zealand, University of Otago, Sport Otago and the University of Otago, School of Physical Education. With the uncertainty around COVID and restrictions as well as the fact that we recognised people have very busy lives (especially coaches who coach after work as volunteers), and we wanted a platform that was flexible and where people didn’t need to travel but could watch the presentations in the comfort of their own home, saving on cost and time. Some regions chose to come together at a Sport headquarters and had discussions around learnings after each presentation and took the opportunity to network with their regional coaching colleagues. The conference was streamed 27-28  November 2020, and recorded presentations were made available for people who registered for up to a year.

This theme was “Adapting our Coaching in a Changing World: Connect, Create and Communicate”

We had  a fantastic  line up of speakers including; Dame Noeline Taurua, Jamie Joseph, Heath Mills, Emma Humphries, Gianna Leoni, Anne-Marie Jackson, Nico Porteous, Holly Robinson, Raylene Bates and many more.

Registrations: $99 for two days

Connecting Coaches Conference 2020 – Presenters

 Keynote Speakers 2020

Dame Noeline Taurua: Dame Noeline is the current New Zealand Silver Ferns netball coach and in less than a year after being appointed in this role the team became World Champions in 2019. She has also been a successful coach at the highest level in Australia and New Zealand having coached the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, Southern Steel and the Sunshine Coast Lightning netball teams. As an athlete Dame Noeline played for the Silver Ferns in the 1995 World Cup and 1998 Commonwealth Games before a knee injury ended her playing career. 

Jamie Joseph: Jamie is currently the head coach of the Japanese mens rugby union team. Prior to that he was the head coach of the Highlanders (2011-2016) and Wellington Lions (2006-2010). In the 1990s he played for Otago, New Zealand Māori, the All Blacks and Japan. 

Emma Humphries: Emma is a New Zealander who is currently the Womens Assistant Head Coach of Liverpool FC. Prior to this appointment she worked at the Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Canada) as the Girls Elite REX Director/Head coach and Girls Programmes Director (U13-18). She has also held positions in New Zealand including the National Womens Football Development Manager.

Heath Mills: Heath is the current Chief Executive of the New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association (NZCPA) and is a Director of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA). The NZCPA has grown considerably since its inception in 2001and in addition to its player advocacy work it has established a Personal Development Programme for current players. Heath is also a Director of the New Zealand Hockey Players’ Association and has also been appointed by his iwi, Ngāi Tahu, as a Director of All Blacks Experience Limited, a joint venture tourism attraction between Ngāi Tahu and New Zealand Rugby.


Ben Smith: Ben played 84 tests for All Blacks including winning the World Cup in 2015. Since has played for Pau in France and has recently moved to Japan to play for the Kobelco Steelers. 

Nico Porteous: Nico is an Olympic, XGames and Dew Tour Bronze medallist in freeski halfpipe. In 2018 he made history at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics becoming NZ’s youngest medallist (16 yrs and 90 days), as well as NZ’s first freeskier to earn an Olympic medal and the first male athlete to medal at the Olympic Winter Games.

Kiana Pelasio: Kia Ora Koutou, Taloha Ni. Kaina played Touch for New Zealand from 2013-2018. In 2018 she co-captained the U20s NZ womens team at the Youth World Cup in Kuala Lumpur where they won a silver medal. Also in 2018 Kiana made the Beko team for netball and was selected again in 2019. For 2021 she has been awarded a full player contract for the Steel netball team. 

Holly Robinson: Holly has been competing for New Zealand on the international scene for 10 years and has been to two Paralympics, five world championships and one Commonwealth Games. Highlights of her career so far include representing New Zealand and gaining silver at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and carrying the NZ flag at these same championships.

Presenters in Coaching and Health and Wellbeing 

Amy Hooson: Amy was a NZ levels representative gymnast in her youth and has maintained a close association with gymnastics over 30 years as a club and provincial coach, judge, on-site physiotherapist and parent. Amy is passionate about fostering and developing optimal function and healthy relationships with physical activity in children and adolescents that can carry through to enhanced health and wellbeing throughout life. 

 Anne-Marie Jackson: Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Wai) is a Māori researcher at the University of Otago, examining mauri ora (flourishing wellness) of Māori communities, including Te Reo and wellbeing within rugby (professional, regional Māori teams and club).

Blake Bennett: Dr Blake Bennett is a lecturer in at the University of Auckland. Blake is the current coach of the Mens New Zealand Kendo team and his research interests include; online coaching in high performance martial arts contexts and the influences of child safeguarding policy on volunteer coachespractice. 

Carmel Leslie: Carmel has coached gymnastics since she was 15 (35 years), in between training as an elite gymnast. She is involved with the Dunedin Gymnastic Academy as an administrator and coaches in a range of programmes, including; play-gym, recreational and the mens and womens competitive programmes. In 2020 she became a national gymnastics coach and took a NZ team to Hawaii. She is also the Programme Manager at the Otago Academy of Sport.

Daragh Sheridan: Daragh joined High Performance Sport New Zealand in October 2018 and leads a team who provide support to 14 National Sports Organizations and 90 high performance coaches.  Daragh is a UEFA licensed accredited coach and coached the Irish Paralympic Football to a European medal success in 2010. 

Garry Carnachan: Garry has worked for more than 20 years in the professional and community sport space. Garry has been a Professional Player Development Manager as well as Team Manager for the Hurricanes and Junior All Blacks teams. For the past 12 years, he has been the CEO of School Sport NZ (NZSSSC). During this time Garry has been a part of, or has led, reviews into youth sport in New Zealand.

Geoff Barry: Geoff is the General Manager of Community Sport at Sport NZ. Prior to that he has taught in secondary schools, coaching rugby, rugby league, basketball, water polo and surf life saving as well as being the Chief Executive of Surf Life Saving NZ for 10 years.

Gianna Leoni: Dr Gianna Leoni (Ngāti Kurī, Ngāi Takoto, Te Aupōuri) is a lecturer at the University of Otago and is the Chairperson of the South Pacific Raiders Rugby League and Sports club (SPRLSC) following on from her father, who previously held the role. SPRLSC was established in 1994 in Dunedin, New Zealand as a stand-alone rugby league team but in the past 20 years has grown to include basketball, touch, softball, volleyball and netball teams. They pride themselves on being a whānau-oriented club.

Gwen Harrop: Gwen has 20 years of experience being a physiotherapist and currently works for Netball New Zealands injury prevention programme NetballSmart. She is a Mum, a gymnastics coach and the new General Manager of Dunedin Gymnastics Academy. 

Kiran Dixon: Kiran is a 23 year old founding member of the Halberg Foundation youth council, based in Dunedin. Kiran spends his time with the council endeavouring to see equal sporting, recreational, and educational opportunities for physically disabled young people. He has shared his ideas and experience at both a national and local level, but it is at the local level where he has the privilege of teaching the next generation of sport leaders how to be inclusive. 

Raylene Bates: Raylene has been involved in athletics for 50 years as a competitor, administrator, official and coach, in both voluntary and paid roles, working with children through to masters athletes, and with roles at national and international levels. Raylene has led the NZ Athletics Olympic and Paralympic teams to 5 Olympics and Paralympics, along with numerous World Championship and Commonwealth Games. Her most successful team was the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games with eight athletes winning nine medals, achieving four Paralympic and 11 national records. Raylene is a World Athletics Level 5 coach and World Para Athletics Coach Facilitator. 

Simon Walters: Dr Simon Walters is a researcher at Auckland University of Technology, and focuses on amongst other things enhancing young peoples experiences of organised sport. His current research includes: issues associated with the costs of early specialisationin sport; organised sport participation in the primary school-aged years, and; accessibility of sport for all. He is a member of the International Play Association, and sat on the Steering Group for the Sport NZ funded youth sport culture change project ‘Good Sports’, implemented by Aktive Auckland.

Simone Spencer: Simone works as Portfolio Manager at Aktive Auckland where she is the strategic lead for Coach Development, Women & Girls and Good Sports®. Prior to working at Aktive, Simone worked as Sport Manager for Surf Life Saving Northern Region, ran her own business and was a Constable in the NZ Police.

Tania Cassidy: Associate Professor Tania Cassidy works at the University of Otago and is a Visiting Professor at University College Cork, Ireland. She is the lead author of two books:

• Understanding Sports Coaching: The Pedagogical, Social, and Cultural Foundations of Coaching Practice. (Cassidy, Jones & Potrac, 2004, 2009, 2016).
• Understanding Strength and Conditioning as Sport Coaching: Bridging the Biophysical, Pedagogical and Sociocultural Foundations of Practice. (Cassidy, Handcock, Gearity & Burrows, 2020).

Tania is a member of advisory groups for New Zealand Football (women) and New Zealand Hockey (masters) and is on the governing boards of Football South and the Otago Academy of Sport. To make sure that she can still walk the talkTania is also the President of the Opoho Bowling Club, an inter-club and representative hockey player, and in 2019 was the Chef de Mission for 300 athletes competing in the Trans-Tasman Masters hockey tournament on the Gold Coast, Australia.

2018 Connecting Coaches Conference. University of Otago, Dunedin, 30 November – 1 December 2018

Link for eight videos from the 2018 Connecting Coaches Conference


Link for four videos from the 2016 Connecting Coaches Conference


Link to eight videos from the 2015 Connecting Coaches Conference