Jonelle took a step back in 2019 to regather and regroup her goals, networks and ambitions after more than eight years as a national selector and coach for Surf Lifesaving New Zealand.
This decision coincided with an opportunity offered to Jonelle by long time coaching mentor Lyn Gunson to join HPSNZ’s Te Hāpaitanga pilot programme, created to expand the country’s pool of female coaching talent.
“The programme has quite literally been life changing for me,” says Jonelle. “As a coach you typically operate instinctively and don’t constantly challenge yourself yet that is what we do every day with our athletes.
“Te Hāpaitanga was all about challenging ourselves, being challenged by others, checking in and, importantly, recognising how vulnerable our athletes can be and that we need to apply the same practices to them.”
Jonelle points to the residential course at Aoraki Mt Cook during which she is happy to admit she felt incredibly vulnerable and scared.
“I’m like the proverbial duck, I love water and its many challenges, but the prospect of climbing a mountain totally freaked me out. Quite simply, it made me realise what we are constantly challenging our athletes to do and, for me, that meant putting aside my fears, understanding what I was capable of doing and learning and putting my trust in the team around me.”
The programme also allowed Jonelle to lean into her background as a scientist. “I am naturally very curious and Te Hāpaitanga lit my curiosity, empowered me to ask questions and to have those difficult conversations.”
Most importantly for Jonelle, it gave her the confidence to make a step change in her career path.
“I saw the role of Professional Development Manager for Canterbury Rugby advertised and my instinct was to say no I can’t do that. But one of my mentors, Richard Smith, said go for it. And I did and I got the role.”
Jonelle credits her participation in Te Hāpaitanga 100% for her success in getting her new role. “I had to have the confidence to convey what I had to offer to rugby players to help them achieve their goals, overcome their challenges and provide them with general life skills that reflected the importance of life outside rugby.
“While I’m involved with a completely different sport now, my role is very similar to my previous work with high performance athletes, in particular supporting them to thrive in their sporting environments while maintaining a healthy life balance, off the field in this case.
Te Hāpaitanga is not only about growing our female coaching talent pool but importantly, says Jonelle, about empowering, building confidence, challenging and developing strong and supportive networks.
About Te Hāpaitanga
The Te Hāpaitanga pilot programme was funded by the Ministry of Sport and Recreation and aims to create the right environment and opportunities to get more women in leadership and coaching positions at the pinnacle end of the sport.
The initial pilot project was deemed a success with 11 of the 14 women participating either changing roles or taking on more responsibility in their sport since the beginning of the project.
Up and coming coaches are given an experienced mentor from another sport and a scholarship to supplement their salary or further their coaching experiences or qualifications.
Because female coaches have to work with men, the programme has a number of men who act as mentors, speakers and advisors.
The second cohort of Te Hāpaitanga participants are currently into their first year of the programme.