Initially operating as an informal, hour-long, online support chat forum every three weeks, the group has gone from strength to strength culminating in its first face to face workshop in March this year.
Esther says she was surprised to learn her fellow team managers were feeling a sense of isolation and that because their paths rarely crossed, they knew very few women in the same position and had no mechanism to support each other and share experiences and resources.
Within days of that coffee, the NZ Women’s Team Managers’ Forum was born, with Esther and her colleague initially reaching out to women team managers in rugby, cricket, football and hockey as well as Esther’s own sport, netball.
The group grew rapidly as word spread of the forum and when Esther joined the first cohort of the HPSNZ’s Women in High Performance Sport residency programme she was able to reach out to more sports including basketball, surf lifesaving and cycling. By 2021 the group included rowing, futsal, canoe sprint and both rugby 7s and 15s.
“It is important the group is not restricted to women managers for women’s sports teams. For example we have been delighted to welcome a female team manager for the All Blacks to the forum.”
The group floated the idea of a face to face session and where thrilled when HPSNZ said it would support and fund the event.
“It was a dream come true to be in the same room at the same time for two days sharing and learning about common areas of opportunity and common concerns including topics such as leadership, mental health, wellbeing and much more,” says Esther.
“There is a real willingness to share plans and resources among a group of like-minded people who ‘get’ what you do because we all face the same challenges, regardless of funding levels.”
The group will continue with its three weekly online forums and welcomes any and all women in team manager roles to join them.
“Ideally we would like to meet face to face once a year and we know there will always be a great deal of learnings to share such as from those team managers who are travelling to Birmingham.”
Esther says the group is grateful for HPSNZ’s support which tangibly acknowledges the role of managers and their ability to better serve teams which will ultimately benefit sports.