Collaborative coaching and keeping it simple the key to Hay
Gary Hay is the head women’s coach for New Zealand and 2019 was certainly his year. The women’s team won five World Championship medals and qualified six of the possible seven boats for the 2020 Olympic Games. And Hay became World Rowing Coach of the Year.
The New Zealand crews are heading strong into this Olympic year and Hay up there with it, even if he doesn’t completely see it that way.
“I was somewhat surprised and somewhat embarrassed when I won the Award,” Hay says. “The women’s team are a large squad and it involves a number of other coaches. To be singled out was a little uncomfortable for me. It’s a bit of a cliché, but the other coaches are part of the award. It’s really an acknowledgement of the current women’s rowing programme,” he says.
Humility is not only in Hay’s personality, it also comes through in his coaching philosophy. He says his main goal is to keep things simple and open.
“My style is to keep things reasonability collaborative with (the use of) support staff and keep it relatively simple. I don’t want to overcomplicate regarding the rowing stroke or any other areas around performance, on or off water,” Hay says. “It’s also a team approach. I’m just one little cog on the team. I might be driving or leading, but it’s collaborative.”
Also high on the priority list for Hay is keeping it enjoyable.
“Enjoyment is pretty high on the list for me and for the rowers. If you don’t enjoy what you do in whatever walk of life, unlikely you’ll be successful,” he says.
When it comes down to the international events, you will not often spot Hay at the regatta course. Once the boats are ready and on the water, he is as far away from the racing and the commentary as possible.
“It’s nerves I guess,” he says. “I’m nervous for them. And I can’t do anything more once they are on the water. Me following a race isn’t going to help. Particularly in the final. In the heats and semifinals then I need to provide feedback, but during the finals, you would be lucky to find me.”
Hay has been a part of the New Zealand team through periods of great medal success. But his own measures of success go beyond the medals.
“It’s just not gold, some of best races I’ve been involved with wasn’t winning gold medals. It comes down to individual performance. This is when the rower and I know that we couldn’t have done anything more. Then we’re satisfied with the performance. But no, I don’t measure that by a gold medal,” Hay says.
The New Zealand team is now turning to the 2020 season. With six women’s boats qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the team is clearly full of depth with no boat picked as the priority.
“We are looking for broad success. The boats are all unique and different. We don’t have any boat higher than any other, we see them all as equal,” he says.
And what is their strategy going into 2020?
“We are very mindful that 2019 is gone and 2020 is a new year. Complacency will not exist in the New Zealand rowing squad. We are working particularly hard to ensure that we have a good 2020.”
Regardless of Olympic outcomes, Hay is ready to move on. He will retire from international coaching, beginning at the conclusion of the Olympic Games.