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Pulse coach gets to rub shoulders with one of the best

Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie relished her time spent with top-ranked US volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. Photo: Andy Radka -- Above Ground Level Photography

With the help of a Prime Minister’s Scholarship, Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie has enjoyed the rare opportunity to spend time with world-class volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon.

Silver Ferns head coach Janine Southby and her assistant McCausland-Durie have recently returned from the US where they spent five days on campus with McCutcheon after being awarded a Prime Minister's Coach Scholarship.

Overseen by High Performance Sport New Zealand, the scholarships help fund the professional development of high performance coaches by prioritising resources for increasing expertise that will directly impact athlete performance and enable the sustainability of New Zealand’s coaching talent pool.

Originally from Canterbury, McCutcheon, played volleyball for New Zealand as well as in professional leagues in Europe and the US before heading into the coaching ranks where he has had a major impact.

After steering the US men’s team to Olympic gold in 2008, he took the US women’s team to an Olympic silver medal in 2012 and is currently head coach of the top women’s team at the University of Minnesota.

McCausland-Durie relished the opportunity to work alongside the coaching maestro in a completely different, highly-resourced environment but ultimately one with the same vision and goals.

``He was really good to work with,’’ she said. ``While he’s been hugely successful at international level he’s still got that Kiwi approach. He’s very calm, composed and clear-thinking and very easy to work with…… open and happy to engage with anything we wanted to talk about.

``Hugh is now in year four with this team and having watched their progress and chatted to him previously we were interested in the dynamics of team culture which has been a big focal point for him.

``He has been big on making a change to their team culture and the related aspects in terms of high performance, and Janine and I were keen to learn how he has gone about that. Obviously, changing a team culture takes a bit of time and we just wanted to learn the steps he had gone through and how that was going to translate for us.’’

Assessing team culture is not always straight forward and McCausland-Durie acknowledged change can be difficult to measure.

``We’re both into year two with the Silver Ferns and I’m in the same space heading into my second season with the Pulse and it was about how we can have that impact in terms of positive change in our own team environments,’’ she said.

``The biggest point of difference is the resources of which they (Minnesota) have truck-loads. But it’s a matter of taking that out of the equation and sorting out the things you actually can afford to do.

``From a monetary perspective, there are things you can’t change but there are lots of things you can do reasonably quickly.’’

One of the key messages taken was that change will not happen overnight but windows of opportunity present and, with this in mind, timing was crucial.

McCausland-Durie and Southby had opportunities to talk to senior players while observing the group and watching how they went about their business. Working hard, being committed and pushing your team-mates were some of the key objectives when assessing overall culture.

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