Introducing Emily Willock – CRNZ’s new Performance Coach

Emily Willock was working as a school teacher and just paddling for fun and fitness, when she was asked to help out with a bit of coaching at her local club, Poverty Bay Kayak Club. Fast forward to today and Emily has moved to Cambridge and joined the Canoe Racing NZ team, as a CRNZ Performance Coach.

It wasn’t Emily’s plan to build a career in coaching, in fact she didn’t even know it was a possibility. “I just wanted to learn and improve my coaching ability to do the best I could at Poverty Bay. So I took every learning opportunity I could.”

As the development coach at Poverty Bay Kayak Club, Emily was supporting paddlers from 14-18years old.  “I really enjoyed being there with the athletes over a long period of time. It really showcased to me the power and importance of developing relationships as a coach. I was there to support their physical development but I also needed to be there for them mentally and emotionally too.”

From there, Emily took advantage of the coach development opportunities provided by CRNZ and came along to CRNZ pathway camps.

“Basically, I just said yes to every development opportunity, workshop and webinar I saw.” laughed Emily.

This led to her being appointed as one of the Junior World Championships team coaches in 2021.

At the start of this year, Emily was selected into the High Performance Sport NZ Te Hāpaitanga programme, an 18-month holistic coach development initiative designed to enable more females to pursue and maintain a career in high performance coaching in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Te Hāpaitanga aims to provide a range of opportunities that enable future or emerging female high performance coaches to test and develop their coaching capability, and to develop new skills to navigate a complex and challenging career in high performance sport.

“I’m about halfway through this programme, and it has been really interesting so far. It has gently put me outside of my comfort zone. It opens conversations across coaches that challenges your thinking and makes you reflect on how and why you do things, and other approaches you could take.”

Since starting with CRNZ in August, Emily has been spent most of her time overseas coaching two back-to-back international campaigns- first the Junior World Championships in Hungary then the Asia Pacific Sprint Cup in Japan.

“It was amazing to be involved in those campaigns from start to finish, seeing the athletes at trials and training camps, then performing overseas.” said Emily. “It was so cool to see the progression of the paddlers throughout that process.”

As for where Emily wants to go as a coach, she is open to the possibilities. “I’d love to get wherever I can with it. For now, I want to continue to learn and become the best coach I can be. This role is a great chance for me to throw myself in the deep end and soak in as much as I can, and work with some of the best coaches in the world.”

Getting out of your comfort zone is what Emily would suggest to anyone interested in getting into coaching or pursuing it as a career. “Just get out and do it. Have a go, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Ask questions and have conversations with lots of people, and say yes to any opportunity that comes along.”

We welcome Emily to the Canoe Racing NZ team and looking forward to her input as we pursue excellence together.