Before we dig into our semi-final against Turkey, a bit of backstory as there's a bit of history to this for me personally.
This is 12 years ago now so I'm hazy on a few details but I'll just bustle on and try to sound confident and it'll be fine.
In 2007 (maybe late 2006?) Andrew Carr the longtime NZ Mens coach went over to Turkey and did some coaching there to try to help them develop. After he came back home, they wanted him to go again but I think he was out of leave from work, or simply generously handed the gig on, but either way, I got the opportunity to go over to Turkey for 3 months and coach them leading up to the CMAS world games in Bari, Italy.
I thought I was going to Europe for a couple years, quit my job etc... then met Danni my future wife a few weeks before leaving here in NZ. So I bought a return ticket to bring me back after Bari, and headed off.
There's a whole blog in this trip. Me, for 3 months, in a country with very little english spoken, just coaching uwh. I fully lost about 20% of my english vocabulary and spent months after coming home with words on the tip of my tongue... and not big words either.
I stayed with one of the players in Istanbul.
This was my office for 6 weeks.
It was an amazing experience. The local press gave the boys more coverage than I'd ever seen or heard of (until I got to Colombia 3 years later).
I kept a pretty detailed coaching diary of every session, and full programs of everything we did. For 7 weeks it was working with the main club which most of the team had been from previously. I made them sticks, redesigned any that were ratty, made gloves... I was all-purpose.
On the balcony.
Some surreal stuff happened. The player I was staying with who I won't name but who is a great dude, convinced me to use this mode of transport, against my better judgement...
...Once. That was enough. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life, and afterwards I insisted we used the car. Which was very slightly less scary.
I lost about 7kg floating about coaching for weeks... I had my birthday there.
The fellas brought a cake to the pool and everything.
I'll admit, I did a crapload of hockey stuff... I finished the coaching booklets that are available on our site. Link here if you haven't seen them.
I did all sorts of testing and planning for the Turks, and a bunch of video analysis.
I also had a bit too much time on my hands on occasion.
I made this gif for some reason, probably to make Danni laugh.
I did a bit of sightseeing when people came to visit, my Dad made it over and Tania McLeish the Aussie superstar came touring with me to visit Gallipolli.
Looking down from the Turkish defences to the landings at Gallipolli.
The Turks have an interesting relationship with ANZACs, Aussies and Kiwis, because the founder of modern Turkey Ataturk (whose face is all over the sides of every building and on every flag) got his big break fighting the ANZACs.
Who? What? Dunno. From somewhere in Turkey.
I'm hazy on it but pretty sure this is the royal circumcision chamber from the palace. This is the kind of tourist my dad is. (nah my idea probly sorry Dad)
Absolutely no memory of this at all. I wish I knew.
I had quite a few sessions at the local swimming club pool, and put footage together, this was in the days of the Hockings brothers famous skills videos.
Even got a bit of a tan which is amazing for me.
The Turkish womens team, after training.
So, after 6 weeks the federation put me in a hotel next to the pool complex and shipped in all the mens triallists for a massive training camp. I also found out I was coaching a womens team as well.
They had a selection camp over 4 days, then after that a buildup camp of 16 days, then a break for elections, a few more sessions then off to Bari for the comp. With the 2 squads through all the camps, it was mostly girls 2 hours pooltime 7-9am and guys 2 hours 8-10pm? Every day. I was having nana naps in the afternoons to make it through.
This is the kind of thing I remember. When I arrived, the guy I was staying with had a massive poster of a shark on his lounge wall.
Terrifying right? Not a big fan of sharks.
So, one night we come home, and there's a new piece of art on the wall in the lounge. Sweet! I was relieved. Later that night when I go to my tiny bedroom, and the shark is up on the wall over the foot of my bed.
We did go to Bari. 6 countries, the french were heavily favoured to destroy all opposition, but Turkey made big steps and made it to the final in both grades.
We were stoked! It was a great result and was probably the start of some confidence building which is very important... the men were 2-1 with France at halftime of the final (maybe even 2-2?) before the score blew out to a pretty comfortable french win in the second half.
The french womens team was a bit more dominant but the Turkish women still improved out of sight over the time we put in.
The Turks got some very good coverage and financial rewards for these placings too under their governmental sporting rewards system which was great for the players.
I had spent months of my life as a full-time Uwh coach with these guys trying to give them systems and build foundations they could follow, and the guys I coached then would tell me, next time we play you at worlds it will be in the final... and we would all laugh but of course they would really be meaning it because that was the dream, and I would be hoping it would happen too. First I hoped I'd make another final, and second, how cool right? There were guys there playing who had turned up to Worlds in 2000 and had the pants scared off them when they saw someone lift the puck off the tiles for the first time.
When you realise you didn't know the things you don't know. The puck lifts?
They had come a long way very fast, and they have come a lot further now.
This is the end of this particular memory lane.