Gemma McCaw, former Black Stick Hockey player, talks about her role as a Sport New Zealand Balance is Better Champion…
"I first got involved in sport when I was watching Mum playing social hockey when I was about five years old. We got home that night, and I said to my parents I would love to play hockey, so Dad cut down one of Mum's old hockey sticks so I could start playing in the backyard with my older brothers."
Why does the Balance is Better programme excite you?
This programme excites me as it brings together the essential ingredients for people to thrive both on and off the field. It encourages wellbeing in the sense that it develops a platform for children to have a life-long involvement in sport and supports their physical and mental health with positive emotions, meaning, purpose, achievement, relationships and vitality all encouraged by participating in a variety of sport.
It also changes the way we look at sport, seeing it as an opportunity to grow, develop and learn many skills that can be applied to a variety of contexts, as opposed to just a tunnel vision focus of getting to the top at all costs. It provides education on the benefits of having better balance and it is delivered by athletes who can share their own stories and help connect with communities and have these conversations with players, parents and coaches creating a ripple effect of positive impacts across New Zealand.
Which Balance is Better ‘myth’ do you identify with this most?
1. Successful athletes focus on winning’ this is a myth as successful athletes focus on performing, improving and being the best they can be and only then when they focus on that will the result take care of itself.
2. Early specialisation is good’ – I believe that playing a range of sports, learning a variety of skills and having new experiences is imperative to performing well. When kids are forced to specialize early it can lead to burn out, repetitive strain injuries and dropping out from sports after high school.
What do you bring to the role of a Balance is Better Champion?
I have played 246 test matches for the Black sticks, attended three Olympic games, two Commonwealth Games and have a degree in Sport and Exercise Science as well as Post-Graduate Diploma in Positive Psychology. I have also recently become a Mum which provides me with a new and exciting experience and a different perspective from when I was playing.
Tell us something else people might not know about you?
In high school, I had to choose between playing first 11 soccer and first 11 hockey. For two years, I played 1st 11 soccer and representative hockey before deciding that I wanted to give hockey a good go and started playing for the 1st 11 hockey team.