INTERVIEW: New Zealand Coach Gareth Turnbull on OFC success and World Cup

Football in Oceania talks to the Head Coach of the New Zealand Women’s U20 team, Gareth Turnbull, about his team that just won the OFC U19 Championship for the sixth time running.

New Zealand Women’s U20 Head Coach Gareth Turnbull (Photo credit: New Zealand Football/Photosport)

The win means that the Kiwi girls have qualified for next year’s U20 World Cup, set to be hosted in France. They did so in great fashion, winning all their five games, scoring 48 times and conceding only once. Turnbull is proud of his girls and believes they can wreak some havoc in France on their day next year.

Read the full interview with Turnbull below:

If we prepare effectively there is no reason why we cant get a result against any team in the world.

Football in Oceania: – Let’s first hear a little about you; Where did you grow up, when did you start playing football, when did you realise you were going to be a coach and where did you coach first?

Gareth Turnbull: – I grew up on the North Shore in Auckland where I played junior football for Greenhithe and East Coast Bays before my family shifted to Christchurch where I attended high school.

I attended Canterbury University where I completed a Bachelors of Sport Coaching which was when I got the coaching bug. I then moved to Catawba College in North Carolina, USA on a football scholarship for two years.

Upon returning to Christchurch I continued to play local and national league football whilst beginning coaching in the Mainland Football development programs and then into club coaching when I started my role as Football Development Manager at a local club, Coastal Spirit, in 2007. It was really in 2011 that the playing took a back step to my coaching when I realised I was never going to make the top levels of the game playing but could have a chance in coaching.

– How long have you been in the New Zealand setup? Have you always had the same role or have you had many different ones? 

– I have supported past U17 and U20 campaigns in an unofficial coaching capacity but when I was appointed head coach of the NZ U17s in 2015 I became fully immersed. I was appointed head coach of the NZ U20s in February of this year.

– Do you see any differences in coaching girls as opposed to boys? Do you have to approach things much differently?

– Every athlete is different and needs to be handled uniquely in order to get the best out of them regardless of their sex. I find girls, in general, are more receptive to coaching support and are very independent when approaching problem-solving.

 – Moving on to the recently finished OFC U19 Championship; What’s it like going into a tournament as such big favourites as any New Zealand team is?

– Its great to experience external pressure because its almost reversed when we participate in the World Cup, where we are classed as underdogs. It also allows us to truly focus on ourselves in the first instance and we get to hold ourselves to our own incredibly high standards all of the time.

We will look to bring a group together again in October for a camp, and ideally, some more competitive matches.

The New Zealand girls celebrate their title (Photo credit: OFC)

– What do you do to stop the girls from getting too confident or cocky, or do you even need to do anything?

– They are a very modest and humble group, too much so at some times. We don’t have any big personalities which result in a very grounded group that all keep each other accountable and striving for perfection within our systems and team model.

– Winning by the digits that you did (12-0, 1-9, 0-12, 6-0, 0-9), did you ever tell the girls to ease up at some points as to not embarrass the opposition too much?

– No we didn’t. We demanded excellence in everything we did which was to ensure we stayed true to refining our playing style and model which at times wasn’t the obvious thing to do for the situation, based on what the game was giving us, but it will better serve us in the long term.

– Why do you think the gap is so big between New Zealand and the rest?

– Factors such as an increased player population, the amount of infrastructure and domestic competitions, as well as a greater access to work more consistently with our players all play a significant part.

– Do you think the others can learn a lot from the way New Zealand do things, in the way of preparation before a tournament and before a match?

– Each country will have their own barriers that are unique to them to overcome, but it doesn’t cost a lot, if any, to do some crucial pre-match things very well. Areas such as providing the players with an overview of what they will expect to compete against, a quality pre-match meal, a thorough physical and technical warmup, holding players to very high, but fair, standards, supporting them at halftime with praise and solutions and ensuring there is effective recovery time balanced with quality training sessions.

– And finally, looking a little towards the future; This win means you qualify for the U20 World Cup in France next year. When do the preparations start for that tournament?

– Right away. We will work with all these players in their own environments to ensure we support their individual needs where possible. We will look to bring a group together again in October for a camp, and ideally, some more competitive matches.

– How do you see New Zealand’s chances? It’s obviously difficult to tell before any groups are drawn, or qualifiers played, but have a punt anyway.

– We need to have a mindset of no fear. Most of our girls will have played in a World Cup before so the pressures and glamour won’t be a distraction this time. If we prepare effectively there is no reason why we cant get a result against any team in the world.

Football in Oceania wishes Gareth and all the players the best of luck for the preparations and the World Cup next year.

Thanks to Gareth Turnbull for his time, you can find Gareth on Twitter here.


Author: Ola Bjerkevoll

A passion for everything football and especially in Oceania. Owner of Football in Oceania.

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