INTERVIEW: Katrina Keenan

How did you get into coaching?
I played cricket from a really young age and got involved in some coaching clinics, holiday programmes run by David Trist (Tristy) & Nicki Turner. I found it fascinating that you could not only play the game but possibly have a career path in the game through coaching. The significance of people like Tristy, Nicki & Dayle Hadlee in terms of being role models was huge. Eventually I became involved in some courses assisting at clinics, observing and eventually sat my Level 1. Since then I have completed Level 2, Level 3 and worked full time for NZC in Development.

Who are you currently coaching and where?
I am currently in Japan and working in the High Performance Division of the Japan Cricket Association. It’s a busy but rewarding role working with the National Squads (Men's, Women's) and coordinating programmes, talent ID, trials, coaching for the age group players etc

How did you get this opportunity?

When we moved to Japan to live, Alec Astle & Catherine Campbell met some of the JCA board members at an ICC meeting and mentioned that I would be based there and could assist them with the game. When I arrived I contacted them by email, met with them and started initially with the women's squad before focusing on all aspects of HP.

What does your role entail?
Essentially I am preparing the National Teams for international cricket opportunities. I focus on periodisation of training programmes, running  coaching clinics/winter training programmes, securing venues, providing support to National Coaches through (provision of equipment, fitness, technical, skill based programmes, KPI's, match analysis, player assessments etc), appointing team managers/support staff, developing policies eg team touring/code of conduct. It’s really varied but very rewarding.

How long have women been playing cricket in Japan?
Women's cricket has been played in Japan at club and University level for some years however internationally their first encounter was at the then IWCC trophy in the Netherlands in 2003. Within the Tokyo region alone there are currently 11 women's teams playing both club, University level.

What is the standard of women’s cricket like in Japan?
They are competitive. I would say that they have a realistic opportunity in the short term, to progress to the World Cup Qualifiers. In the National Squad there are 4-5 players who I consider to have sound skills, technique and would manage senior cricket in Christchurch and be reasonably competitive. Ema Kuribayashi is currently living in Christchurch and playing for the East Shirley club in order to get international experience. She is a good player and will benefit immensely from playing regular cricket. The issue for the players here in Japan is lack of playing facilities. The lack of grounds means scheduling is difficult, given the growing number of teams and also the travelling distances to the grounds can be a deterrent. Over the last two seasons we have started running open training clinics in gymnasiums in Tokyo each month for all club, University players (men’s and women’s) so that we can try and offer some coaching/additional practice to players below National level and encourage them to be more proactive within their own trainings, practices.

What are the coaching and playing facilities like in Japan?
The ground situation is a real challenge but this is one the JCA is currently addressing. Cricket also is very much an unknown sport here so it can be difficult to convince venues, gymnasiums to allow us entry as there is a real process involved in booking venues. But over the past season we have secured 3 new indoor venues which has been a huge help. We have come along way from when I first arrived and my very first training was under an overhead expressway. It also took me about 4 1/2 hrs to commute there from Nagoya. I was like - you’re kidding right? It was a small, semi flat, semi dirt based surfaced area, with masses of pylons which we had to negotiate around (and we had to work out a sharing system with a group of local soccer players) - BUT - it was awesome at the same time.

Do you need to speak Japanese to the players?
I study Japanese so try to speak as much as I can to the players, but at the same time English is also ok, as they are very keen to learn, speak English - we help each other so we all benefit. I have a player Shizuka in my National Squad who translates all memos to players regarding camps, trainings, tours etc so this is a huge help and ensures the communication between the JCA and players is sound.

Is cricket played all over Japan and do Japanese know the game?
Cricket is very strong in the Tokyo region both in clubs and at Universities. The main playing population is within the Tokyo/outlying regions. However cricket is played in many other areas throughout Japan, both in the North and South of Tokyo. A number of High Schools are starting cricket as a club within their school and a number of junior programmes in smaller regions, such as Gunma and Sano are established. This is very exciting for the future of the game. A National Development Manager has been appointed and will start in the role shortly which is exciting.

Who does Japan play against?
Japan is part of the ICC East Asia Pacific region so currently the National Men’s team is competing in the WCL Div 7 in Guernsey. Sides in this tournament are Guernsey, Bahrain, Gibraltar, Suriname, and Nigeria to mention a few. The Men’s team will also compete this year in the EAP tournament against teams such as Fiji, PNG, and Samoa etc. The women play a 6 a-side series each year in Shanghai, last season we had a series against Hong Kong and next year is the EAP trophy against PNG. I am very keen to look at increasing playing opportunities for the National Women’s team.

Who was your favorite coach when you were playing and why?
I have been lucky to work with so many amazing players/coaches, Dennis Lillie, Glen Turner, Mike Shrimpton (Shrimpo), and everyone has made a huge impression, especially Shrimpo during our 2000 World Cup victory over Australia. But Dayle Hadlee is someone who I have worked with since I was very young. Although I always held him in such high regard he was always available to help me with my cricket. He has been a great role model for me and someone who was able to bring the best out in me and my game especially leading toward to the 2000 World Cup. Dayle is a great coach because he not only has the technical knowledge, but his delivery style/approach is such that he allows you as player to also find your way. After all when it comes down to it, once you have done all the preparation you can, it is up to you, the player in the middle to finish the job.

What part of coaching do you enjoy the most?
1. Players asking questions - this shows me they are thinking about the game and want to know why, how.
2. Seeing a player get it. Working on a skill area with a player and supporting them while they struggle through trying to find their way and then watching them execute that skill in a match situation consistently - that’s really rewarding for me.

What are your aspirations as a coach?
Continue to work with Japan Cricket to see them improve both domestically and internationally.  Also continue to maintain the communication/relationship with NZC/EAP in order to develop professionally. In the long term one of my aspirations would be to work with both a provincial women's team and ultimately within the White Ferns framework.

* Interview conducted by Hamish Barton- NZC

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