From Guillotinest to High Performance Coach; how it all started

Glenn Pocknall is the current Assistant Coach of the Firebirds, a role he has had since 2013, although his involvement with coaching Cricket Wellington sides goes back to 2003. His experience, working his way from coaching the Wellington U15 team through to his current role, is a great example of the pathways available in coaching and shows that involvement in, and enjoyment from, the game goes well beyond being a player.

Glenn has penned a series of blogs, tracing his first steps into coaching and his development over the last 15 years. The first of these, From Guillotinest to High Performance Coach; how it all started, is below.


I’m sitting here on a cold winter’s night in Wellington with four years under my belt as Wellington Firebirds Assistant coach. It’s a great time to reflect over my coaching career to date and I have come up with the idea to write a series of blogs to help others who are looking to join the wonderful profession of coaching.

A defining year for me was in 2002. I had been working as a Guillotinest in a printing firm for four years and I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to be involved in sport.

I loved the job and the people I worked with. It was a challenging role both physically and mentally. Having to change a blade that was 15-20kg in weight required some skill, if you got it wrong you could lose a body part or have a very large cut. I needed to be alert when doing this. As much as I enjoyed this job, I wanted more. I wanted to be a professional cricket or rugby player however realised this just wasn’t going to happen. My first port of call was my old college rugby and cricket coach, Mark Borthwick. Mark now worked for Cricket Wellington and was someone who I had, and still have, a lot of respect for due to how he shaped young men and instilled many great qualities in them all. His role at Cricket Wellington was coaching education.

My questioning to Mark was pretty simple. HELP me… I spoke about having a real passion and drive about wanting to get involved in professional sport. As a player this door was shut and I was interested to see what, if any, suggestions he had.

He mentioned coaching and that excited me. Problem was, I’d done nothing and had no experience or qualifications. In the subsequent months I did my Level 1 coaching certificate, and spent many hours outside my normal work hours coaching and observing. The coaching part gave me the perfect chance to use the skills I had been taught during the Level 1 course. By observing other coaches I got little tips and ideas of how they did things and I could incorporate those into my sessions.

During this time I didn’t really have any kind of philosophy, it was more based on identifying faults in a player and then fixing those faults. So, in essence, telling them all the things that were going wrong and then, one-by-one, trying to remedy these. Looking back at that time there wasn’t much coaching of the mind happening and it was more of a dictatorial type of coaching. I believe this was due to my lack of experience in the art of coaching and also trying to impress on these young players how much I knew. Totally the wrong approach.

I learnt many valuable lessons during those 3-4 months of coaching at the Westpac Stadium indoor nets, some of which I’ve highlighted below:

1.      Hard work: I had a goal and I realised I would need to work hard to make good impressions and learn about the art of coaching. I would spend most nights and weekends either coaching, studying coaching, watching coaches or talking coaching.

2.      Commitment: The players I coached relied on me and looked to me to make them better and with this I felt an overwhelming urge to be totally committed to help them achieve this goal.

3.      Ambition: At the fore front of my mind I had the desire and want to coach New Zealand one day. That kept me motivated to continue to do these hard yards outside of working full time elsewhere.

This time in my life was very defining for me and I’m glad I took the leap as I could quite possibly still be doing the same type of work if I hadn’t of jumped out of my comfort zone. So glad I did!

Please check out my website here.