Attention embarrasses 'Coach'

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2012
coach stand
ANDY JACKSON
Steve 'Coach' McKean

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Accepting recognition is a difficult task for Steve McKean.

In fact, he spent the most part of this interview praising those he had worked alongside and wishing his fellow Person of the Year finalists good luck.

"It's kind of embarrassing because I get a lot of stick, don't you worry about that. If my mug's seen in the paper again . . . you don't realise what I'll have to put up with.

"You can tell the other finalists they've got my vote all right."

But like it or not, the man they call "Coach" has had to learn to accept awards, particularly throughout 2012.

Aside from his contribution to Taranaki sport being recognised in 2004 with a New Plymouth District Council citizen's award, this year he was on the Queen's Birthday honours list, becoming a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport.

It was an honour he initially declined but eventually accepted after some encouragement from his wife.

"It was a very special day. There were about 20 other people given a Queen's award and to go to Government House that day, I tell you, that was an experience."

Last month he was awarded the Taranaki Daily News Sports Personality of the Year, voted by the public, and was also praised by Sport NZ for his efforts.

He described the latter as an extremely humbling event.

"All of the achievements I've had are because of the people I work with. When you play team sport there's always that outstanding player or MVP, but you wouldn't get that award if you didn't have good people around you," he says.

"I've been lucky not only here having good people around me - the principals, sports coordinators, the clubs - but I've also got a lot of contacts around the country."

It has been 41 years since McKean arrived in New Zealand from the United States to take up a contract as player-coach for Auckland basketball club side Panmure.

He shifted to New Plymouth in 1990 and was instrumental in the over-achievement of its National Basketball League team before moving into sports administration.

McKean has been the face of secondary school sport in the province for 20 years and his energy and drive has extended its calendar from 12 events a year to 44.

More than 5000 students took part in a range of events this year. It was the highest number in any one year.

"We offer a programme that's as good as any other run throughout the country, and the numbers certainly back that up.

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"I think we do things pretty well here in Taranaki, but again, it's all because of good people."

McKean says he has formed many a close bond with those behind each of the 44 events during the year, which is something he will be forever grateful for.

"These people are so passionate about their particular event. You go to smallbore rifle shooting and you see a guy like Lou Donnelly. I mean, smallbore rifle shooting means as much to him as rugby does to Colin Cooper.

"These people are special and if we ever lose them we're in deep trouble."

Two programmes McKean has been instrumental in have given him the greatest satisfaction.

They are the Future Champions programme where young talent is identified and nurtured, and the Coaches Club, where Taranaki coaches have been able to learn from the likes of Graham Henry and Andrej Lemanis.

As he takes a slow, final sip of coffee, McKean reflects on a year which is to be his last in the Taranaki Secondary School Sports Association (TSSSA) role.

He says life is all about the people you meet, places you've been, and being in the right place at he right time.

"I think since my arrival in Taranaki in 1990 I've met some great friends and I've been in the right place at the right time, a lot.

"And to have taken on TSSSA - well I'm lucky as hell."

- Taranaki Daily News

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