New Zealand Hoops – Q&A With Rachel Gwerder

📷 @basketballnewzealand

What is your full name and where are you from?

Rachel Gwerder, bit of a nomad really. Spent my high school years in Te Kuiti, but prior to that my family lived in a house bus and followed my fathers work. As an adult lived in North Harbour, Waikato, Otago & Tauranga.

Tauranga has been home for past 10 years, love it and no plans to leave!

What is your profession and how long have you been doing it?

I am very lucky to work full time in basketball, and have done so for near 25 years. I am currently the Director of Development at Tauranga City Basketball, prior to that I held the same role at Basketball Otago. I spent 5 years as Development Officer at Waikato Basketball Council, and 5 years at North Harbour.

What is your involvement with basketball today? 

See above – role includes coaching, mentoring and administrating basketball. Also coach mentor for Basketball Pacific.

Why did you choose the game of basketball?  

I was invited along to a basketball training whilst at High School, when I arrived was surprised to discover it was a men’s training! I just loved the competitiveness and physicality of the game. I credit Coach Dave Murray, the men I trained with & Te Kuiti Basketball for developing my love of the game.

Then I moved to Waikato for University and at the time there was an outstanding club programme, called Third Division, I played for Unicol. This club programme was the perfect mix of extremely competitive games with an active social calendar.

Also played Waikato U20’s coached by Teresa Cargo and that was an eye-opener / amazing learning experience.

What school did you attend and did you play basketball?

Te Kuiti High School, played Form 6& 7 (Year 12 & 13). The great thing about a small college is sporty kids are needed, due to numbers, to play multiple sports.

You are role model for young women, what advice do you have for them getting into basketball?

Don’t undersell the value of being able to create a positive team culture, and getting the best out of players because of people skills BUT don’t sit in this space alone  – find ways to advance, learn X’s & O’s, learn the technical and tactical side of the game, stay updated on world trends, learn terminology, ensure you have variety of methods of defending different scenarios, create resources that suit yourself such as scout reports, game reports, game debriefs etc. Be a student of the game.

Never tear another coach down, it says more about you than it does the other coach.

Find mentors, people who will give you honest feedback, but are 100% in your corner.

What has been the highlight of your basketball career?

Spent many years coaching in New Zealand Age-Groups, and had two stints as an Assistant Coach with the Tall Ferns, anytime you represent your country it is the ultimate honour.

Building programmes / communities is another highlight – PWP (Harbour), Jay Dees (St John’s College / Waikato), Miners (Otago) and Navigators & the Rep Programme here in Tauranga. Been very lucky to find likeminded and amazing people within all these communities.

Who has been your biggest influence in basketball and why?

Tab Baldwin, Bill Eldred, Murray McMahon, Colin Driscoll because they mentored, believed and invested time in me as a young coach.

Mel Young, Ollie Dudfield and Mark Rogers for creating opportunities.

Mata Cameron, Tania Hunter, Sue Pene and Gilly McFarlane for being partners in arms in the early days, as we broke down barriers and through glass ceilings for female coaches. For two years, I was the only female coach involved in BBNZ age-group basketball. Thrilled to see the growth from those days.

Who is the ultimate women’s basketball player in New Zealand?

Historically I believe Carolyn Grey, brought a toughness and competitiveness to the game I don’t think I’ve seen replicated. She also through her leadership lifted other players around her.

If you had one piece of advice for your younger self what would it be?

Stay fearless, ambitious and strong. Every single mistake, disappointment or knock that you will incur (there will be plenty!) will make you smarter, more worldly, more resilient and give you a better understanding of your values.

Whats in store for basketball in the Tauranga region, in the near future?

We have spent the past 10 years building our foundation, our junior programme, we wish to maintain this. The next two-three years plan is to add a concentrated focus on local men’s and women’s basketball and create opportunities in this space. With the long term vision of being involved in both Men’s and Women’s NBL.

Vital we continue to build / maintain our foundation, as the end goal is longevity in the NBL.

📷 @basketballnewzealand


Published by Jesse Wallis

Basketball Journalist

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