[img_assist|nid=6280|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=72]IRELAND, November 21 – Black Sticks men’s assistant coach Darren Smith has accepted the role as head coach for the Ireland women’s team and will be taking up the position at the end of January 2013.
Smith has been assistant coach with the Black Sticks Men for six years and a player for the previous 11 years.
“It has been a really tough decision. To be part of a team for that long, means it is engrained in everything you do and is part of who you are, so it hasn’t been an easy decision at all,” says Smith.
“Ireland is a team that is tracking really well internationally – they were one game away from qualifying for London and they have some great talent. So I feel very honoured to be given the opportunity to be head coach and lead their programme.
“I have had a great month with Colin [Batch] and it is obvious that he is a coach of high calibre. My immediate focus remains with the Black Sticks and the Champions Trophy tournament and assisting Colin and the players through till the end of the year,” says Smith.
Smith also says the ongoing support he received from previous Black Sticks head coach Shane McLeod, has helped him be prepared to take on a head coach role.
Hockey New Zealand’s high performance manager Toni Cumpston says it is a fantastic opportunity for Smith but she knows he will be missed.
“Darren has been an integral part of the men’s programme, especially over the last Olympic cycle and has been a valued member of the Hockey New Zealand high performance team. While we will be very sad to see Darren go, and I know he will be missed by the men’s programme, we appreciate the opportunity that such a role presents and would like to wish him all the best in his new position,” says Cumpston.
Hockey New Zealand will begin recruiting a new assistant coach for the Black Sticks Men after the Champions Trophy which is being held in Melbourne from 1-9 December.