Cump­ston plots a course for an Aus­tralian re­demp­tion

The Hockey Paper - - COMMONWEALTH GAMES - By Claire Mid­dle­ton

EV­ERY na­tion seems to have one, but what ex­actly does a per­for­mance di­rec­tor do?

In Aus­tralia, Toni Cump­ston, who was ap­pointed fol­low­ing their (rel­a­tively) dis­as­trous Olympic cam­paign, it’s about right­ing the ship, ad­vo­cat­ing to the fund­ing bod­ies and mak­ing sure ath­letes and teams have the best path­ways to suc­cess.

It’s all about high per­for­mance and how it can best be achieved. She has to beg for the money, cre­ate a sys­tem and find the peo­ple to work within it.

She was ap­pointed just as Hockey Aus­tralia were hit by a ma­jor storm; Cy­clone Deb­bie, which wreaked havoc in Queens­land last week had noth­ing on the post-Olympic fall­out with which Cump­ston has had to deal.

Having won at least one medal at ev­ery Games since 1980 (when they didn’t com­pete due to the Moscow boy­cott), two sides finishing sixth was clearly a ma­jor catas­tro­phe. What was es­pe­cially galling was that the teams had been world cham­pi­ons and run­ners-up only two years prior.

It led to a ma­jor re­view, a mas­sive ex­o­dus of staff and a board­room coup. Phew. Oh, and then Cam Vale, the chief ex­ec­u­tive, re­signed.

Into all this landed Cump­ston, the new per­for­mance di­rec­tor, whose ap­point­ment was an­nounced prior to much of the car­nage and who opened her of­fice door to find the busiest in­tray in the world game.

She was faced with a ma­jor re­design, which is now un­der­way with new coaches, new as­sis­tants in both pro­grammes, and a process in the pipe­line for the re­cruit­ment of a new CEO.

She is a forth­right in­di­vid­ual who will likely make en­e­mies as well as friends but she’s clearly not go­ing to leave a stone un­turned. The Com­mon­wealth Games, on home soil, might just be the cat­a­lyst to­wards re­demp­tion. It may ac­tu­ally help too that the global land­scape is chang­ing, as one Olympic dis­ap­point­ment might not have been suf­fi­cient cat­a­lyst for a ma­jor re­think. With a new home­and-away se­ries an­nounced by the FIH and the in­flux of com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties which are tempt­ing play­ers – the men, any­way – away from na­tional com­mit­ments and cen­tral con­tracts, ev­ery na­tion will have to look at how it op­er­ates, whether they were suc­cess­ful in Rio or not.

“It was the most dis­ap­point­ing Olympic re­sult for Aus­tralia ever, and some­times an un­ex­pected re­sult can lead to an ap­petite for change,” she said.

“We’ve had great suc­cess but some­times the things that made you suc­cess­ful in the past won’t make you suc­cess­ful in the fu­ture. To me we are a blank can­vas.”

The first op­por­tu­ni­ties to put colour on that can­vas come with the World League and then the Com- mon­wealth Games, where the Kook­abur­ras have swooped to gold ev­ery time and the only blot on the Hock­ey­roos’ form­book came in 2002, when they lost to Eng­land in the semi­fi­nals and In­dia tri­umphed.

Cump­ston, a for­mer as­sis­tant coach with the Hock­ey­roos, came back to Hockey Aus­tralia via New Zealand, where she was the Black­sticks’ per­for­mance di­rec­tor, and the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport, where she was a con­sul­tant work­ing with, among oth­ers, wa­ter polo and bas­ket­ball.

Al­though, when we meet in her of­fice in Perth, she says she has “seven mil­lion things” go­ing on in her head, there are three key ar­eas she be­lieves have to be ad­dressed. Firstly, she wants to re­con­nect with the do­mes­tic net­work of State as­so­ci­a­tions and in­sti­tutes, sec­ondly she recog­nises that player as­so­ci­a­tions and pro­fes­sional leagues are gain­ing power and, thirdly, she wants to fig­ure out what the FIH global league is all about.

So what would she like to have ac­com­plished in her first year? Are there any Trump-style ex­ec­u­tive or­ders on the cards?

“If we have happy ath­letes and staff who are ab­so­lutely in­vested and proud to say they rep­re­sent Hockey Aus­tralia I will be happy,” she says.

Gold on the Gold Coast would make her even hap­pier!

The boss: Toni Cump­ston

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