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Cultural Awareness


New Zealand is a society made up of many different cultures, and as a coach you should be aware of the cultural differences between players, such as differences in behaviour and beliefs and the social structures that belong to different cultures.

Why be Aware of Different Cultures?

  • To help you gain a better understanding of your players and their family
  • To enable you to create coping strategies for yourself, your players and your team
  • To help foster understanding within your team
  • To gain support from your players, their families and the wider community

Cultural Issues of Which a Coach Should Be Aware

In all cultures, family has high importance and to gain the players support the coach should also seek the support of the whole family.

Religion has a huge influence in many cultures and prayer (karakia) may be appropriate. The use of inappropriate language should be avoided.

Many cultures believe making direct eye contact or speaking out of turn is inappropriate, and yet looking down and not talking can be interpreted by the coach as evidence a player is inattentive and is unwilling to interact.

Questioning and confronting players in front of the whole team can be interpreted by a player as belittling and may be better done privately.

  • As a coach, your standing in the eyes of your players will be enhanced if you take time to learn a little about their culture, are able to pronounce their names correctly, and learn some basic forms of communication, such as greeting and farewell.
  • Most cultures have spiritual aspects and rituals to consider. The spirit of the group and individual should be treated with respect.

Basic Tips To Be Aware Of For Coaching Maori Players

  • Treat all elders with respect.
  • The most sacred part of the body is the head, so do not tap another person on the head or pass food over someone’s head.
  • Do not put your hat or hair implements near food - don’t sit on tables or other surfaces where food is prepared.
  • Separate personal clothing from clothes used for cooking or washing dishes.
  • Do not step over a person lying down.
  • Treat your visitors well by serving them first and providing plenty of food.
  • If you are meeting someone bring a koha (donation) such as a packet of biscuits.
  • Everyone pitches in to help, so offer your services before you’re asked – you will be told if you don’t need to lend a hand.
  • Take shoes off when entering a home or meeting house.

If you are unsure how to react or communicate with a player from a different culture, then ask someone for advice, otherwise a sincere honest and friendly approach will always be appreciated.