As far as first weeks at a new job go, Jenelle Strickland isn’t complaining.
The former Tasman Makos’ team manager had just been appointed as the manager for the New Zealand women’s sevens rugby team when she was put on a plane to Glasgow, to get a feel of life at the Commonwealth Games.
“Best first week ever,” she says. “I had a bruised arm by the time I left Glasgow, from me pinching myself at how lucky I am.”
After five years as the first woman to manage a professional rugby team in New Zealand, Jenelle quit her job at the end of last season’s successful run and took a job at Tasman Rugby Union headquarters.
Soon after that she was shoulder-tapped to apply for the sevens job and, after going through the interview process, was appointed this winter.
Janelle will still be based in Nelson and will fly to training camps in Tauranga, and to tournaments around the world when necessary. She is expecting to be away from home for around four months of the year.
As well as travelling to places like Dubai, Holland, the United States and China on the women’s sevens world circuit, the big carrot is the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016. She says having the opportunity to work in that environment will be “amazing”.
“For me, this is a dream job in terms of getting to manage a national team and taking that team to the Olympics. Everyone who loves sports will know it’s a huge opportunity just to go to the Olympics and watch it, let alone be a part of a team that’s competing in it.”
The women’s sevens team is new, created after the sport was granted Olympic status, but expectation on it to win gold at the Olympics will still be massive.
“They’ve won the world series twice so they will be one of the favourites and women’s sevens is the first team sport to finish at the Olympics, so they could potentially be the first team to win a gold medal at the games,” says Jenelle.
As team manager, it’s Jenelle’s job to organise flights, accommodation, make sure the players are getting the right physiotherapy treatment, help develop team culture, set team protocols and she will also be the team’s main media contact.
She says being able to manage a national team, while based in Nelson, is the best of both worlds.
“I’m stoked about being able to be based in Nelson. I love it here and didn’t really want to have to move to pursue my career, but I thought I may have had to. So the fact I don’t is awesome, because I can be around my friends and family and my support network when I am home.”
Jenelle’s first tournament in charge is a pre-season tournament in Noosa at the start of October, before the World Series tournament starts in Dubai at the beginning of December.