Three weeks after coaching Great Britain women’s hockey team to its first-ever Olympic gold medal, Danny Kerry has spoken about the triumph.
Kerry, who hails from West Norfolk, has just been catapulted into a position as one of the best known and highly respected international coaches.
“It was the weirdest feeling,” said Kerry ruminating on one of the most successful fortnights of his life.
“As head coach, the moments after the Olympics are a culmination of months, years, of work and you want a chance to take it all in.
“You want to assimilate it all and take time to reflect upon the amazing thing that has just happened but the minute you get home you are ‘Daddy’ again and you step back into a life of bedtimes and reading – or in this case, packing for a holiday.”
Great Britain won the final followinga tense penalty shuttle competition after the team had forced a draw with the world’s number one side and 2012 Olympic champions, the Netherlands.
The admiration of Kerry’s coaching exploits haven’tjust come in the world of hockey.
According to England rugby coach Eddie Jones, other sports could learn a lot from Kerry.
Jones said:“If you look on face value at the talent in that team (Great Britain) compared to the Holland team, it’s probably not as great, so Kerry’s ability to create such a dynamic and hard-working team is fascinating.”
To the outsider, Great Britain/England have had a topsy-turvy two years.
They won silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games; they won the World League Semi-Finals in Valencia, ensuring Olympic qualification; they won the 2015 European Championships in front of a packed home crowd and they enjoyed a 15 match unbeaten run.
Interspersed with this was a fifth-place finish in Mendoza in the 2014 Champions Trophy, a seventh place finish at the Hockey World League Final in Rosario and a fifth place finish at the 2016 Champions Trophy in London.
When the question is put to him about consistency, Kerry has a different view: “We won the important tournaments and I was so delighted with our 15 match unbeaten run.
“I was disappointed that we didn’t do better at the Champions Trophy in front of a home crowd but that was all part of the journey.”
What Kerry didn’t reveal at the time was his reluctance to let the other nations see his side at their best. The Champions Trophy was less than six weeks before Rio, with the same opposition.
Against the USA for example, Kerry completely changed tactics and his side lost. “Yes” he says with relish, “but we wiped them off the park in Rio.”
It is at this point in Kerry’s story that you start to see what striker Alex Danson has referred to as the “master tactician” emerge.
Kerry took over coaching the squad in 2014 after an 11th place finish in the World Cup.
Such a poor performance by the team that had been ranked third in the world led to a period of intense soul searching.
Former King Edward VII Grammar School student Kerry had two main aims leading up to the Games: to instil an ethos of hard work and high standards and to find a strong leadership group.
It took time and no little amount of pain on the part of the players but, by the time Rio arrived, the squad was a tightly cohesive group.
In Kate Richardson-Walsh they had a strong, charismatic leader and in Danny Kerry they had a coach who was not afraid to take chances – or difficult decisions.
“I had to commit a list of 16 players to paper and it was with deep sadness that I cut Emily McGuire and Ashleigh Ball – both bronze medallists from London – from the squad.
“They are both great people, it was a desperately sad time and I took hours to make that decision.”
Kerry’s aim was to have a squad of players who would be durable.
He wanted the players to last the entire tournament, not just the first four games.
He also wanted his players to make their own decisions – an ambition that led to the now infamous Thursday torture training sessions where the players would be put under extreme physical and mental pressure and then be asked to make the right decisions.
The rest is history.
Great Britain took to the field against Australia in their opening match and got off to a dream winning start; they played Argentina and won, despite spending periods of the final quarter with only nine on the field.
They turned the tables on the USA as Kerry had planned and they saw off Spain in the quarter finals.
New Zealand gave them a tough match but they finished bruised but triumphant and then it was that famous final.
“When the game was over I had two over-riding emotions,” admitted Kerry.
“I wanted to celebrate and assimilate what had happened but I also desperately wanted to get home to my wife Lisa and my daughters, Anna and Orla.
“We were away for 28 days and in small children that is a long time, they change a lot and I was missing that. Most of the time you are so busy you don’t have time to think about it, but in that small window, when you Face-Time your family, that can be crushing.”
Despite the pain of being away from his family for extended periods of time, Kerry has no intention of hanging up his coaching manuals.
He says he is bursting with ideas for the next phase and is wildly excited about the potential of this squad.
Kerry, who played for Pelicans Hockey Club in his younger days, said: “A psychologist might worry about a coach’s health but I have a chronic need to do it better next time.
“The challenge for me now is to win as a winner.”