Kyle Pontifex – Sportsperson of the Year

  • Retired from international hockey in September 2016.
  • Works full time as an enterprise specialist at ANZ bank.
  • Father of two lovely girls, ages two and four; and has a wonderful, supportive wife.  
  • Finishing the tail end of a Masters of Business Administration at Victoria. 
  • Competed in three Olympics: 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London – all with the Black Sticks

He says, ‘Initially, I took a break after the 2012 Olympics. That’s when I started my MBA to fill in the time I would have otherwise been training. It added a new challenge.'

Kyle's top tip everyone can apply to succeed

'Don’t be afraid of hard work.'

The thrill of competing and setting goals – his winning formula

A very competitive person, Kyle has always set goals and worked away at them.

'When I was young I always wanted to play with my national team, and that was an easy goal to set. Then that goal evolved to wanting to be the best in the world at my position. Those sporting aspects transfer across your whole life.

When I stepped back from hockey in 2012, and looked around at different qualifications around, I found the MBA was the best qualification for where I wanted to go, offering the best skills, learnings.

It’s an interesting transition now stepping back from sport, taking that sporting element away and having to fill it with something.’

From waiting on the bench to playing in the number one spot

Kyle dabbled in sports from a young age. One could say he was born an athlete. Playing soccer and skateboarding consumed much of his childhood. That is, until he found hockey at 12 years old. 

'I progressed relatively fast into hockey and it took over – quickly outweighing the other sports.'

In 2001 Kyle made the bench playing for the Black Sticks, and then worked his way to play in the number one spot until 2012 (he did take a break after the London Olympics). 

'It's been quite a long journey. I think I had my ambitions from an early age. I served a long apprenticeship as the reserve goalie in the Black Sticks for a really long time. And a lot of goal keepers would have pulled out before they got their shot in the number one spot. However, I stayed on and built a very successful sporting career, after I did get that number one spot.'

An Olympian – times three

The Olympics are an international goal for many athletes symbolising making it big, getting there. What about making it to the Olympics three times though? We think that just means you're a legend. 

'The Olympics are certainly a highlight [of my journey]. It’s like another world, the Olympic Village, and it’s really good to see so many different cultures interacting, competing and doing it all with smiles on their faces.'

Fitting it all in – even when he didn't feel like it

It takes a lot of preparation and organisation to get where Kyle is; and sometimes doing things you just don’t feel like doing. Used to packing his day with training, working and studying, Kyle worked full time while pursuing his MBA. How did he fit it all in? He'd train at the brink of dawn and the nigh of dusk. 

'That’s one difference between myself and a full-time athlete: I had to train around work commitments. On average I trained about 15 to 20 hours a week while working full time, 40 hour week. During these times I managed my studies to around 10 hours per week. 

I don’t know anything different from training and having a busy lifestyle. My wife says I’m an athlete and they’re wired a bit differently. If I’m not playing hockey I’d be pursuing another sport or something similar.'

Having all-round support helps with a hectic schedule 

Everyone needs a strong, supportive community, and it's no different for Kyle. Thanks to a supportive employer and a flexible university he was able to balance work, sport and study.

'Although I’m on call 24-7, I’ve been able to fit in hockey training and tournaments and still work remotely. ANZ is a flexible employer, which couples nicely with working in technology. 

The flexibility from the business school has been fantastic – and understanding. And just very strong lecturers, which makes learning easy, enabling me to focus more time on my sport as well.' 

It takes discipline to manage multiple priorities

Kyle didn't have much choice, but to figure out how to manage his schedule if he wanted to succeed. And one could say the discipline he learnt from pursuing a busy schedule helped him reach his ambitions.

'Sport has really helped me to grow and mature as a person. That flows into every part of your life, not just sport, but work, family, study as well. In saying this sport has certainly given me a number of experiences that aren’t run of the mill. I’ve been able to travel to some amazing places, and situations that are hard to replicate in day-to-day life.'

Too many great people to single out just one

'A whole range of people have influenced me over the years. I look up to all of these people so it’s hard to single them out. I guess a sporting hero I admire is Eddy Merckx.'

Summing it all up with The Blues

'I think it’s [The Blues Awards] fantastic. It’s a great event and it’s really valuable to recognise a sporting achievement from an academic point of view as well.'

Read about Joanah Ngan-Woo – 2016 Pasifika Sportsperson of the Year

Read about Brook Walker – 2016 Sports Administrator of the Year