Richard and Black Sticks team mates in Kuala Lumpur where they played the Malaysian national team prior to heading to India for the 2018 Hockey World Cup
When/where did you first go to Asia and how did travelling there for hockey broaden your knowledge of the region/ New Zealand’s place in the world?
My first time to Asia was in 2000. My family were passing through Korea for two days on route to the UK to meet my mum's family. I did not enjoy my time in Seoul. It was a complete shock to the system. The heat, pace, smells, and exotic food was too much for an intolerant 8-year-old boy.
I was 20 years of age by the next time I travelled to Asia. We travelled to Malaysia with the Junior Black Sticks for a 6-Nations tournament. The very things that made my Seoul experience unpleasant was what made me really appreciate Malaysia and Asia as a whole in years to come.
Going to New Delhi, India the following year gave me perspective. It made me realise how big the world outside of New Zealand is. The poverty I witnessed was something I didn't know existed. I gained a real appreciation for the opportunity that I had been provided to allow me to pursue my passion.
The New Zealand Hockey Team standing for the national anthem prior to the 2018 Hockey World Cup in Bhubeneshwar, Odisha, India
What countries has hockey taken you to in Asia – what place fascinated you the most and made you want to learn more?
Hockey has taken me to Malaysia three times, India three times, and Japan twice over a period of six years.
The environment is controlled when travelling as an athlete. You try to make yourself as comfortable as possible when competing in a new environment. This enables you to channel as much energy and focus into your performance as possible. Consequently, my experience of cultures in Asia was drip-fed to me over a long period of time.
I love learning. Every time I travelled, I learned something new about the culture. As a result, I keep wanting to go back!
India is my favourite country in Asia. The people are so lovely. The culture is rich. The food is delicious. I would love to live there for an extended period. I can't say my view of India was always so rosey. It evolved each time we visited over a long period.
Why is sport such a good means to connect people from different cultures?
Sport plays a big role within many cultures. It has an uncanny ability to bring communities together and evoke emotion.
Sport is apart of Kiwis' lives. It is something that we know well and relate to. As a result, it allows New Zealanders to interact with the world in a comfortable and frictionless manner.
Richard believes interest in Asia has increased since his school days
Leading a class and getting kids to follow you is a different leadership skill than you normally do. What was it like?
Yes, I'm used to leading on the hockey pitch with a team striving toward a common goal. Speaking to teenagers is a different kettle of fish.
Everyone is at a different stage, with their own motivations and dreams. I love that kids have less of a filter. They often act the way they feel and speak up when a thought arises.
It was easy to see when the kids were engaged or I had lost them in the detail. I found every presentation so unique.
Even with classes from the same school and year group, doing the same subject required a different speech tailored to them. Being able to adapt mid-presentation based on the kids responsiveness was a great skill that I was able to refine.
Richard was impressed by some of the skills he saw on display
What did you learn about Asia knowledge in the top of the South?
There were schools that had a very small number of students with Asian ethnicity. The main association to Asia was through food. The different Asian cuisines is something that the kids loved and were exposed to regularly. In general, the interest and openness to Asia was greater than when I was at school.
What were a few key messages you wanted the students to take from your presentations?
The overarching theme was to relay the uniqueness of each Asian country. Each story I told had a key message:
- How sport has allowed me to explore Asia.
- The rich cultures of the Asian countries that I had visited.
- How leaders can shape your environment.
- The importance of Asia for Kiwis.
The key theme of Richard's talk was to convey to the students the great diversity of Asia
Why do you think it’s important for New Zealand students to have an understanding of Asia?
Asia is the biggest continent by both landmass and population. Sixty percent of the world's young population live in Asia-Pacific. As a result, Asia will play a pivotal role in shaping the direction that the world goes in. What I really enjoy about Asia is the deep culture of each country. The philosophies that are embedded within the rich history of these countries play a significant role in my life.
What was it like introducing the Foundation's work to new audiences?
It was a great opportunity to represent the Foundation. It was a pleasure to stoke students' curiosity in Asia through my journey. The school's that we reached now have the resources and more importantly the drive to deepen their understanding of Asia.
On the road trip, Richard and the Foundation team visited Golden Bay High School, Marlborough Girls College, Kaikoura High School and the Nelson Hockey Association. Richard's school visits was the first of a planned series of workshops taking New Zealand sportspeople with knowledge of Asia to speak to students around the country.