Since being asked to Chair the FIH’s new High Performance Committee I have had to answer some important questions. Firstly, why the need for this Committee and isn’t High Performance really just Coaching dressed up in other kit?
The short answer is that High Performance is much more than coaching. It is the all-embracing and inter-related disciplines and activities that ensure that players, especially elite players, can produce the optimum performance on and off the field of play.
This is not only about coaching, but medical especially physiological and dietary input, psychology and motivation, assimilation of relevant hockey specific knowledge, for example the rules and other tactical approaches to the game, knowledge including life skills, adapting to arduous travel and changed circumstances, etc.
Thus a top athlete or player has to be prepared holistically to optimize performance as part of a team and its special environment. Within a successful team environment there are dynamics and relationships that must also be nurtured.
Often elements of a team build a specific dynamic such as the defence that pride themselves as a unit with special tasks. I remember a few years back the Canadian Men’s Team’s defenders had a mantra: “Back four shut the door!” They were determined to not give away goals for the team’s sake.
We also need to escalate this above single national teams to National Associations who have a range of national teams of both genders competing at various levels, (Olympics, World Cup, Junior World Cups, etc).
The activities of all these teams, the preparation and playing programmes need to be co-ordinated and resourced. For winning nations it is imperative that their National Associations have High Performance Programmes. Probably the Top 12 Nations in the world have this, maybe even the Top 15 but I doubt it extends much further and even the quality and ambit of these Programmes probably differs significantly. These should also include the continuum of nurturing or growing talented young national players and youth through their age groups on a programme that is consistent and all- embracing to ensure a transition to senior National Teams and their environment is smooth if not seamless.
The task ahead for the FIH’s High Performance Committee is to improve High Performance Programmes where they exist, help to initiate them where they do not yet exist and generally assist National Associations throughout World hockey to raise the professionalism and quality of these vital inputs. This will undoubtedly also result in greater depth in world hockey, improved playing standards and more fulfilled players/athletes.
It will also enable us to build a virtual library and data base to assist National Associations and the world of hockey at large.
A further vital by-product or task of the Committee will be to consult with, inter alia, top coaches, umpires, medical experts, equipment experts and all allied professionals to prepare recommendations for the Executive Board on how to improve the quality of hockey internationally – something that I was passionate about in my previous role as Chairman of the Competitions Committee, and a major objective embraced by the FIH and our Executive Board.