Elements of the continuum include:
Quality coaching in formative years and pre-school hockey
Challenging school and youth hockey competitions with suitable coaching
Strong clubs who assist youth and create a platform for the launching of national and international careers in an environment of camaraderie and team building
A place for social and recreational hockey with a less competitive edge including masters/veterans hockey.
I have highlighted that the game is shrinking in certain areas, exacerbated by competing interests, modern life, and lack of artificial surfaces at clubs, declining administration and coaching, despite one of the sports’ hallmarks – its wonderful volunteers. The loss of hockey players after their schooling is complete is very worrying.
There is little doubt that the key building blocks in this hockey continuum have to be put in place and the strategic planning backed by a “business” or “operational” plan to implement it, is crucial.
But not more so than key personnel, charismatic people who can guide or lead the process cleverly blending professionals with volunteers, whilst cost-effectively funding or resourcing the programme.
These are becoming the challenges for the world of hockey and particularly South Africa where the paucity of quality coaches and administrators is assuming emergency proportions.
Maybe from the ashes will emerge a phoenix as concerned, skilled parents and hockey lovers step forward.
However, without an inspiring vision, the will to implement and succeed backed by an operational plan driven by the necessary charismatic but determined people, the future could be gloomy.
Maybe the meeting mentioned in the first paragraph will be one of the breeding grounds for new models of hockey development, coaching and excellence born of necessity, and grounded at schools and clubs.
I hope this will lead to a hockey renaissance and new innovative approaches to build the great game of hockey – the same could apply to other sports, particularly the Olympic Sports -battling to survive in a rampant professional world awash with money, where 80 000 people turn up to watch Christiano Ronaldo model his No 9 shirt at the Bernabeu!