The country’s best players will be hogging the limelight this month playing in the Premier Hockey League (PHL) on the main Randburg Astro, but arguably an even more important development will be taking place on the upper field as the South African Hockey Association (SAHA) and the Southern Gauteng Hockey Association (SGHA) hold coaching clinics for disadvantaged children.
For the next four weeks, 180 children aged 10 to 13 will be playing Hockey 5s, the new short, pacey format of the game being introduced by the International Hockey Federation (FIH). These players don’t usually get the opportunity to play regular competitive hockey on astro turf, so this occasion will give them important playing time to develop the skills so vital to the modern game of hockey.
Astro Turf facilities are always a problem for children in disadvantaged areas, but other challenges when it comes to transforming include the costs of equipment, transport and coaching.
Mervyn Mooi, a junior hockey development co-ordinator for SGHA, says there is a pool of more than 5,000 players in the province who are now going to be brought into the system.
Mervyn Mooi said: “These players, up to U14 level, come from disadvantaged areas where hockey is dysfunctional or non-existent. But as clubs in Southern Gauteng, we need to engage them otherwise their talent won’t be discovered playing in unofficial leagues.
“More than just getting to play on astro and getting formal coaching, as well as some exposure on national TV, these kids get to play against other teams from other backgrounds. For some, it’s just wonderful to be able to get out on the weekend and play hockey on a wonderful astro turf facility for the first time.”
The joint initiative between SAHA and the SGHA, with the support of the Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation, will be around post the playing of the PHL where the South African hockey family is gathered in Randburg.
“We want to make this sustainable; we want it to happen every week so we can really build a love and passion for the game amongst all Gauteng’s children. The sport of hockey has to become more accessible.” SAHA vice-president Lwandile Simelane said.
“It’s very important to us because that’s the future and it needs to translate from what’s happening here today on the top field, to the more elite hockey of the PHL down on the bottom field. These children, because of what they have seen and experienced for themselves, will aspire to one day play in the Premier Hockey League.”
Players are attending the coaching clinics from 11 different clubs – In Touch from Bosmont, Wings, Westbury Villa, Claremont, Soshanguve, Diepsloot Silverstars, Noordgesig, Riverlea, Newbury, Ennerdale and Eldorado Park.
In Touch are driving the process by co-ordinating the initiative and supplying coaches.
Both SAHA and the SGHA have had hockey stick recycling drives that have seen many unused hockey sticks donated to the development programme, but the desperate need that exists at grassroots level means any and all assistance is greatly appreciated