I’ve always loved playing hockey and I yearn for it in the off-season – a terrible time where I can’t even watch it on TV or go to pick-up games at the local club. It simply isn’t a big enough sport. This is something that’s frustrated me for as long as I can remember.
What really grates me is that, as a nation, we are in fact bloody good at hockey! The second thing that gets to me is that our Department of Sports and Recreation appears not to give shit. Sure, they give minimal money to hockey development for disadvantaged youths, but then the funding ends. So what happens when those players take the step up and need further coaching?
Chatting to one of our international players a few months back, I discovered the long list of challenges that our national team faces in trying to compete in big tournaments. Aside from qualifying (yes, unlike some other sports in this country, our men and women qualify for big tournaments), our players have to hold down 9 to 5 jobs, train after work and on weekends, and then PAY THEIR OWN WAY to get to the tournament. That’s right: air tickets, accommodation, all of it. Like most of us, the players can’t simply afford a casual overseas trip. And these are not random tournaments – I’m talking the World Cup, The African Cup, and The Commonwealth Games.
Here are some stats about our two national hockey sides:
Lets start with the ladies:
- They have qualified for the last five World Cups, where they finished 7th, 13th, 12th, 10th, and most recently 9th.
- In the last four Commonwealth Games they’ve finished 5th, 8th, 4th and 4th.
- Over the past six African Cup of Nations they’ve finished 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st and… yup… 1st!
Now the Men:
- They have qualified for the last four World Cups, and finished 13th, 12th, 10th and 11th.
- In the past four Commonwealth Games they’ve finished 4th, 8th, 5th and 5th.
- The past seven African Cup of Nations have seen them finish, just like our ladies, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st and …. 1st!
I’m not saying that we can be number one in the world. But what frustrates me is that we are so obviously talented in this sport, but no one is willing to invest. Imagine what could happen if there was some more support from higher up…
I would love to see more hockey on local TV. We are starting to see some of the varsity cup games, which is a decent start, but I think the sport deserves more coverage. There are countless clubs in our country, each with many many MANY teams. I can accept that it’s not a huge sport, but it’s certainly not as small a sport as what people believe.