Hockey takes positive steps after Games disappointment

South African hockey is set to take some positive steps towards strengthening the game in the country in the wake of the poor results achieved at the Beijing Olympics.

The South African Hockey Association (Saha) executive met over the weekend to discuss ways of improving standards of hockey ahead of the 2012 Olympics in London.

Although the performance of the South African men’s and women’s teams in Beijing was on the agenda, it was not discussed owing to some players having not completed their feedback reports from Beijing, which had been requested by Saha president Dave Carr.

“I want to first receive all the reports from the players so I can discuss these with the coaches and managers,” said Carr. “Then I can take it to the executive, which would probably be at the end of the month.”

However, two major issues were agreed upon by the various provinces at the meeting.

The first was that a national hockey league be set up.
This will either be at club or provincial level but the thrust of the league will be that the top teams play each other on a regular basis. At the moment there is a huge disparity between the top club and provincial teams compared with the weaker outfits.

The provinces will now go back to their unions to discuss ways and means of attracting sponsors for this league and will meet again in November.

Secondly, and more importantly, young players are to be targeted for training. Carr said that 40 players from both under-16 and under-18 level had been identified and these youngsters would attend training camps. Carr envisages at least two camps per month starting in the new year.

“We are trying to define the base of our hockey,” said Carr. “In four years, these will be the players who will be representing us.”

Another positive step for men’s hockey is a move to attract a major sponsor. Unlike women’s hockey, who have enjoyed a lucrative sponsor for some time, the men’s game has been without funding for six years.

“I met with a company who is interested in being an agent for hockey,” said Carr. “They will look for a sponsor for hockey. The agent won’t require a retainer up front, but instead will take a cut if they are successful in finding a sponsor.”

Carr said the company would give a presentation to the Saha executive mid-October.—Sapa

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