A series of international field hockey competitions have been held throughout South Africa (SA) in July 2016 which have been geared towards attracting youth to experience the game with a long term aim of growing the game’s numbers in the regions and the country in general.
The international schools hockey series took place from 11th to 14th July 2016 in Pretoria, with both the SA under-16 and under-18 boys’ team beating the Australian teams who are considered among the best in the world.
The SA Hockey Association (SAHA) was also recently named the focus federation for 2016 by Fikile Mbalula, SA minister of sport and recreation, and this puts hockey in a good position to have a positive impact on the sport at all levels.
Emile Smith, SAHA executive board member and past national hockey player said: “I am very impressed with the talent of hockey in SA amongst the youth.
“In the last eight to ten years the sport has made great strides by employing high level staff members that ensure our youth are being trained and mentored by the very best in the country. As a result, our young hockey players are driven to continually strive higher – they can see the bigger picture in becoming a great South African hockey player someday.
“With this said, I do feel there is room for growth within SA sport. Although a number of schools are making major strides, schools at grass root level need support and funding to provide them with facilities, such as artificial turf hockey fields, to ensure that they are able to compete against the international teams who have already had exposure to such essentials.
“As we are also seeing a disconnect among players, school children who play hockey need to be encouraged by their school coaches to join provincial club structures as there are different methods and skills being taught there. It is important for children to get as much exposure to the game to guarantee that they are the learning the best skills they can.”
Marissa Langeni, SAHA chief executive officer said: “As Nelson Mandela once said, sport has the power to change the world and it has the power to inspire youth. Sport speaks to them in a language they all understand. It is SAHA’s aim to boost hockey in SA by motivating the youth to keep hockey at the highest level of quality it has ever been. We can only strengthen our national talent pool if the youth base is strong."