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News for 28 April 2020

All the news for Tuesday 28 April 2020

World hockey keen to engage after European clubs fears

By Rod Gilmour

The EHL is the premier continental competition in world hockey

World hockey is keen to hold talks with European clubs following news that there was growing concern on the continent over the way the global game is run.

The Hockey Paper exclusively reported in our last print issue that several top Euro nations were set to join forces and launch an association this month at the now put-on-hold Euro Hockey League (EHL).

There are fears over the Pro League’s six-month scheduling which is impacting on players being available for clubs, while it is understood that there is the need for a streamlined calendar to protect the prestigious EHL.

It has now emerged that one of the other factors stems from India’s stranglehold on hosting World Cups, both senior and junior (Odisha, home to the 2018 men’s World Cup, is now an FIH global partner) and fears that the game may be veering towards the five-a-side version over the traditional 11s. With the global pandemic likely to affect the future sporting economy, this could affect the Games programme at Paris 2024 as organisers look to cut costs – and athletes.

Speaking before the pandemic, Thierry Weil, the FIH chief executive, told The Hockey Paper: “I’ve always said that it is essential for the success and sustainability of the FIH Hockey Pro League to hear the feedback of all main hockey stakeholders involved.

“European clubs of course belong to them and I would greatly welcome to have an in-depth discussion with them about our global League. Therefore, my message to all these clubs is: ‘Let’s meet – or feel free to contact me – to share views and find some solutions. I look forward to engaging with you.”

A source close to a European club told THP last month: “If hockey is going to go down the professional direction then we have to look after the welfare of the players.”

Eight clubs reportedly met during the EHL in Barcelona last October to discuss the future direction of club hockey across Europe.

England is not currently one of the four nations mooted to be joining a European clubs’ association, but it is hoped this will change.

“We hope many English clubs will look at this with good eyes,” the source added. “We need to align to have one common view and the clubs being truly represented.”

The EHL was one of the first major hockey events to be put ‘on hold’ earlier in March following the coronavirus outbreak. Whether or not the KO8 can be played this year remains to be seen.

The decision would have been a disappointing, but understandable one for Surbiton HC, who were set to field four teams at the EHL in the first dual gender EHL.

Alongside the men and women, two junior sides were also set to travel out to Holland for the ABN Amro EHL U14.

The club had been working hard to raise funds for the European adventure, which would have further raised the profile of the club. Volunteers had worked tirelessly to help raise close to the £40,000 needed to fund the trips.

Both Surbiton elite sides look to have qualified for next year’s EHL after finishing top of their domestic leagues in the regular season.

Clubs are hopeful that England Hockey will announce a decision on this season’s league outcomes this week following a governing body board meeting.

Help keep independent journalism alive in these uncertain times. Ahead of the new season, please subscribe in print or in digital format.

The Hockey Paper

Varun Kumar: 'Extension of FIH Pro League good for Indian hockey'

Last week, the International Hockey Federation(FIH) extended the second edition of the Pro League by one year till June 2021.

Varun Kumar could not play a role in the Olympic Qualifiers due to a nerve damage in his right arm, but wants to ensure he is giving his best in order to be in the 16-member team which plays at the Tokyo Olympics next year.   -  K. Murali Kumar

The extension of FIH Pro League by one year augurs well for the Indian hockey team in post COVID-19 world as it would get a chance to compete with top teams before Tokyo Olympics, defender Varun Kumar said on Monday.

Last week, the International Hockey Federation(FIH) extended the second edition of the Pro League by one year till June 2021.

Earlier, the Tokyo Olympic were also pushed back a year as countries called for global lockdown due to the fast spreading contagion.

“Obviously with the Olympics getting postponed, a lot of things have changed including our year-round schedule. We are still not sure when we will be able to resume outdoor training, so we can’t really say anything about the return of competitive hockey at all,” Varun said.

“However, with FIH’s decision to extend the Pro League to 2021, I feel it will be important that we utilise our chances of getting to play against the best teams in the world, and make further improvements so that we are ready to give our best in Tokyo next year,” he added.

The 24-year-old could not play a role in the Olympic Qualifiers due to a nerve damage in his right arm, but wants to ensure he is giving his best in order to be in the 16-member team which plays at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

“We had a long National Camp in Bhubaneswar before the Olympic Qualifiers last year, and we were preparing ourselves to face Russia. Everything was going well for me, but with 10 days to go for the matches, I felt some weakness in my right arm and told the team physio David McDonald.

“He asked me to wait for a couple of days to see if it gets any better, but unfortunately it didn’t, so I had to pull out of the team,” said Varun.

“It was definitely difficult for me because all year we had been thinking about qualifying for the Olympics, and when the moment actually came, I suffered the injury and couldn’t help my side. But I am also very proud that we have so many great players in this team. It just makes it easy for the team because the quality isn’t affected at all,” Varun added.

Having missed the qualifiers, the youngster is now fully focused on getting fit and being selected in the Tokyo bound squad.

“I know I could only support the team from the sidelines during the Qualifiers, but now my job is to prepare my body and my mind in the best way possible so that I do not miss out on being on that 16-member team that takes the field in Tokyo, and then give my best for the side to finish on the podium there.”

Having recovered from his injury at the start of the year in January, Varun was selected in the squad to play against Australia. However, the coronavirus outbreak stalled all sporting events including hockey.

“When I had recovered completely from the injury, and had rejoined the camp in January, I was really eager to wear the blue strip again and represent my country in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2020.

“I even managed to make my way into the 22-member squad which played against Australia, but then we were all struck with the coronavirus, and since then life has come to a stand-still for everyone,” he said.


Joy and Pholo: moving on up

There has been much discussion in recent years regarding the dearth of female coaches in the higher reaches of hockey coaching. There is really very little argument or debate to be had – currently there is just one head coach working with a top 10 women’s national team. The fact that the coach in question – Alyson Annan – is exceptional and has a win ratio to prove it, does beg the question why she is the sole representative of women working in a head coach capacity at the top tier of the game in a sport where participation is balanced among the genders?

But there are also signs that things are changing. Double Olympian Caroline Nelson-Nichols is the current head coach of the USA women’s team; former South African striker Jen Wilson is head coach to Scotland; Russia women are led by Svetlana Ivanova; and Ukraine’s head coach is Svitlana Makaieva.

There are also many female coaches working with age group national teams – former Great Britain and England forward Hannah McLeod is one such example.

One of the reasons for the increasing number of women gradually finding their way into high performance coaching is the way coach education is being delivered. Increased use of technology, so that much of the learning can be carried out on-line is much more compatible with coaches lifestyles. Being able to video a coaching session and then share it remotely with a mentor means a coach can run a session in her own club or at a local pitch. Sharing best practice and holding coach to coach discussion via webinars is something that is becoming hugely popular within the coaching fraternity. These are all vitally important measures in making coach education more accessible to a wider community.

Two female coaches who are making their way up the coaching ladder are Belgium’s Joy Jouret and Tsoanelo Pholo from South Africa. FIH caught up with the two women to discuss their thoughts about women in coaching and the coaching profession more generally.

Former Red Panthers captain Joy Jouret is head coach to the Belgium national U15 boys’ team, as well as head coach to Namur Hockey Club and Coach Academy manager for the French side of the Belgian Hockey Federation. She is currently an FIH level 3 coach and last year spoke at a FIH workshop.

Tsoanelo Pholo is head coach at the University of Johannesburg and also head coach for the South Gauteng U21 women’s team. As Head Coach to the South African U21 squad, she led the team to the Youth Olympic semi-finals. Her first foray into senior international coaching took place recently when she worked with the South African men’s team as a forwards’ coach during their test series against Germany (before the Covid-19 lockdown).

Pholo is a FIH Academy Level 4 coach and is also both a FIH Academy Educator and a FIH Academy Online Educator. She will be doing the FIH Academy Final Course in the near future.

The first question the two coaches discussed was the questions of barriers that prevented women from moving up the caching ladder.

“There are definitely cultural barriers that prevent women from becoming professional coaches,” says Jouret. “I don’t think there are formal barriers, I personally haven’t been confronted to any kind of discrimination. But in my opinion, Informal barriers do exist and they are linked to our cultural heritage.

“The first one concerns the traditional role of a woman in a family. This is hard to reconcile with the schedule of a trainer/coach. Then there is the fact that women are still really rare in coaching, even more in the male leagues, and must always prove that they are as good as men in a domain which still traditionally links coaching to manhood and masculinity.”

For Pholo much centres around opportunities: “I feel women coaches are not given the opportunities at junior level – schools, clubs and academies – so they don’t have the relevant experience to get involved at senior and national level. Coach education is another contributing factor. And not enough women apply to up skill themselves. How we remedy this, I do not know, I wish I had the answer.”

Both Jouret and Pholo have something in common. They have both taken their personal progression into their own hands and made happen. For Jouret it is simple: “It is up to me to show that I have what it takes.”

And for Pholo, when the doors she expected to open remained closed, she decided to broaden her skill-set even more. “After my success with the South African Hockey5s team, I thought the doors would open up to working with the next age group. I think up-skilling myself through the FIH Academy will improve my chances of moving up to working with national programmes around the world.”

Another thing that both women have in common is a belief in the power of technology to improve coaching. And with the current Covid-19 pandemic isolating coaches from their players and each other, technology has really come into its own in the past few months. Along with fellow former Belgium international Sophie Gierts, Jouret recently headlined in one of a series of coaching webinars run by the European Hockey Federation to keep coaches connected during lock-down.

For Pholo, technology provides her with the means of keeping in contact with her athletes and monitoring their progress during the lock down. But even when normal coaching conditions prevail, the South African says technology has become a big part of her delivery. “The current generation is very attached to cellphones, tablets and computers. I have had to adapt to being better at creating documents and presentations that are not only informative but interesting to my audience.”

It is point with which Jouret concurs: “I try to use my phone, my tablet, my camera as much as possible – especially with the young ones who are even more image driven. I also use video analysis with the players at home and with the players at club to give and receive feedback as well as for analysis purposes.”

For the future, Pholo thinks technology will play an increasingly big role, particularly when it comes to coach education. “It makes connectivity so much easier. And it is ever-evolving, so it is important that we keep up with what is relevant and explore what is most effective.”

Jouret says that, for her, the future of coaching lies in the evolving roles of specialists within a coaching team. “I see the head coach as the conductor of the orchestra, he/she must master all the different aspects of the performance in order to lead it and make the right decisions.

“For example, I have now started a Masters degree in Psychology and I truly believe that we are only at the beginning of how we could use that science in sports. The brain and the heart of the players are, for me, the two essential elements that will make the difference in a top sport environment.”

FIH site

Virtual Hockey

by Robert Wheeler.

Virtual Coach, Kevin Johnson

With no hockey being played due to the recent pandemic, Wales Hockey Women’s Senior Head Coach, Kevin Johnson has come up with his own virtual league for his players to keep their spirits up during these uncertain times.

The Wales Senior Women's (WSW) Lockdown Franchise League, with players and staff split into five teams and results, are based on the coach’s own algorithm system. 

Speaking to Hockey Wales, Johnson said: “We are a competitive group and also have a fine sense of fun, humour and banter and so I wanted something that happened virtually that included both staff and players to generate some fun communication between us all. We can't physically play any games at the moment so this is a way where we can still experience some 'Hockey action' albeit in a virtual world!”

When asked how the algorithm system works, the coach explained,

“The system randomly selects actions and events associated with a normal game and player names attached to all these. I have tinkered with it with my coach's hat on to ensure there are some realistic chances of certain occurrences happening that are linked to real game likelihoods.

"It’s just a bit of fun to add some light to a pretty dark time for everyone at the moment and whilst we are all stuck with no sport and in lockdown it keeps us being part of something competitive that creates some chat and activity!”

Live updates on the games are posted into the squads WhatsApp group chat. With three games played so far Johnson says is going down well with the squad.

“The banter is flowing as it usually would when we are out on the pitch for real so I'm pleased that the fun distraction it is supposed to be is living up to it!”

The virtual league is not all Johnson is doing to keep help get his players through this uncertain time.

“All our players and staff remain engaged in senior processes with weekly monitoring, S & C sessions led online, I am personally having one-to-one catch ups with every player, our manager and physio are checking in with players around mental and physical well-being. We are planning a virtual camp in May so for sure our wheels keep turning as we continue to plan and develop as a group for the challenges ahead.”

The teams are as follows:

Swansea Sharks

Franchise Manager - Gareth Terrett (U23/U21 Programme Head Coach)


Theo Dowse - GK (Senior Programme GK Coach and Performance Analyst)
Leah Wilkinson (player)
Beth Bingham (player)
Carmen Ansley (U23/U21 Programme Physio)
Hannah Cozens (player)
Sophie Robinson (player)
Xenna Hughes (player)

Wrexham Wildcats

Franchise Manager - Jonny Harper (Senior Programme Physio)


Moses Lodarmasse - GK (Senior Programme Assistant Coach)
Jo Westwood (player)
Louise Loughlin (player)
Danni Jordan (player)
Emily Drysdale (player)
Nell Butler (player)
Sarah-Jayne Thorburn (player)

Barry Bears

Franchise Manager - Andrew Roberts (Senior Programme S & C Coach)


Rose Thomas - GK (player)
Meg Lewis-Williams (player)
Izzie Howell (player)
Sian French (player)
Izzy Webb (player)
Sarah Jones (player)
Amy Burton (player)

Newport Nighthawks

Franchise Manager - Ross Hall (Programme Psychology Consultant)
(supported by @USWSport)


Ella Jackson - GK (player)
Julie Whiting (player)
Lauren Dunn (player)
Rebecca Daniels (Senior Programme Manager)
Sara Davies (player)
Eloise Laity (player)
Phoebe Richards (player)

Cardiff Cobras

Franchise Manager - Walid Abdo (Previous U23/U21 Head Coach; now extra support coach)


Lauren Roberts - GK (player)
Jess Roe (player)
Emily Rowlands (player)
Cari Davies (player)
Hannah Griffiths (player)
Livvy Hoskins (player)

"Wild card" (person outside the group but with connections to it past or present that comes in and plays 1 game as an invited guest)

Current standings:

Hockey Wales media release

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