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News for 20 May 2020

All the news for Wednesday 20 may 2020

Scare in SAI Bangalore centre after Covid-19 positive cook dies

Elite athletes, including hockey teams, based at centre

The Indian men's and women's hockey squads are based at the SAI Bangalore centre. File

In perhaps the first case of deep anxiety for Indian athletes, a cook working with the Sports Authority of India’s Bangalore centre has died of Covid-19.

The said cook (name withheld) had left the centre around March 17 when SAI had ordered stopping training at its centres, except for the Olympics athletes. But he returned to the centre around a week ago for a meeting in which discussions were held with staff on whether they were willing to return to work on resumption of training.

He had gone to a hospital in the city to check on a relative, but himself suffered a massive heart attack and died. As per the prevailing Covid-19 protocols, he was tested and the result turned out to be positive.

It is understood he did not come in contact with the members of the men’s and women’s hockey teams, which are based at the Bangalore centre as he was not allowed to move beyond the gate area.

“He was out of the centre and never came in contact with the hockey teams,” said a source. “But he was here for a meeting around five days ago,” he added.

SAI’s Bangalore officials immediately notified the the district rapid response team, and four persons who may have come in contact with the deceased cook have been quarantined.

The Tribune

COVID-19 positive cook at Bengaluru SAI centre dies, Hockey India refuses to shift teams

New Delhi: Hockey India on Wednesday ruled out shifting the Olympic-bound men's and women's hockey teams from the Sports Authority of India's Bengaluru centre despite the death of a coronavirus-positive cook employed there as he had no access to the players.

The cook died of a cardiac arrest and later tested positive for COVID-19, according to a top official, who said there was no reason to panic as the deceased had no access to the players' accommodation zone.

"The question of moving out the teams from Bengaluru doesn't arise because it's the best facility in the country," HI CEO Elena Norman told PTI.

"Even if we think of such a move, it is practically impossible because of the nationwide lockdown."

A top SAI official said that the cook had not gone beyond the gate area since 10 March.

"A cook, part of around 60 employees, who were asked to stay at home since 10 March because of their old age, died of cardiac arrest at a hospital," the official told PTI.

"He went to the hospital for the birth of a child of one of his relatives and had a cardiac arrest there and died. As part of the protocol, he was tested for COVID-19 and his reports came out positive.

"The campus is divided into three sections — Gate area, Sector-A and Sector-B. The players stay in the last part, Sector-B, so they are completely safe and are already living a quarantined life for the last 2 months," he added.

The SAI official rejected reports that the deceased cook attended a meeting inside the SAI campus on last Friday.

"He was staying outside the campus for the past 65 days," he said.

"Our campus went into lockdown on March 10 before the nationwide lockdown was announced. The cook last visited the campus on 15 March but he was confined to the Gate area and was not allowed in.

"But still as a precaution, we have put 4-5 people, like guards, the remotest person who might have come in contact with him, into quarantine," the official added.


Indian hockey teams turn tech-savvy during lockdown

To ensure social distancing norms the coaching staff turned to applications that would help disseminate everyday workout schedules to all team members.

The core group housed in the Sports Authority of India Centre in Bengaluru suspended high-intensity hockey training in the third week of March following a nationwide lockdown.

The Indian men and women’s hockey teams have turned tech-savvy in order to maintain social distancing while continuing with their indoor workout regime during the coronavirus-forced lockdown.

The core probable group housed in the Sports Authority of India Centre here suspended high-intensity hockey training in the third week of March following a nationwide lockdown.

Though the coaching staff are also based out of the same facility, to ensure social distancing norms the teams turned to applications that would help disseminate everyday workout schedules to all team members and emphasised on every player using these applications to submit their work load.

“Earlier, these apps were mostly used by coaching staff to plan the week’s activities and share it with us,” said women’s team vice-captain Savita.

“But during lockdown, with social distancing norms in place at SAI, using Google docs for wellness data submission and Google forms for training load submissions became mandatory to update what we had done during the day.”

“... And this would further be discussed through video call with chief coach or our scientific advisor.”

Applications like Zoom or Google Meet have now become the ‘in-thing’ replacing ‘team huddles’ or ‘team meetings’

Putting things into perspective, men’s team vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh said, “Though our support staff is based in the same campus, we use Zoom calls for individual meetings where we discuss our nutrition intake and also discuss match analysis.

“We are now used to apps like Google Meet platform which we use for team meetings as all of us can’t get into a huddle in the meeting room anymore.”

Harmanpreet added that the teams have ensured they learnt something new during the lockdown.

“I feel we made use of this time by learning something new. Most of us in the team are gadget freaks no doubt and enjoy using social media platforms to stay in touch with our family, friends and also fans.”

“But using these applications on an everyday basis was something we never did,” said the drag-flick specialist.

While the Indian teams began using the TPA (Team Performance Analysis) software in 2017, players ensured they made maximum use of this during the lockdown when they were tasked with analysing key matches played over the last two years.

“Chief coach Sjoerd Marijne made it mandatory that we all have it on our iPads so we can analyse our matches.

“I think we made maximum use of this software during the lockdown and each one of us were asked to study the opponents we personally thought are the toughest.

“This was one of the most important activity we undertook during the lockdown,” added Savita.

While the teams await further guidelines and SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) from the Sports Ministry and SAI in order to resume hockey training, the players are prepared to return to the pitch.

“I think regularly analysing our performance, both individually and as a team, has given us more clarity on the areas we need to improve and we have discussed at length about the same with coaching Staff,” said Harmanpreet.

“With regular bodyweight training and indoor workouts, I believe we have been able to maintain good fitness level and we are ready to return to full training.”


FIH admits return to normal international competition may not be possible without COVID-19 vaccine

By Liam Morgan

The FIH has admitted it may be some time before events go back to normal ©Getty Images

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has admitted a return to normal global competition may not be possible until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed.

In a statement, the FIH warned future events will look "very different for the foreseeable future" as a result of the coronavirus pandemic after publishing a series of guidelines as part of a five-stage process showing the route back to "something resembling normality".

The five stages begin with a return to "carefully managed training", including social distancing measures.

The FIH hopes for a resumption of regional competition, followed by local travel between neighbouring nations.

Resuming trans-continental competition marks the fourth stage of the process and the FIH said it is then hoped there will be a return to normal competition "once a vaccine is in place".

The second season of the FIH Hockey Pro League, which involves considerable international travel for competing nations, has been extended through to June 2021 in response to the pandemic.

The FIH has published a series of COVID-19 guidelines ©FIH

"There is no time scale for these stages to be reached and it will vary from country to country," the FIH said.

"What is in no doubt is that future events will look very different for the foreseeable future.

"When competition does resume, organisers will need to be hugely conscious of safety measures that will need to be implemented, in order to keep the hockey workforce and the fans safe."

The guidelines published by the FIH for what the governing body defines as "top level, spectated events" include creating "zones" to separate those involved in matches.

The FIH also recommends the use of mouth and nose protection masks for non-playing personnel and disinfection of the playing surface.

All hockey organisations will be asked to carry out a risk assessment "prior to resuming any activity".

The document, which can be read in full here, concedes hockey carries a greater risk for players owing to the level of contact involved the sport.

It serves as an example of what sport will be like once the pandemic has eased enough for events and tournaments to resume.

Inside the Games

Olympic postponement sees world champions Belgium lose advantage

Gold medal favourites Belgium fear they might have lost some of the advantage they held over their rivals for the Olympic men's hockey title after the postponement of the Tokyo Games and the novel coronavirus-induced sporting hiatus.

Coach Shane McLeod, who led Belgium to silver in Rio de Janeiro four years ago and then a World Cup title in 2018, believes the playing field is now level again with the Games postponed by a year. But he insists it only served to heighten the challenge for him and his players. "I was very happy with how we had been going," he said, with Belgium having secured qualification by winning last year’s EuroHockey Nations Championship while their rivals had to play another qualifying tournament in order to book a berth to Japan.

"We bought ourselves eight weeks that other nations didn't have, so while we were working on individual aspects of our game, other countries were still needing to qualify. "I think we had a bit of a headstart and you saw that in the Pro League games we played earlier this year."

Belgium were topping the table after six matches of the new-look nine-nation round-robin competition that extends over a two-year period and pits hockey's top sides against each other in regular competition. "I'm a bit disappointed we weren't able to just keep on going, mainly because of the results we were achieving," the 51-year-old New Zealand-born McLeod added in an interview with Reuters.

"Now we have to recreate that performance gap, but it will be a fresh challenge." McLeod, who has worked in various capacities in Belgian hockey over the last two decades, had planned a 12-month sabbatical after this year’s Games but has put that on hold to stay with the team as they readjust plans for next year.


He said the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic had presented new challenges which had proven “stimulating”.

"Just trying to figure out how do we do this; what is going to be the best possible outcome for us has been quite a driving factor," he said. "We've spent a lot of time working out how we best prepare for the Olympics in these current circumstances and a lot more detailed conversations with our sports science colleagues.

"Normally we have a formula that we reproduce, maybe fine tune a little, but this is really different and now were ad-libbing in areas where we've never been before but seeing some positive outcomes. "All the nations have pressed the 'reset' button now and have to start from scratch again, but I think we are going to be OK," McLeod added.


H&W bid fond farewell to Richard and Annebeth Wijtenburg-Smith

Hampstead & Westminster bid a fond farewell to Richard and Annebeth Wijtenburg-Smith as the pair move to the Netherlands with their daughter Julia.

Known as “Smudge”, Richard joined the club in 2012 following a year in Belgium off the back of the 2012 Olympic Games. He was keen to take on a new challenge at the London club who had the ambition to earn promotion to the top tier in England and become an established Premier League side.

However, he suffered a career threatening injury at the 2013 European Championships just weeks before moving to London. It meant the end of his international career and he duly spent two years in intensive rehabilitation before finally getting to make his debut three years after joining the club.

Since then, however, he never looked back and helped the club to reach the top tier and won a national championship in 2019. It earned them a place in the EHL where they famously beat HGC last October in Barcelona – Smith had previously played in the EHL with Loughborough Students in the competition’s maiden season in 2007-08, reaching the KO8.

He also met his now wife Annebeth at the club. She joined the club at the same time and has helped the women’s team develop from a side contesting the regional South competition before earning a spot in the National League and then, just two seasons later, winning the Eastern Conference. It sees them in the English Premier League for the very first time.

In a club message to the duo, Hampstead & Westminster wished them well for the future.

Richard in action at the EHL KO16 last October. Pic: ©: Frank Uijlenbroek / World Sport Pics

“This background provides the setting to thank him for how he threw himself into all aspects of the club with a determination to repay the support the club had shown to him.

“His focus on looking for every way to improve the club – both on the field as he helped recruit new players and persuaded Kwan Browne to join as Men’s 1s player/coach – and off the field in his role as Director of Hockey where he looked to improve the coaching set up across the club, in particular helping to strengthen the Ladies section – has been exemplary .

“That he also resumed his playing career to achieve on field successes with HWHC in winning a National Championship title and competing in Europe in 2019 provided a perfect ending to his playing career with us – and enabled the club as a whole to appreciate what a fantastic hockey player he still is.

“Richard himself would say however that the ultimate benefit in committing to Hampstead back in 2013 has been his meeting AB at the club. AB joined the club around the same time as Smudge and helped develop the Ladies’ 1s into the team they are today, as captain.

“Together they leave a legacy of having challenged the club to become the very best it could be – by building a culture of respect and togetherness across the men’s and ladies squads that has seen us become a leading club in the country.”

Lining out for Loughborough Students in 2007 in EHL ROUND1 in Antwerp. Pic: ©: Frank Uijlenbroek / World Sport Pics

Euro Hockey League media release

St Rose: Experience key to hockey development

By Nigel Simon

T&T’s Roger St Rose. Yan Huckendubler

When it comes to hockey development in the Pan American region there are people who have been involved in the sport for so many years and at so many levels that they have developed a formidable mountain of knowledge and experience about what works and what doesn’t.

One of them is T&T's Roger St Rose, who earlier this month was one of two of hockey’s most knowledgeable officials interviewed by the Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF)’s to get their take on how hockey is developing across our region – from both a playing perspective and an umpiring/officiating perspective. The other was  Chile’s Walter Kramer.

St Rose is Chair of the PAHF Umpiring Committee and also sits on the PAHF Education Panel. During a lifetime dedicated to hockey he has been an international player, an international hockey umpire and, just last month, he was named as a nominee for the prestigious 2019 World Fair Play Awards and like Kramer is actively involved in promoting hockey and its development at national, continental and global level.

Importance of high umpiring standards to overall development

Developing umpires and officials to mirror the advance of player and team development is something in which St Rose has been heavily involved for a number of years.

A top-level umpire himself – St Rose has umpired at Champions League, World Cup and Olympic Games – he knows how important training and experience of top level competition is for umpires.

“It is important to offer development, training and gradual exposure to games and tournaments so that their knowledge and understanding in what it takes to become an umpire at the top level is enhanced.”

There is a fine balance to be had between giving umpires experience and ensuring matches are umpired to the highest standard possible. This is where St Rose and the PAHF Umpiring Committee comes in.

“Our first mandate is to populate the PAHF tournaments with experienced, solid umpires who can deliver a quality product. What is quite noteworthy is that PAHF has developed an Education Panel to work in conjunction with the FIH Academy to further assist in raising the standard of its officials within the continent. This Panel is to be the umbrella body to deal with all educational things be it practical or theoretical in development of our officials.”

Developing umpiring talent across the entire continental federation is a big ask. There are 26 national associations, operating at different levels.

St Rose cites the hockey powerhouse of Argentina, with its global influence on the game, comparing it to Haiti, a country in the embryonic stage of development.

“As a result [of this range of development stages],” he says, “the levels of support for umpires in the various countries follow the degree of success that country is achieving at a competitive level. Also, some national associations lack a strong competitive domestic structure and there are few opportunities for umpires to follow a development pathway to become a good national umpire.”

Lack of funding for umpires

There is also the question of funding. Most national associations funnel their limited finances towards players and player support. Umpire development may then have a fight on its hands to access any remaining funding. With barriers in place to develop, many young, aspiring umpires are turned off the idea of progressing towards international level – it is simply too hard.

These are all issues that St Rose is setting out to address. He says that it is important that his fellow Board members at PAHF understand the challenges and landscape within which national associations operate when it comes to umpire development. His call is being answered.

“The PAHF Executive Board has mandated its subcommittees to develop processes to deal with identifying, developing and exposing the most promising umpires within the continent,” says Roger. “As such, a number of initiatives have been put in place to support, develop and expose the continent’s promising umpires.”

Among the initiatives are measures such as: ensuring competitive appointments offer an appropriate level of challenge to umpires; channelling financial support to national associations targeted at helping promising umpires to advance; and providing umpire managers to coach and mentor up and coming umpires. 

Limited support system

A major hurdle to the PAHF initiative is the lack of experienced mentors in some countries. This means aspiring umpires often do not, locally, have a guide and support to turn to. This is something that PAHF is addressing by widening the search for mentors. While distance and national borders may present a challenge, there is still the potential for umpire mentors from across the entire continent to talk to and support their lower-level peers – largely through the use of technology such as WhatsApp, Facebook and video technology.

For St Rose, raising the level of umpiring is essential for the sport’s development as a whole.

“It is said that the level of officiating at games can determine the level in which your sport can reach,” he said. “Therefore, bad officiating produces less skilled players.”

But PAHF, he says, are working hard to address this.

 “We have identified the areas that PAHF needs to address to bring the level of the game to a particular standard. We, as a continental federation have a very clear mandate – to develop officials who can deliver an international product for the good of the game within our continent.”

The Trinidad Guardian

National Volunteer Week emphasises hockey’s unsung heroes

Volunteers. Every sport relies on them and hockey is no different, so as the country celebrates National Volunteer Week, Hockey Australia wishes to acknowledge and thank the countless people who give of themselves to make our sport run.

The Australian hockey community is privileged to comprise thousands of people who volunteer their time in a range of areas in order for hockey to be played and enjoyed, and for this Hockey Australia is extremely grateful.

The theme of this year’s National Volunteer Week is ‘Changing Communities, Changing Lives’, a mantra HA CEO Matt Favier believes suitably encapsulates the contributions and impact of people in the hockey community who give up their time, energy and talents.

“Without our abundance of volunteers around the country, hockey simply wouldn’t happen, so we thank all of them for everything they do,” said Favier.

“From providing their expertise and skills at FIH Pro League matches down to helping out at the junior levels at local clubs, volunteers are an essential and valuable part of hockey’s fabric.”

“Volunteers come from all walks of life who give of themselves in order that others can enjoy everything that is great about hockey.”

“Gratitude and appreciation of our volunteers need not only be recognised and done during National Volunteer Week, but this initiative rightly puts the focus on them and this week is a fantastic opportunity to do just that.”

Initiated by Volunteering Australia, this is the 31st year of National Volunteer Week, the annual celebration to acknowledge the generous contribution of our nation’s volunteers.

If you have thought about volunteering for your local hockey club or association but are not sure how to go about it, contact them directly or get in touch with your relevant Member Association.

Finally, for more information on National Volunteer Week and how you can get involved, visit https://www.volunteeringaustralia.org/get-involved/nvw/

Hockey Australia media release

Young Finlay ‘finally’ nets in debut season for Merton!

By Richard Bright

Father and sons: Finlay Walker, back centre, lines up behind his father, Chris

Finlay Walker, a budding teenager at Merton HC, was jokingly given the nickname ‘Finally’ thanks to a WhatsApp spelling blunder after the 15-year-old scored his first senior goal in his debut season with the club’s vets side.

Finlay, who turned 15 in January, plays for the oldest club in south west London and stepped up to Merton’s senior Boars team, which plays in the Surrey Open Hockey League Division 3.

Playing on the left wing, he scored in a 7-0 win over NPL, assisted by his fellow teenage team-mate, Adam Holmes, the only other player under 40 in the team.

“This is the second season that we’ve had juniors at Merton and Finlay has been there from the start,” dad Chris told The Hockey Paper. “When he turned 15 we felt he was ready to play occasionally in the senior along with his friend Adam, whose dad also plays in the Boars.

“They have significantly reduced the average age and brought a breath of fresh air and fresh legs to the team!”

Finlay’s moniker came about after Adam scored his first goal last month, which “brought tears to his watching mother’s eyes”, according to Finlay’s dad. Chris added: “Finlay scored Merton’s seventh and final goal against NPL. This was fitting, as his nickname has become ‘Finally’ due to auto-correct on the team’s WhatsApp group – finally, Finlay gets his goal!”

While the team were celebrating afterwards “with a round of J20s” and the two teens “more interested in discussing Fifa 20”, the Boars calculated that the defence’s cumulative age was six times that of the forward line, where the teenagers play.

Merton celebrated its 125th anniversary last year but this season has marked only the second year of the junior section. Yet the club seems to have already found success; Finlay and Adam’s rise seeing them become the first graduates to the senior vets side, along with Ali Martin and Vihas Jayakody who have played in friendly development team fixtures and making the switch from playing football.

Merton HC has been working with neighbours Wimbledon HC and its ‘Quick Start Hockey’ outreach charity, which aims to bring hockey to around 20 state schools locally. Merton now has 80 junior members while the club also celebrated its first two girls playing senior hockey last month for the Ladies 2s. No more ‘finally’ across both genders, it seems!

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The Hockey Paper

Niehoff Appointed to USA Field Hockey Board of Directors as Amateur Sports Organization Representative

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – USA Field Hockey is pleased to announce and welcome Karissa Niehoff to the Board of Directors. Niehoff will complete Roberta Page’s term and serve on the board through 2020 in the role of the Amateur Sports Organization Representative.

“We are honored and excited to have Karissa join the USA Field Hockey Board of Directors,” said Bree Gillespie, USA Field Hockey’s Board of Directors Chair. “With her experience as both a player and educator, and her longtime commitment to the sport, we look forward to her expertise on the Board. USA Field Hockey is committed to growing the game through meaningful collaboration with the National Federation of High School Associations and other sport organizations.”

Niehoff is the current executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), a position she has held since August 2018. As the organization’s sixth full-time executive director and first female to lead the organization, she is responsible for the oversight of all aspects of the organization and achievement of the NFHS Strategic Plan and NFHS Board of Directors Priorities. She interacts with NFHS Board of Directors and 51 member associations and collaborates with other stakeholder entities including professional sport organizations. Prior to that she served as the executive director of the NFHS-member Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Athletic Conference (CAS-CIAC) for seven years.

On top of her extensive involvement with NFHS, Niehoff was previously a teacher, coach, athletic director, assistant principal and principal at the middle and high school levels in Connecticut for 20 years. She also was the field hockey coach at Litchfield High School and Joel Barlow High School.

Niehoff served as the interim director of education for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee from 1995 to 2001 and was on the USA Field Hockey Board of Ethics from 2006 to 2017.

“I am truly honored to be invited to join the USA Field Hockey Board of Directors,” said Niehoff. “As a former high school and collegiate player, and high school coach, I have a deep love for the game, and all of the benefits it offers players, coaches, officials and families. The National Federation of State High School Associations is committed to collaboration with USA Field Hockey to grow, sustain and celebrate the sport nationwide and across all scholastic levels. I look forward to serving the board, the national governing body, and the game!”

Niehoff earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, master’s from Southern Connecticut State University, sixth-year degree in educational leadership from Central Connecticut State University and doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Connecticut.

Please join USA Field Hockey in welcoming Niehoff to the Board of Directors.

USFHA media release

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