The Covid-19 restrictions of the past seven months left most, if not all, hockey activities in complete disarray for that period and only now is the game opening up and returning to a semblance of normality. However, the hockey community is nothing if not resourceful and so innovative ways of delivering hockey have been developed and implemented with great success.
For many, particularly coaches, officials and umpires, the pause inflicted by the pandemic has given people the chance to take a breath and concentrate on developing skills and qualities that might get overlooked during the full-on rush of an active hockey season.
And crucial to this new form of personal and professional development has been the adoption of online education. Course, webinars, streamed events – as a sport, hockey has shown itself remarkably adaptable and has used technology to great effect.
Trinidad & Tobago Hockey Board (TTHB) is one national association that has really delved into the world of online education.
As Reyah Richardson, non executive chair of the TTHB and Development Coordinator, says: “During this time of Covid-19, where there are so much restrictions that we cannot go outside to play, the TTHB used this opportunity to launch and facilitate training sessions that we had challenges in doing prior due to a hectic hockey playing calendar. This seemed a good opportunity to train our human resource.”
Four courses were held over a six-month period, covering the management of national teams, coach education, training of technical officials and umpire training. Participants came from across the Caribbean, including Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica, as well as from Trinidad and Tobago.
For the Managing National Teams event, 26 participants joined a stellar cast of presenters to explore the intricacies of managing national teams. Among those delivering the course, which ran throughout most of May, were Cindy Martin-Faustin, who currently works as administrator for the TTHB national teams, Gareth Baptiste, a member of the Executive Board, Willard Harris who has held a number of posts for both PAHF and TTHB, Annette Knott of the Trinidad & Tobago Olympic Committee and Reyah Richardson.
Covering areas such as organisation, budgeting and the technical aspects of management, the course was suitable for school, college and club hockey, not purely for those working with the national teams. Any organisation providing hockey could tap into at least some of the elements discussed on the courses. .
The Coaching Education course attracted 31 participants and was a stimulating and exhilarating journey through the art and science of coaching. With distinguished coaching gurus such as Anthony Marcano (FIH Educator, FIH Level 3 coach, PAHF coach and lecturer at the University of Trinidad & Tobago) and National Head Coach Glenn Francis among the coach educator team, this was always going to be a ‘must-do’ course for aspiring coaches.
The course, which ran for 13 days in June, was a five-part series with a focus to the art and science of coaching. Long gone are the days of ‘command-style’ coaching and a strong adherence to dribbling through cones. Today’s coaches are educated in the development of the hockey player as an athlete for life. To this end, the course introduced the attendees to concepts of physical literacy, long-term athlete development, periodisation and athlete-centred coaching.
There were some hockey topics included, for example "Basic Principles of the Modern Game" and "The Indoor Game".
August through to October was the turn of the officials and umpires. Here, 23 officials and 17 umpires joined in courses aimed at raising the standard of officiating and umpiring at all levels of the game – from the domestic leagues through to the national stage. Although one of the courses was a Level 2 Technical Officials course and the other was umpire education there was much common ground and so a joint session brought all the participants together for a session that looked at “The Modern Hockey Game”.
These course were delivered by the hugely experienced team of Maureen Craig-Rousseau, Nataki Akii-Bua, Reyah Richardson and Roger St Rose.
Feedback from the course participants indicated that not only were these courses very much appreciated at a time when all physical hockey activities were shut down, but they could pave the way for at least some training and education provision in the future.
Annmarie Smith, from Jamaica, who took part in the Technical Officials training, says: “It was commendable of the TTHB to pioneer the hockey webinars during the COVID 19 pandemic and to share with fellow Caribbean neighbours.
“The sessions were very instrumental in highlighting hockey’s technical and umpiring knowledge, operational best practices and procedures as well as generating new interests to the officiating cadre of hockey whilst reinforcing established officials knowledge.”
Smith adds that the courses were well delivered and allowed plenty of facilitation. She also pointed out that using courses such as these across a number of participating nations, will allow for a raising of standards across the area, not solely in the hosting nation.
Another course participant was Lucy Lee, someone with three decades of experience at all levels and all roles within the game. Lee's daughters and husband had all been involved in national teams and Lee added with a smile: “I might not have been in the national team but I’ve been involved in every other aspect of the game."
Lee has been part of the Trinidad & Tobago hockey scene since 1983 and has a wealth of experience in school, club and team management. She has also worked with the TTHB competitions committee for more than 15 years. Despite such longevity with the game, Lee attended the courses intent on gaining new ideas and learning new approaches to administration.
“For me, it [the course] was a case of fine-tuning my knowledge and my perspective and understanding what goes on. I am a little bit more involved at the organising and administrative level but when necessary I roll up my sleeves and get on with it.
“The course was insightful and I now understand better the role that I will play in supporting the actual game and the running of the competition. Because I am involved in competitions, I understand the need to make sure the infrastructure is right and the facilities are prepared properly. But the course elevated that understanding to an international level.
“My takeaway is that I now have a better understanding of what organisers may face at international levels and I also appreciate the emotional intelligence that is involved in talking to people. Yes, there are protocols and ways of doing things, but you have to remember that how you talk to people and what your body language is portraying is very important too.”
Even when hockey returns to something approaching normality and teams and officials are doing their thing out on the field of play on a weekly basis, TTHB is determined that online course education will continue alongside physical courses. The next planned course will focus on Club and Administration Management. This course, while still in the planning stages, is expected to focus on how member clubs can reset, rethink and prepare a new strategy for hockey in the post-Covid world.