Youth Hockey Situation in Uruguay
By Mercedes Lerena
Uruguayan Youth Hockey Promoter
April 4, 2003
Terms of Reference: I have been asked by the Youth Hockey Panel to write a report about the youth hockey situation in Uruguay.
Proceedings: The president of the Uruguayan Hockey Federation, Alvaro Cuenca, gave me some factual information and as I am playing for the Narional team, I am able to briefly communicate our plans for the year. And also, give my opinion about our last trip to Salta, Argentina, last year.
- The Uruguayan Hockey Federation has decided to encourage the growth of the sport at women's level to fulfill the potential that players show. There were some aims set to reach that:
- Due to the fact that hockey is traditionally played among the middle and upper class, it is now being introduced into the State Schools so that lower classes may as well play it.
- As all hockey players are concentrated in the capital, Montevideo, the other urban and suburban areas of Uruguay are isolated from this sport. So, another aim is to take the sport further, outside Montevideo, into the whole country.
- As a way of trying to reach our aims the U17 team is planning to go to Carmelo, Uruguay, a city very near Buenos Aires, Argentina where hochey is just starting to develop. They would leave very early in the morning to spend a whole day with the girls, talking and playing a few matches. We hope this will encourage them to keep on playing and to show them that this sport could get them far.
- The Uruguayan Olympic Committee used to support the Federation until the regional economic troubles assaulted the state's Treasury. It built the first and only synthetic hockey field (water type) in 1999 which helped improve the quality of our game and the amount of people interested in it. There are other synthetic surfaces on which hockey can be practiced, but they are very small in relation with a hockey field. Lots of teams want to play in the synthetic hockey field causing a lack of space and time for all of them to practice the game there.
- The proximity to Argentina, is having much to do with the popularity the sport is having nowadays. Another influence are our National Teams, our senior team was South American Champion (Chile '2000, where Argentina did not participate); finished fourth in the America's Cup (Jamaica '2001) classifying for the Pre World Cup of Amiens '2001. Classified second in the Argentina's Provincial Tournament (Tucuman '2002), drawing with the logical Champions, Buenos Aires; and participated with great success in the International Tournament of Santiago '2003 with Argentina, Germany, Chile and Trinidad. And, finally came third in the last South American Championship in Chile a week ago.
- An emphasis was made on the Juvenile teams, the age group that leaves school hockey to play in clubs. This has always been an age of desertions of players, thus a U17 team was created in 2002. Such was the enthusiasm and results obtained in the Provincial Tournament in Argentina that it was a necessity to continue developing this situation. So, a squad training for U15 and U12 was incorporated, with the aim to uniform and equal the basic skills of young players coming from different levels of instruction of the sport.
- The U-17 team was already invited to the Provincial Tournament in Argentina for next year due to this year's success. It was also invited to participate in an U-18 Tournament in South Africa in 2003.
- The trip to Salta, Argentina last year gave the girls a sense that they could do something important if they practiced and played together as a team. They learned a lot from the Argentinean teams, and from the championship itself as it taught them how the rules really are much strictly enforced.
Conclusions: The Uruguayan Hockey Federation is aiming to make this sport a more popular one in the country and the National Teams more popular around the world. This should attract more people into the sport and sponsors for our Federation. Also, it will help the players build the team spirit, the necessary confidence to play this sport and the enthusiasm to continue or start playing hockey. This aims have not changed since last year and are not going to until they are fulfilled.
Recommendations: If we want to unite this country and make a stronger team to compete internationally, we think there should be more interdepartmental championships to increase the enthusiasm and level of our players. But the fact that there are not many hockey teams outside Montevideo makes this harder, however, there are many things to be done first which take time. But, eventually we think we are getting better and the number of players will increase to make this sport more popular.
Mercedes Lerena, Uruguayan Youth Hockey Promoter