President of the Guyana Hockey Board (GHB) Philip Fernandes has declared that 2016 was a positive year for the development of the sport in several notable areas.
In an exclusive interview with Stabroek Sports, the hockey stalwart and sporting enthusiast said: “We have had some very good things happen for hockey in 2016. Among our more productive achievements have been competing in the Under-21 boys Pan American championships in Canada. While the team finished out of the medals, the boys were competitive and showed that they deserved to be in the competition.
“Despite being the only team without an artificial surface on which to train, the team was able to stay close to the strong teams and matched the rest. This experience was a valuable one for our junior boys who will form the nucleus of our senior national team for the next decade,” he added.
According to Fernandes, “each of the three major clubs held their own competitions for the very first time. This is an important development for the game as the game cannot survive without strong club structures. The responsibility of managing these events showed the capability of clubs while also allowing them to improve their management skills, understand the intricacies of such events and to earn a few dollars for further club development.
“The Lucozade indoor league was another welcome addition to the annual hockey calendar as it gave teams the opportunity to be creative and review matches in order to improve as the competition progressed. This is the first time that teams were afforded this opportunity in indoor hockey but unfortunately this may not repeat itself in 2017 as the national teams will take priority of the hockey slots of time at the gymnasium to prepare for the Pan American Indoor championships,” said Fernandes.
Asked about the shortcomings experienced in the year and how it will be remedied heading into the new year, Fernandes said: “The greatest disappointment for this year was our inability to complete any of the outdoor leagues. This was a result of the unavailability of grounds coupled with our intense focus on the national programme.”
He went on: “We need to improve this in 2017 and I think we will as more persons have been coming forward and offering their services as officials, judges, umpires and the like. These persons are key to the development and sustenance of the sport and with more officials, we can then run matches simultaneously at two venues whenever they are available.”
Quizzed what will be major objectives of the association for 2017, he declared “The association will be aiming at competing in both the men’s and women’s Pan American Indoor Championships in 2017. These competitions are both expected to be around September and the host nations will be announced shortly.
“This always puts a strain on our resources as it is expensive to take a whole hockey team to any competition however, the success of the men at the last staging, where they won bronze medals, shows that we can be far more competitive in the indoor game where the surface is less of a disadvantage.
“The association would like to introduce new junior leagues in 2017 and will have a lot of work to ensure it completes the full domestic calendar. This will be a priority.
“In addition, the GHB would like to stage an international coaching course to try to get some of our young coaches accredited. This effort will hopefully broaden our bank of coaches available to introduce hockey to children in schools and communities. In addition, this helps to raise the level of player being produced by the clubs which, of course, are the feeder programmes for national selection,” he added.