New brand of hockey proving a hit with juniors

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Eastern Friday night hockey isbased on a New Zealand-wide brand of hockey rolled out to all associations about five years ago.
‘ Hockey is an everevolving game with the sport bringing about changes to rules over the years
to make it an attractive game for both players and spectators alike. ‘
— Tracey McCall
Hockey New Zealand developed a national brand with a game-based approach built on skill development.
Having a nationally consistent approach to game formats, lesson plans, coach and development material has seen the game grow in Gore and across all the associations in New Zealand.
Traditionally, when players started playing hockey, they went straight into 11-a-side teams and on a full field.
Whereas now, year 1 and 2 children are starting on 1/8th of the field with only five or six players in a team. As they progress through the age groups the field sizes increase. Year 3 and 4 play on a quarter field and Year 5 and 6 on half a field.
Eastern Hockey’s Tracey McCall said the beauty of smaller-size fields and teams was that it allowed more touches of the ball by all the children.
‘‘With the 100% growth in numbers in the last six years in Eastern Hockey, to where we have this year 360 children between years 1 and 6 playing on Friday nights, it shows the new model HNZ has taken is working,’’ McCall said.
‘‘The smaller teams have meant we require a lot more coaches, for which we have been very lucky with 52 mums, dads and high school students putting up their hands to help coach.’’
Eighteen high school pupils have also helped coach as it was a great way for them to develop their own game of hockey and at the same time give something back to the sport, McCall said.
High school pupils were also able to obtain school credits from coaching.
With all the coaching material HNZ provided it helped give coaches confidence and also ensured the same message was given to all children, she said.
‘‘Hockey is an ever-evolving game with the sport bringing about changes to rules over the years to make it an attractive game for both players and spectators alike.’’
McCall hoped the changes and the programmes in place would keep young players passionate about hockey and make it a sport they would carry on with throughout their lives.
‘‘Eastern Hockey, with its huge numbers of junior players, has the welcome challenge of accommodating the needs of these up and coming players.‘‘
McCall said the organisation aimed to create meaningful pathways for all levels of ability and aspirations, for future Blacksticks to the weekend warriors wanting to stay fit and have fun with friends.