– recognises support given by Ministry of Sport and GVF
In an effort to garner a true assessment of the performance of the Guyana Hockey
Board and the sport by extension, Kaieteur Sport posed some questions to President of the entity Philip Fernandes recently and below is his responses.
(1)- How would you describe the past year in terms of the goals that the GHB had set out to achieve?
The GHB had set itself three major goals for 2011 being the further development of its youth program to include more teams and more frequent competition, participation of its women’s national team in the PAHF Challenge staged in Brazil and a successful return of the annual Diamond Mineral Water International Indoor Hockey Festival which was cancelled in 2010.
I am pleased that we almost achieved 100% of these goals with the exception of once again only holding one junior tournament.
The year however did have its short-comings as the lack of a suitable indoor facility until the end of the year severely hampered our local season.
While we usually have as many as four local indoor tournaments, we were unable to have any this year with the one tournament being the Diamond Mineral Water International Indoor Hockey Festival which was a huge success as a result of the new floor installed at the national gymnasium.
Our outdoor season was also affected by rains and the availability of fields, but we managed to complete our Farfan & Mendes First Men’s Division Hockey League and the John Fernandes Insurance Services Second Division League.
(2)- Are you satisfied with the Board’s performance?
I am very pleased with our year as we have met most of our goals. Although the season was not as complete as it has been in the past, this was beyond our control as resulted from a lack of playing facilities and this was rectified in my mind by a hugely successful International Indoor tournament to complete the year.
Hockey is a growing sport and we have seen an influx of young people through our school’s program. This coupled by increased motivation for our current players through the international success of our teams and heightened awareness and interest through our International Indoor Hockey Festival is a good recipe for growth.
I think given the circumstances, the board performed very well and hope that this carries on into the New Year so we do not lose the momentum that has been created.
(3) – Just elaborate on some of the goals that were achieved.
Junior development must remain a top priority for hockey as this is the only way to sustain the game. We have continued our schools
program which was started in 2010 and have over 100 children, from five schools, which competed in our junior tournament held in October.
We have a proposal before us which would double the amount of schools and include at least three tournaments for schools and junior club players.
This has been a success so far but we are therefore hoping to build on this and develop it into something much larger for 2012.
We need to improve our plan to fund the schools development program so it can include at least one paid full-time coach as volunteers find it difficult to commit to training during working hours.
Stemming from this schools program and from summer camps of previous years gone by, the GHB also identified a male national under-21 squad for possible participation in the Pan American Under-21 Championships scheduled for Guadalajara, Mexico from 13 – 23 September 2012.
With the ladies national team, we have accomplished something that has never been done before. With a team that was ranked 15th overall in the Pan American Region, we won silver medal at the PAHF Challenge and gained a place in the World Cup qualifier, PAHF Cup, which invites only the top 8 teams in Pan Am. In achieving this goal we have knocked out several teams who have their own artificial pitch.
This success has placed us in an elite group of hockey playing nations being Argentina, USA, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Trinidad and Uruguay. These teams will compete along with Guyana in the World Cup qualifier, PAHF CUP, in Mendoza, Argentina in April 2013.
In 2011, we held what was one of the best Diamond Mineral Water International Indoor Hockey Festivals ever. Teams were eager to compete in Guyana having lost the opportunity in 2010 when the tournament was cancelled.
The new, world-class floor installed at the National Gymnasium greatly enhanced the tournament and raised the quality of hockey being played in the tournament. Apart from the floor, visiting teams were also complimentary of the rest of the facility which was noticeably cooler and brighter than the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall.
While the facility proved a huge success, there are a few things that can be improved, including the installation of fans, as we rented these for the purpose of the tournament, and the toilet fittings need upgrading in some cases. These I am sure can be rectified and with the early feedback from the visiting teams and inquiries already received from others overseas we anticipate to repeat and even surpass this success in 2012.
(4)- Do you think that more could have been achieved?
Facilities remain our biggest obstacle to developing the game further. Much more could have been achieved if the necessary facilities in which to play were available.
We live however in a developing nation and so we have to hope that this can correct itself in the future.
With the recent introduction of the new floor at the National Gymnasium, hopefully hockey can benefit along with volleyball and other indoor sports and we can have a more complete season in 2012.
As far as the outdoor game goes, we continue to struggle for field time during the shorter windows of playing time available. The flooding in the Georgetown area, where hockey is mostly played, has caused cricket teams to suffer for lack of training and match days.
Hockey is played on grounds where cricket is the priority and therefore has to wait for whatever little time there is remaining for the game to be played.
We are fortunate to have a good relationship with the Georgetown Cricket Club which has had a hockey team for several decades and continues to support the game by permitting matches on some days during the week. During the year, the Hikers Hockey Team has managed to secure the use of a section on the Saint Stanislaus College ground for hockey to be played.
This is a significant achievement both for the club and the game and will assist the Board greatly to achieve more in the coming year.
(5)- What are some of the negatives that plagued the GHB last year if there were any?
The Cliff Anderson Sports Hall has been critical over the past 10 years to sustaining the sport of hockey in Guyana through its indoor game. The Ministry of Sport has continued to be cooperative in facilitating its use for the game along with that of the National Gymnasium which was being used for some practice, but until recently, had a concrete floor which is less forgiving to the equipment.
In 2011, however, we had a completely suspended indoor season due to repairs being done at the Sports Hall which rendered it unsuitable for hockey. This has been the most severe detriment to the game for the year, but thankfully the repairs seem to be nearing completion.
The other major challenge the sport has locally is the lack of outdoor fields on which to play. The game is played on cricket grounds due to the absence of a home of its own. Rains seem to incapacitate grounds for longer periods of time recently and this reduces the amount of days per year which is available for sport.
In addition, the early fading light, especially in the second half of the year, makes it difficult to complete hockey matches during the week when grounds are more likely to be available.
A hockey match takes 70 minutes and usually has a short half time break. Players find it difficult to get off work at 16:00hrs and 16:30hrs make it to the ground to dress and warm up in time for a 17:00hrs start.
When the light fades before 18:00hrs, the GHB is then placed in a quandary.
(6)- Give details of the latest development in terms of the GHB discussions to get a synthetic surface and the latest information on the land discussion with the Ministry of Sport.
The GHB has engaged the Minister of Sport during my term in office and that begun since the time the Honourable Ms. Gail Texeira was Minister. We have had meetings with the sitting Minister since then at least once a year with this particular topic being high on the agenda.
Within recent times, Minister Frank Anthony has been amenable to providing an area in the Providence National Stadium compound for the use by the GHB for the development of an international hockey pitch.
The GHB does not have the necessary funds, estimated at G$20M, to install such a pitch, but is hoping to secure some funds to go towards this purpose from the Pan American Hockey Federation or the International Hockey Federation with the balance coming from the local private sector by way of sponsorship.
In 2011 the minister provided the GHB with a letter indicating that if the necessary funds are obtained and a proper plan for implementation produced, the Ministry will make available the necessary land.
There was no discussion on the passing of ownership of such land to the GHB. I think this is a satisfactory arrangement since the Providence Stadium is a secure venue and, if installed the use of an artificial pitch will be therefore controlled and protected.
The GHB has since submitted a letter of appeal to the PAHF with the support of the letter from the Minister of Sport with the hope of receiving a positive response early in the year.
Time is critical for such a facility to be developed as we have a women’s national team intending to compete at the highest level of Pan Am in 2013 with no suitable training facility. In addition, the game would cease to lose young players to the frustration of having regular cancellations of training and matches due to sudden unavailability of the cricket facilities.
(7)- What would you consider as the highlight (s) of last year?
There were two significant events for hockey which took place last year. The first was the qualification of our women’s national team for the PAHF Cup. This was a great surprise for all involved in Pan Am hockey as Guyana, without adequate training facilities, was able to topple teams ranked much higher than them, have more players and more international training experience.
The acquisition of an artificial pitch locally is likely to remove all three of these disadvantages as Guyana would then be able to attract visiting teams for competition and spread the game through the availability of a field where hockey is the priority.
The second event would be the re-introduction of the Diamond Mineral Water International Indoor on the new floor installed at the National Gymnasium. This floor is similar to that used for indoor hockey in the developed hockey-playing nations of Europe and has significantly improved the quality of hockey at the tournament. This new floor not only brought great success to the 2011 tournament but has catapulted the tournament onto the international radar where one team from the UK has already been making inquiries.
(8)- When is the GHB AGM?
We are likely to have the AGM in February this year as a few of the Board members were unavailable at different times in January and we would prefer to have them all present. An actual date has not yet been set, but this will be done at the first meeting of the year on Saturday 14th January.
The GHB constitution was amended to have elections every two years instead of annually. This year will be an election year and so we hope for another strong board for 2012.
(9)-Will you be seeking re-election?
I still feel that I am able to make a contribution to the sport at the administrative level and so will be available for re-election. Ours, however, is an association and a family of players where there is very little animosity and so if a new president should be elected, I would still be happy to support the game and work along in whatever capacity I am needed. I enjoy coaching more than administration and would hope to channel my energies in this direction if someone else takes my position on the Federation.
(10)- Talk a little about the Ladies preparations for the Pan Am Cup.
It is a near impossible task to prepare a national side to compete at the top Pan Am level on grass when the tournament will take place on an artificial pitch. Given this fact, we have to continue using the best facilities available to us so we can prepare our team as soundly as possible.
Last year we utilized the Georgetown Cricket Club, the National Stadium and the National Gymnasium to prepare our side. Time is limited at these facilities of course and so we constantly move around between them.
The gymnasium now has a new floor which is very good for hockey, but may see a reduction in available training time there.
This year the GHB is hoping to place greater emphasis on the physical conditioning of the athletes as this level of competition will require athletes to be very fit. In the past, the players were still developing an understanding of the game at the high performance level and so many hours were spent reinforcing tactical aspects of the game. While there has always been a physical component in their training, this year more time can be dedicated to this area.
The squad also needs to be exposed to international competition prior to travelling to Argentina. This means that the GHB will need to organize an overseas trip or two to neighbouring nations, as it has done in the past, which have proved invaluable.
Although their focus is a tournament in 2013, the national ladies have already been raising funds since 2011 as this venture will require substantial funds. The women’s national program in the past few years has been funded partly through an Olympic Solidarity Grant, which has now been exhausted, and through frequent fund-raising events staged by the players themselves.
(11)- What about men’s hockey? Could you say whether there are any tournaments earmarked for attendance?
It is not easy for teams to compete internationally as, while the players in developed nations can focus on training, our players also have to raise a substantial amount of funds to do so. An international hockey team consists of 18 players and a minimum of 2 officials being one coach and one manager. Teams usually travel with as many as 7 officials who include assistant coaches, videographers and medic.
While the quality of men’s hockey in Guyana is at a very competitive level regionally, the men have not been able to replicate the commitment and dedication of the ladies in terms of their fund-raising efforts. This has severely hampered the men’s national program and we are now seeking a way to improve this and have them return to international competition.
This year, however, there are no tournaments being held in affordable destinations for either gender. The Pan Am calendar lists two senior tournaments, the Pan Am Indoor Cup and the South American Championships, both of which are being staged in Chile. In addition to this, there is the Junior Pan American Championships which is for boys and girls’ under-21 which will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico this September.
As a result, it is not likely for either our men or women to compete internationally for the year and unfortunately, without an artificial pitch, it is not possible for us to invite any teams to Guyana for a friendly series. What the GHB will need to decide in their first few meetings is a way to fill this gap to ensure their athletes keep motivated. One possibility may be to try to host an international indoor tournament which is now possible with the new floor at the National Gymnasium, but this is just an idea at this point and permission would need to be sought from the local authorities.
(12)- How appreciative are you that you had the opportunity to use the floor at the Nat Gymnasium and will we see a few more indoor tournaments organized?
The floor at the gymnasium was a godsend as we were faced with heading into a tournament using a Sports Hall with substandard floor and a roof in need of repairs. While there were plans to correct these defects, it did not seem likely that the necessary work could have been completed in time for our International Festival.
The GHB was extremely grateful for the willingness of the Ministry of Sport to permit the use of the facility for the Festival, especially since it had been opened only a week or so prior. The willingness of the Guyana Volleyball Federation (GVF) to support our use of the playing surface was also a welcome gesture as it was them who received the gift of the new floor from its World governing body.
The floor was very well received by both the local and overseas players. Visiting officials also were eager to discuss with me the possibility of hosting international indoor games in Guyana if the facility could be made available. This would of course be determined by the entire infrastructure of the facility as games at that level require adequate locker rooms, umpires rooms, office for officials etc.
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