President of the Guyana Hockey Board (GHB), Philip Fernandes, in an invited comment on Guyana’s recent bronze medal success at the Pan American Indoor Hockey Championships, cited the Diamond Mineral Water International Indoor Festival as one of three specific factors that contributed greatly to the team’s result.
The other two worthwhile factors in Fernandes’ opinion were the upgraded local indoor facility at the National Gymnasium and the commitment, perseverance and guidance of the coaching and management team.
The Guyana national men’s indoor hockey team created history with their first ever defeat of Argentina en route to another first, a Pan American indoor hockey bronze medal.
According to the GHB President the Guyanese contingent almost missed out on participation as, with just days to go, they found themselves short of the required funds to make the long trek to Montevideo, Uruguay where the championships were being held.
Fortunately, the opportunity was not missed and our local players got the well-deserved chance to showcase their skills to the entire region and the world in producing their successful results which were topped off by their receipt of the Fair Play Award.
GHB President Fernandes was animated in his description of the Diamond Mineral Water Festival, indicating that it was the launch pad for Guyana’s indoor hockey.
“By exposing local players to regular top class overseas competition, the Festival had moved Guyana’s clubs from accepting mediocre performances to having to constantly develop their training and game tactics,” Fernandes said.
He was high in praise of Joseph ‘Reds’ Pereira from whom the idea and initial formula for the Festival came. He also singled out the first Festival Coordinator, Troy Peters, and former GHB honorary Secretary, Gregory Sills, as two of the key persons involved in the introduction and early evolution of the event.
“This competition allowed Guyana to compete with many national players from Canada, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, including PAHF Indoor MVP, Jonathan Roberts who, although initially from Guyana, is now among the top national strikers for PAHF indoor champions, Canada,” Fernandes noted.
No less than seven of the current Canadian national indoor team which won gold in the recent championships have come to Guyana to compete in the Diamond Mineral Water Festival, and several have done so on multiple occasions. Fernandes indicated that the Festival is now among the top indoor competitions in the region for clubs and will continue to give Guyanese players that vital exposure to high level competition.
While the Festival began in 2004 at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, Fernandes indicated that it was the change of venue afforded by the laying of a new surface acquired by the Guyana Volleyball Federation that has catapulted the competition into the top tier by attracting better quality players and teams.
“Hockey has been able to access the Gymnasium for training and competition more regularly than they could the Sports Hall and can better prepare its players for competition as a result. The Ministry of Sport has been a key ally for hockey as they have rewarded our efforts to sustain and develop the game by accommodating us whenever possible at this facility. In addition, the Ministry of Sport and the Guyana Volleyball Federation has played its role in recommending ways in which the new floor can be shared among sport disciplines to their mutual benefit.”
Fernandes considers this new floor and its availability to hockey as a great significance in being able to prepare teams to a higher standard for international competition.
Despite the high value placed on vital international competition and adequate facilities to train, the Hockey Board President spared no words in his praise for the Management and coaching staff of the recent men’s indoor national team, in particular Head Coach Robert Fernandes.
“Without Robert’s absolute commitment to this projec this team would not have made it to Uruguay, and certainly would not have been able to compete at the level at which they did,” the GHB Head said.
Robert Fernandes honed his coaching skills on the squash court before transferring his tactical and analytical coaching skills along with his dedication to the coaching task, to the hockey field.
The GHB President went on to indicate that while first-world nations can often afford a large professional contingent in their coaching staff, in countries such as Guyana, the coach is required to spend countless hours, preparing practices, implementing them, analysing match video, modifying tactics over and over again. This according to him takes many hours and real commitment in addition to the expertise required to make the correct decisions and corrections.
As the GHB President pointed out, the coaching staff not only got the team to Uruguay prepared enough to compete, but made wise decisions when it mattered most to produce their successful result.
The challenge now to the GHB and the local hockey fraternity is to build on the momentum of this success and hopefully continue the fine form and results in the years to come. Regular international competition would require substantial funding which poses the major hurdle at this juncture.
While the team made a great effort to raise funds to participate in Uruguay, the exorbitant cost of travel along with living expenses for a team saw them fall shy of their target when the travel dates arrived.
The team management was able to secure the necessary funds for the trip with the commitment from the players to continue their fund-raising efforts upon their return to make up the shortfall. They will certainly need the support of all stakeholders, including the private sector and general public in the coming months as they continue these efforts.
The team has received an informal invitation to compete in a four-nation tournament in Toronto, Canada against Pan American Champions Canada, Australia and South Africa, all of whom are top ranked hockey nations and would provide an invaluable opportunity for the local players. While it is hoped that the team can finalize the plans with Field Hockey Canada and participate in this event, their ability to acquire the necessary funds will remain the determining factor.
Meanwhile, Fernandes informed that the Guyana National Women’s Hockey squad is scheduled to have a meeting shortly to discuss their plans for the upcoming years. The GHB also has set tomorrow for the resumption of the John Fernandes Insurance Services Ltd second division league with the Hikers facing Saints and will be holding its first indoor hockey tournament of the year, the Brydens Super Classic early in June.
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