By Rawle Welch
If there was ever a doubt about what the year would be for local hockey, the 14th staging of the Diamond Mineral Water Indoor Festival provided all the answers.
The successful conclusion to the year best described what kind of year it was for the sport and the overpowering consensus was that it was great.
Hockey has never enjoyed mainstream consideration in Guyana with disciplines such as boxing, football, cricket and motor racing snatching the limelight.
However, in recent years, the leadership of the sport has risen to the challenge and has managed to raise the level of awareness of the sport’s capacity to attract larger viewership than it previously enjoyed, while also increasing participation among young athletes.
The Guyana Hockey Board through a dedicated bunch of executives aided by a strong will from current and former players has been able to catapult the sport to new levels with Guyana now an emerging force with the Caribbean as well as within the Pan Am region.
Last year saw some remarkable achievements by the men’s national team, while the outstanding individual performances of some of its members managed to catch the eye of scouts and clubs overseas, a fair reflection of the strong programme that has been developed here.
Board President Philip Fernandes has been at the helm of the sport for quite a few years and while he has echoed sentiments of bringing an end to his tenure on many occasions due to family and work commitments, his astute leadership combined with his corporate connections has proven invaluable to the hockey family in many ways.
He has played an integral role in sustaining what has become one if not the premier indoor tournament staged in the Caribbean, attracting teams from North American and the Region and this event has been identified as amongst the primary reasons for the improvement in the standard of players and at the same time the increased enthusiasm in the sport.
Guyana still does not have an artificial turf to play outdoor hockey so the Board made a sensible decision to focus most of its attention towards the development of the indoor segment of the sport and it is now reaping dividends for such.
This is not to say that the outdoor segment has disappeared, but the poor state of grounds and the uncertainty in weather patterns have combined to provide headaches for the Board.
Last year there was a lot of emphasis placed on youth development so much so that many feel the year saw clubs being dominated by the appearance of a number of young exciting players, a feature that many feel augurs well for the future of the sport.
More and more of our young players are being invited to play in leagues that are much higher that any we’ve got here and this is another indication of the improved level of our players.
The exposure gained by the Under-21 boys at the Pan Am Championships will no doubt prove immensely valuable for the long term plans of the Board, while the DMW experience playing against players of a high caliber will also add value to the development programmes as well.
Another significant achievement of the past year was the strong resurgence of women in the sport and this has helped to generate more interest at every level, while the attainment of scholarships is another component that has ignited interest in the sport among young aspiring players.
The Board has been able to exceed its performance in 2015 and with a number of international competitions scheduled to be played this year including the Men’s and Women’s Pan Am Indoors then another exciting year lies ahead.
Fernandes did say that much more is in store this year for the further development of the sport in all sectors including officiating, coaching etc and should our national teams excel at their overseas engagements then the review could be superlative come next year.
Kaieteur Sport extends best wishes to the Guyana Hockey Board for another inspiring year.
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