This year the Northern Region Group implemented a change in their competitions for the Under 15 development players. We spoke with one of the drivers of the program former Vantage Black Stick Kimberley Jordan who is North Harbour Hockey’s development manager.
What brought about the change in tournaments?
The Northern Region Group had a number of discussions around the barriers that prevent youth from participating in hockey and agreed that while in some regions the barriers are different there were a number of common ones. These being:
Length of tournament (Not only for players, but also management).
Focus on performance/result driven outcomes as a method of justifying the expense.
It was agreed that the factors why youth love representative tournaments was having time alway as a group, team bonding, travel, meeting new people, skill development and that even through this change development could still be achieved.
By moving away from a National Tournament that spans over 6-7 days to a Regional One (Grant McLeod Tournament) played across 4 days this allowed teams to impact on some of the barriers such as reduce the number of expenses, the draw didn’t start till lunch on the 1st day meaning teams could travel on that day and save on accomodation.
The change of the format to quarters and shorter tournament reduced the workload on players in this age group. By playing only Saturday through to Tuesday in the 1st week of the school holidays. It gave participants the chance to do other things in the school holidays.
What is the importance of a development focus at this age?
At this age group it is important that emphasis is placed on the individual as a whole and there is a focus on developing all parts of the person. Between the ages of 13-15 kids are starting to find their own identity and we wanted to create a safe environment for them to do this. We also think at this age it is important to look at the whole experience and not just focus on performance. It is really easy to start to develop a performance based mind-set which sees coaches take control, focus on winning and losing and all trainings are repetitive, structured and involve punishment if athletes are not performing well.
By creating a tournament that had both guys and girls play at the same place, include umpire development, coach development, games played with quarters to increase coaching moments and a social. We felt this shifted the emphasis of the tournament from performance to development.
How did you feel this tournament went?
It was agreed at the Northern Region meeting in December that the tournament was a success. This was based on the feedback from the kids and coaches that attended which was overwhelmingly positive.
What were some challenges you came across?
Administrative time, there was an increase in administrative time to organise the tournament. The Northern Regions countered this by working collaboratively to achieve the desired outcome.
Perceptions as another challenge, associations needed to spend an increased amount of time educating the community (coaches, parents and players) as to the rationale behind the change. This is a change that is aligned with the direction that Hockey New Zealand is looking at going and taking the risk first is always a challenge.
What changes will you make in future to this tournament?
Additional parent education sessions
Will likely cap the entries at 8 teams per gender and as it grows will run another tournament that is the same. This will allow associations to enter more teams and include more players which will increase development opportunities.
Draw adjustments where possible to allow teams to watch each other and keep growing the atmosphere of a supportive tournament.
What did this tournament look like?
6 Games for each team. Played in 4 x 12.5 minute quarters
Started Midday on Day 1, across the four days each team had two days where they had a double header
There was coach development offered on day three
An umpires manager who worked with the umpires to develop them across the 4 days