While the start of the Community Hockey season has been delayed due to the COVID 19 situation. Several of the 32 Associations around the country got underway with competitive play over the past weekend.
Counties Manukau Hockey have opened their facilities over the past two weeks to allow Schools, Clubs and Juniors to commence training under strict health protocols. The facility has been a hive of activity with the Community eager to get back onto the turf after the lengthy delay.
Over the past weekend, the Association played host to a Hockey Fives festival for all their Senior Club teams. This opportunity allowed the Community to test out the newly relayed turf as well as tune-up their skills ahead of the opening weekend of Competition which is starting on Friday, June 12th.
Counties Manukau Hockey has three full-time employees on staff with former Vantage Black Stick Tina Bell-Kake heading the team as the Associations General Manager. She is supported by her husband and former Black Stick Mark Kake in the Community and Performance Coach Space and Marie Arthur-Worsop in the role of Grassroots Development. The team of three have been busy during the COVID situation, including taking on several different functions such as building the fast five boards, preparing the facilities for training and several other tasks. The team has come together to ensure that Community Hockey was able to start as soon after the lockdown as safe and possible.
Q – When is Community Hockey starting?
A – We are starting both Junior and Senior Club hockey this coming weekend (June 12th). We initially planned on starting Senior Hockey the previous weekend. However, we felt it was necessary to give the clubs more time to get their teams sorted after the lengthy delay. We are expecting to have a full club season and will be looking to run the season through to the end of September.
Q – How have the Community been responding to hygiene practices?
A – We have been pleased with how the Community has been getting stuck in and getting on with things. We don’t have to remind too many people, and everyone understands the importance of what is happening. It has been long hours for the team, but the support we have received from the Community has been pleasing.
Q – What is the feeling around the Community?
A – It seems like our Community is excited to get back onto the pitch and get started again. We thought that we might have a drop off in numbers and potentially we may do. However, we have the same amount of teams entered; it just might be that these teams have smaller numbers in their squads.
Q – You have been introducing Hockey Fives in your Community. What is the rationale behind that?
A – Before the COVID 19 situation, we were introducing Hockey Fives into our Junior Space. While it took some initial selling to our Community, we feel like we have reached a good compromise which will see U13 players take part in some Hockey Fives for the season as well as some full field 11 aside.
This weekend’s Hockey Fives festival was an excellent opportunity to introduce our parents to this adapted version of our sport, and the feedback that we have received is that some of our Division Teams would love to play this for the full season.
Q – What are the benefits of Hockey Fives for Skill Development?
A – Indoor Hockey is a very similar game and something that we used to play. It’s quick, and there is a lot of exciting action. The modified version allows for all players to get more touches on the ball and become more involved in the games. Players learn different angles and new strategies for passing as they need to adapt to the changing conditions. Goalkeepers play a much more pivotal role in this version, and we have seen that over this past weekend. Scores tend to be a bit higher, and this makes for an exhilarating version of hockey. We know that we have plenty of room to refine the rules and scoring more. We have had great feedback from the Community about the modified version this weekend. We are hoping to run this at different times throughout the year as well as for Summer Hockey in 2020.
We are going to be profiling different Associations around the country this year as we look to profile the beating heart of our sport which is our Community Hockey.