2018 was a special season for a small school located in Hastings with a school roll of only 300 girls. Iona College defied the odds in 2018 to win the Fed Cup for the first time in the school’s history. This achievement had been several years in the making when in 2015 a young side had showed so much potential in winning the Chica Gilmer Trophy. Each year from then on the side moved up through the rankings at Fed Cup finishing 9th in 2016 and 5th in 2017 before their breakthrough win in 2018. Not only was this the first Fed Cup win for the school it was the first time that a school from the Hawke’s Bay Secondary School competition had been crowned the national champions. Iona will be looking to repeat as champions which is going to be no easy feat having lost their 2018 Captain Arabella Shield as well as star striker Olivia Shannon who has been completing her year 13 school year via correspondence as she has been part of the Vantage Black Sticks Women’s 2019 campaign.
In 2019 the team will be coached for the first time by Dan McAleese who answered our questions below.
Q – Have there been any challenges this year in preparation for the 2019 Fed Cup?
A – There are challenges in preparing any team for a tournament. To rebuild such a successful team, with much younger players, to adapt to a new coach and develop a new playing style, with the resources of a small school makes this team very much a work in progress.
Q – What are some of the strengths of this team?
The eagerness to learn and adapt to a new style of play makes this team, a team.
Q – How important is a good balance between sports and the players education?
A – The realistic is that the vast majority of players will not make it as top hockey players. Very few have the single minded toughness and resilience to make it. Therefore the priority for all must be getting a good education. This should not be negotiable.
Q – How long have you been involved with coaching the side?
A – This is my first year coaching this team, in fact my first year coaching a girls team. I have been on a big learning curve, but an extremely enjoyable one. I also have a hard act to follow.
Q – What are the teams goals at Fed Cup this year?
A – The goal is to try and establish the team processes and style we have been trying to put into place all season. Hopefully that will take the team as far as it is capable.
Q – Has the side had much turnover from the 2018 team?
A – The team has had a huge turnover of players from the 2018 season. We lost a playing group that had been together, under the same regime, for many years. This has created a challenge for all involved with the team.
Q – What did the first Fed Cup win mean to the side in 2018?
A – Our 2018 team was an exceptional one, with a group of outstanding players. For a team from a small school, with a small hockey programme is something that can never be taken away from all involved, and will be aspirational for all future players, in the school. It is important to have dreams and when they are achieved there is deep satisfaction in that achievement.
Iona in 2019 will be captained by Bella Greig who has been a part of the Iona teams from the win in 2015 to last years Fed Cup triumph.
Q – What are the teams goals for tournament this year?
A – The team goals this year are ones which focus heavily on the process of play as opposed to the outcome. We aim to first and foremost enjoy the play. Following this, we look to establish effective structure in which our team members have a passing mindset. To have confidence in each team member would be a major success in terms of our team goals.
Q – What are some challenges that the side has needed to overcome this year?
A – With any new team comes the challenge of adapting to new people and playing styles. For a young team, we have worked with building the confidence and ability of each individual and focusing on ways to appreciate the process, rather than the outcome.
Q – What separates your team from some of the others throughout the country?
A – What separates our team from others in the country is our willingness to enjoy the ride. Often, a group culture can become too focused on outcomes and the teams or challenges to come in the future. We have so much potential and room to grow which is exactly what our team celebrates. It shows our team’s ability to successfully adapt to a different style of hockey.
Q – What does representing your school mean to you?
A – For me, representing Iona means creating a space in which others are able to compete with you. I have learnt after playing many years in a small school and team, that it is particularly important to learn and practice a selfless style of hockey. I believe that the Iona team embodies this mindset which makes representing the team a great privilege.
Q – What makes the Fed Cup such a special tournament?
A – Fed Cup is a special tournament because it is a space in which any team has the capability to compete and succeed. If small schools like Iona are able to compete, it highlights the fact that any team who puts in hard work with a positive mindset can achieve great things.
2 September vs Fielding at 10:00am
2 September vs Orewa at 5:20pm
3 September vs Queen Margaret College at 1:40pm