In 2017 Hockey New Zealand underwent a strategic project that looked at the way the sport was delivered in New Zealand. Both National Teams ranked between 5-10 in the world. The project was necessary in order to help shift our teams to perform in the top tier of world rankings, whilst continuing to grow the game.
Following two years of research and consultation with the hockey community, Hockey New Zealand landed on a model we believe will improve these world rankings and at the same time enhance the experience for participants. Players, Coaches and Umpires are able to be supported in a way that means they remain closer to their support networks while receiving the development needed to push for selection in National teams.
The 2020 season saw the implementation of the Performance Network and Development Programme. The purpose of the Network is to be the connector between Community and High-Performance. This linking with the 32 Associations and not being additional is key in sustained delivery.
The Performance Network made a start prior to COVID 19. Setting up these structures allowed our Athletes across the country to stay connected. Now returning to the turf post-COVID the training program is less reliant on a centralized model. There are increased Association and National activities working together to support participants growth towards High-Performance hockey.
Like all organisations, Hockey New Zealand has needed to be agile since the COVID 19 pandemic hit and affected the International Calendar. With the Tokyo 2020, Olympic Games and Hockey Pro League postponed the Vantage Black Sticks had no immediate competition. Hockey New Zealand is re-designing a High-Performance Program that provides the National Squad with competition to best prepare for the return of International Hockey.
Hockey New Zealand is currently working on still delivering the inaugural domestic Premier Hockey League, to be held in August and September 2020. A chance to showcase our top players from across the country over several weekends. This competition provides the Vantage Black Sticks as well as the emerging next tier with competition, selection and learning opportunities. This will help to prepare our teams for the 2021 Oceania Cup, Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games and the future health of the Vantage Black Sticks programme.
While the COVID 19 pandemic has forced a shift from Hockey New Zealand, it has not diluted the importance of having quality coaches connected across the country and participants with opportunities to access the best support possible.