Workshops around Development, Umpiring and Coaching (DUC) have definitely been the highlight of this year development programme within the Oceania region.

The European Hockey Federation led the way by running the first one last year in Berlin. After that experience, Norman Hughes (FIH CDO for Europe) and Gabrielle van Doorn (FIH Development Manager) were able to provide valuable resources – programmes and feedback from their evaluations –and I appreciated that. 

“Understanding the Athletes” and how hockey needs to respond to their needs was a fundamental session to open the workshop. My other initiative was to place them just before a local tournament so that the participants could press their new knowledge into immediate practice and try things out while the presenters could still be on hand to give supportive feedback to the umpires, coaches, tournament administrators or officials.

It also gave an opportunity for individuals, who were not available to come to the workshop, a chance to still get feedback at the tournament or discuss situations with the presenters. This allowed a much wider audience to gain the benefit. It also meant that situations that arose at the tournament and decisions made could be discussed and even more learning created.

All workshops were extremely well attended – 168 participants - and proved very successful. The key to these workshops is flexibility which is very much part of the island way and being able to modify the programme, on the spur of the moment, to take in opportunities that arise. A good example was in the first workshop which was held in Suva, Fiji from 27 -30 August. When I arrived in Suva, with Caroline Bigham (Umpire Presenter) and Lincoln Churchill (Coach Presenter), I discovered that Fiji had their national squads training that night. I was asked if it was possible to have an impromptu training with Lincoln, and with 38 athletes and 4 Coaches present, it too good an opportunity to resist.   

 The second and third workshops were held between the 9-16 September in Lae and Port Moresby. This was my first visit to Papua New Guinea and I was very well looked after by Kaluwin Potuan, PNG’s new Hockey Federation President and Thomas Kahui, from the PNG Sport Federation. I found a tremendously enthusiastic and hospitable hockey fraternity. The workshop in Lae was attended by 32 participants at the Coronation International School. An open sided but roofed basketball court provided shelter from the scorching sun and made an excellent practical area. The first challenge for the enthusiastic participants was the limited equipment with only 6 balls and 12 sticks! However, not to be daunted the 32 participants worked in 6 teams and shared the sticks!  The organising committee had done a magnificent job of getting sponsors for each day and tee shirts and caps were provided by Coca Cola and Tablebirds to all the participants. The Federation held their national tournament immediately after the workshop and so I was able to work with the organising committee in advising them on how to set up the draw and develop a set of tournament rules. Briefings were held each morning so that coaches or umpires could ask questions and extend their knowledge. While everyone was gathered the AGM was also held followed by a planning session involving all regions, giving them a voice in developing the new strategic plan.

The tournament was a very colourful event with ceremonial dancing to start the event. There was a huge range of colourful tents which gave it a real festive atmosphere. The Port Moresby clubs attending the tournament asked for a workshop to be held after the tournament on my way home and Kaluwin organised that and 58 participants came. The response blew me away and I left Papua New Guinea with a very positive feeling about the future of our sport within Oceania.    

The fourth workshop was held in Tonga from 22 -25 October. Caroline Bigham came as the Umpire presenter as this was to be a key focus area and Caroline’s involvement was supported by funding from the WHUB budget. The other key theme was appropriate forms of competition with limited land and equipment. The tournament that we organised at the end of the workshop was an 8 aside tournament on a rugby field. Caroline paced out the 2 half pitch fields and dropped marker cones and I followed behind with a paint brush! Before dark set in, people from the village of Vaini turned out to help and it became a real community effort.  The tournament was hugely successful with lots of goals scored, new umpires confidently blowing the whistle and village players of all ages combining together to use their new skills. Another highlight was the involvement of 3 new men’s teams as traditionally hockey has been a women’s sport in Tonga, until this year. Once again I got back on the plane with a smile from ear to ear!

This format has proved very successful and Oceania will be repeating the DUC concept in 2009 for Samoa and Vanuatu. The other result from the workshop experience will be the setting up of an organised stick exchange programme, as this was clearly the biggest problem identified throughout all the workshops. 

Gill Gemming, FIH CDO for Oceania