It's been four weeks since Guatemala made their first ever appearance in international hockey, when their junior boys' team participated in the 2012 Pan American Junior Championships in Guadalajara. FIH.ch took the opportunity to sit down for a chat with two members of the team's coaching staff, head coach Prof. Sergio Veliz and strength and conditioning coach Prof. Amaury, to gain an insight into the progress made in the development of the sport in Guatemala.
Q: Tell us about Guatemala's journey to Guadalajara.
About five years ago, thanks to the support of FIH and PAHF, the Olympic Committee of Guatemala opened the doors for this new sport in our country. Visits from the Continental Development Officer and instructors for coaches and umpires allowed the first few active members of the Association to continually grow, and in the course of their planning, they decided it was sensible to focus on preparing a team of juniors as far as possible and let them play an international competition for the first time.
Q: To be the first to compete for your country must be daunting.
Yes, when it was first put forward, the idea seemed quite far fetched and dangerous, and that is why these young men were given hockey training but also psychological support, in order to make them know exactly what goal they can be aiming for in a few years. They understood that now the difference is too big and that they wouldn't be able to defeat any of the other teams.
Q: How do you see your team's actual performance in this event then?
What we were able to observe at the end of this tournament, in which Guatemala presented itself for the first time, with honesty in the sport and with only the simple and obvious tools in their confrontations, is that the team finished it happy and with congratulations from their opponents, and with the desire to return to their country quickly in order to keep working and build on the large amount of new skills and insights gained.
Q: Please describe hockey in Guatemala - what does the team return to?
The Association currently disposes of 2 excellent indoor halls in Guatemala City where we play indoor competitions according to the international rules. In field hockey, we play mostly 7-a-side on the field of the Club Centro Español or on rented artificial turfs. There are currently 6 schools, 1 club and two independent teams. Throughout the year, we play tournaments for adult players with four men's teams and a total of 60 players. In the junior section, we have 5 teams and 50 players on the men's side, and 3 teams and 36 players on the women's side. We also have a number of children playing, with about 80 boys and girls playing for 8 different teams.
Q: And what does the future hold for Guatemalan hockey?
The technical staff of the Association continuously visits schools to teach hockey and so far has given trainings for more than 600 kids. They have also done some trainings at the Airforce Sports School. We've only just started, but we are confident we are on the right path and will achieve good things over the next few years. We would like to highlight the ongoing support we receive from our Olympic Committee and the Sports Ministry authorities, and also thank FIH and PAHF for their support.
On behalf of the entire hockey family, FIH wishes to congratulate the Hockey Federation of Guatemala on their international debut and the great progress made over the past 5 years, and to express its joy at welcoming Guatemala as the latest member to join international competition. We look forward to seeing you joining us again in the future!
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