The timing couldn’t have been better. Hockey Invites Year of the Youth 2021, created and organised by the FIH Academy, aimed to inspire, develop and increase hockey participation among young people.
Launching during the global Covid pandemic, it proved a way of keeping youngsters across the world engaged and involved in hockey.
A year on and the Year of the Youth will become an annual global effort to ensure that hockey is relevant and exciting for the next generation of players, coaches, officials, volunteers and leaders.
Among the projects launched with the past 12 months has been the School Club Link project for 6-12 year olds, introduction of an U18 category to access FIH Academy course, the FIH World Hockey Camps, which were open for 14-21 year olds, an online diploma at the Young Athlete Academy and the Year of the Youth Huddle, which promoted and celebrated young leaders within the sport.
The range, breadth and reach of the activities that have taken place under the Year of the Youth banner have been astonishing. From providing bags of equipment for complete beginners to coaching teachers in the skills needed to deliver a meaningful session. 32 nations came together over the course of seven FIH World Hockey Camps, catering for 600 young people from 7-21 years of age.
Talented and committed young players were able to get guidance and support from hockey superstars. Joining the young athletes on Zoom calls were players such as Olympic gold medallist Maddie Hinch, South African legend Marsha Cox and goalscoring machine Sam Ward.
And the audience keeps growing. For the FIH Academy Young Leader Membership, there are currently 220 youngsters, from 50 nations. If these young people continue to pursue this pathway into leadership then hockey will be blessed with a wealth of talented sports leaders in the future.
Hockey Invites Year of the Youth relies on the support and promotion of the national associations. As the movement heads into its second year there are more than 50 registered projects from 27 nations. From Afghanistan to Uganda, Australia to Tanzania, national associations are jumping on board to provide opportunities for young people to get involved in hockey and, at the same time, making sure our sport has a sustainable future, with a workforce that is talented, well-trained and committed.
Speaking about the achievements of the past year, Mike Joyce, Head of the FIH Academy said: 'Via the hockey Invites Year of the Youth, in what has been an extremely challenging year, the hockey family has managed to perform something of a miracle when it comes to retaining and encouraging young people into our sport. There is such an exciting range of projects from national associations around the world and, we are seeing young people really respond.
'We want to ensure that the next generation of hockey players, coaches, officials, managers and leaders not only love all that the sport has to offer but drive the sport forward because of the knowledge and skills they have gained through projects such as these.'