Barbados men are one of the lowest ranked teams to be participating in the Hockey World League Round 2 events this March but, as we learn, they are a group for who there is no such word as impossible.
Playing equipment, travel, accommodation, coaching resources - the list of costs associated with competing on the world stage are huge. True, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) tries to keep Hockey World League Round 1 and 2 as local as possible but when you are an island, then no away fixture is ever going to be easy.
Dave Cox is Assistant Coach to Barbados men and he explains the sheer graft that goes into getting the team to a stage where they can compete with the higher ranked nations.
The past few months have been quite something for the Barbados men’s hockey team. Ranked 48 in the FIH Hero World Rankings, up from 56, hockey in the Caribbean nation has always been something of a poor relative to a number of other sports, notably football and cricket.
However, with qualification to the second round of the Hockey World League, courtesy of a second place finish in the Round 1 event in Salamanca, Mexico, Barbados hockey is experiencing a resurgence.
However with success and growth comes rising costs. The problem facing Barbados, as with many other nations, is how to fund their training, preparation, travel as well as all the costs associated with the actual competition. It is a problem the team has faced before, explains Dave Cox, assistant manager to the national team.
He said: “For Round One we didn't have significant help from the Barbados Hockey Federation due to a lack of funding so we had to find ways to self-fund. Firstly, we had to raise $45,000 USD to facilitate a pre-tour to Trinidad for four games. Then we had to find the finances to pay for our trip to Salamanca; our uniforms; practice equipment; video and communications equipment – everything we needed to ensure we were as prepared for competition as possible.”
Not attending the tournament was never an option for the management team of Cox. Head Coach Dominic Hill, Team Manager Antonio Forte, Alain Hinds, Assistant Manager and Video Analyst Jonathan Ruck.
They saw the Hockey World League Round 1 as a great opportunity to drive hockey forwards on the Caribbean island and get some much needed exposure, both nationally but also on a global stage. “It was a pivotal moment in our hockey development and not attending the tournament and getting the exposure would have proven a setback to our development as a hockey nation”, reflects Cox.
So the group came up with a fund raising strategy, with the starting point a list of potential sponsors. First to throw its weight (and money) at the problem was giant mobile phone network provider, Digicel. The company, which operates across the Caribbean, Central America and Oceania, provided a significant donation which helped kickstart the campaign.
Digicel’s donation provided a catalyst for other companies to get on board. The Barbados Olympic Association helped out with the cost of flights; hockey specialists Osaka provided sticks, balls, bags and shoes to the team – all items that are difficult to source in the Caribbean – and the University of the West Indies gave the team access to training facilities.
Unbelievably, this still wasn’t enough to fund the team’s expenses and so family and friends dug into their pockets to support the players, as well as donors who gave generously via a GoFundMe account.
Dave Cox says that despite this support, there is still a small debt to be paid off. But for the players and coaching staff the fund raising efforts were worth it.
A second place finish in Salamanca, qualification for Hockey World League Round 2 and a move up the FIH Hero World Rankings from 54 to 48 are all signs that hockey is moving in the right direction. It also provides evidence that the sport is becoming more professional in terms of its preperation and development, which is a one of the four Big Goals of FIH's 10-year Hockey Revolution which aims to make hockey a global game that inspires the next generation. For more information on the Hockey Revolution click here.
For more information about hockey in Barbados, visit the Barbados Hockey Association website by clicking here.
More information about hockey in the Pan American region can be found here by clicking here.