The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is pleased to announce that the Asociacion Deportiva Nacional de Hockey de Guatemala has won the 2015 Pablo Negre Trophy, awarded to national associations for their dedication to promoting hockey and embracing the spirit of the sport.
The annual award sees them receive support from FIH official suppliers in the form of a pitch from Polytan STI and lighting courtesy of Musco Lighting, both of which will be installed free of charge within the next few months.
The news was received with great delight within the country. Speaking about the Trophy, President of the Asociacion Deportiva Nacional de Hockey de Guatemala, Pablo Reyes, said: “The award is fundamental for us because it means we can take our hockey to the next level. Currently there is no hockey pitch in the whole of Central America.
“The pitch will help to develop hockey in Central America. Guatemala will be the principal beneficiary, of course, but we want to share this award with our neighbours.”
Hockey has been developing at pace in Guatemala, driven on by Reyes and his enthusiastic team, but, as the President says, it has sometimes been a slog: “We had the full support of the Guatemalan Olympic Committee and the PAHF (Pan American Hockey Federation) when we started our journey 10 years ago but you have to bear in mind that, in the first five years, there weren't many balls and sticks – in fact no-one sells them in Guatemala – few places to play, few teams to play. To keep the interest of the people was not easy.”
Nonetheless, the national association founders persisted and followed a simple but effective strategy. First they got the 15-25 year old men involved because, says Reyes: “they are the ones that play the most sport.” Many of these players were physical education teachers so they introduced the sport into schools and clubs and began to target the 10-14 year olds.
Eventually, sisters, friends and relatives also began to take an interest in playing the game.
“Speaking about it now, I make it sound easy,” says Reyes, “but believe me, it was a very hard work. We heard the word ‘no’ more times than ‘yes’. Also, it was not only getting players, the most difficult part is to retain them.”
The development of hockey in Guatemala was given a boost in 2012 when the Association was recognised by the Sports Confederation of Guatemala. This meant the sport could access funds, which in turn meant entry into international events, the implementation of development programmes and wider promotion of the sport.
In addition, since 2006, the Guatemalan Olympic Committee, with the technical support of the PAHF, has supported coach, umpire and judging courses and provided funding to pay for travel and coaching expenses for the national teams.
Reyes explains the Association’s growth strategy: “As President, I understood that hockey couldn’t grow in the way we wanted if we continued just playing locally. We had to have an ‘international agenda’ to show the Sports Confederation of Guatemala and Guatemalan Olympic Committee that we were a serious team sport.”
Since 2012, their men’s team has featured in the FIH world rankings, the women's since 2014 (59 and 67 respectively); the men´s team competed for the first time in Central American and Caribbean Games in 2014 and played in the first Central American Indoor Hockey Championship – where the men took first place and the women second.
The next step in the development plan is to build a Hockey Academy where the elite and promising players can train and play. This, Reyes believes, will help the sport filter down and become more sustainable.
For the future, there are short and long-term objectives. Both the men and women will play in Hockey World League Round One and later in the year they will compete in the third Central American Indoor Hockey Championship – an event where Reyes expects both teams to shine.
The big target is the 2017 Central American Games in Managua. Hockey is included in the programme for the first time and Reyes has high hopes that Guatemala will be the first name on the honours board.
Guatemala is playing a vital role in developing hockey and contributing to the overall growth of the sport both within their country and beyond. The Pablo Negre Trophy is further recognition that the nation has now become a role model for other developing hockey nations.
This award is part of the FIH’s drive to celebrate success and results which contribute to the Hockey Revolution, the 10 year strategy aimed at making hockey a global game that inspires the next generation. To find out more about the Hockey Revolution, click here.
More information about the other honorary award categories and criteria, click here.
To find out more about hockey in Guatemala, click here.
Photo: Hockey En Guate Facebook