It’s all about the role that hockey can play in promoting a healthy lifestyle as Tonga celebrates Olympic Day on 23 June.
Although Tonga has one of the best overall levels of health among the Pacific Islands, largely thanks to government investment in areas such as child mortality and communicable diseases, it still has a high level of obesity and associated lifestyle diseases.
The population are particularly at risk from diabetes and cardiovascular disease, despite many preventative strategies being implemented over the past decade.
It is to help address this situation that the national hockey federation has decided to make a healthy lifestyle the focus of its activities as it celebrates Olympic Day.
The Tongan Hockey Federation will be working alongside the Tonga Olympic Committee to raise awareness of hockey and to provide opportunities for people of all ages and all abilities to get involved with the sport.
While the full programme of activities is still to be finalised, the key concept is to get people physically active through a host of hockey-related activities. The aim is to engage with those already playing the sport, those who used to play and those who have never picked up a stick in their lives – promoting the idea that hockey is a sport for all.
Small-sided games, hockey skills and other activities will be run by experienced coaches and national team players.
There are five main strands to the Tongan Hockey Federation’s Olympic Day activities.
There will be a strong message surrounding the Equally Amazing campaign. In a country where many young girls and women do little sporting activity, this is a chance to change that.
Many of the activities will focus on primary school children, with the idea that encouraging an active lifestyle from an early age will develop habits that last a lifetime.
The presence of national team players at the various activities will inspire people, particularly youngsters, to pick up a hockey stick. These athletes are role models, who can use their status to drive home important messages about the benefits of living a healthy life.
Many of the activities will be centred around villages and communities that have no prior hockey experience. This is all part of a drive by the hockey federation to attract new players to the sport.
And finally, throughout the day, the undermining message is all about good health. Taking exercise, eating well and raising awareness of the dangers of drug use and abuse will be recurring themes.
The Tongan Hockey Federation is determined to make hockey a force for good in the country’s drive for healthier living.