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International Youth Day: Hockey heroes inspiring the next generation

August 12, 2015
FIH celebrates International Youth Day by looking at inspirational projects around the world

Role models are everywhere in hockey. Whether we admire the inspirational Marsha Cox leading the way as the most capped team player – male or female – in South Africa or look towards the super skilled Jamie Dwyer in the green and gold of Australia, we can all recognise a hero on the hockey field.

It’s players like these that first attracts and engages the hockey stars of the future but, behind the scenes, it is often someone with less visual profile who proves to be the inspiration that fuels a life-long love of hockey.

Today, on the United Nations International Youth Day, FIH looks at some of those people who are making their mark on young people’s lives around the world.

Three young umpires are leading the way when it comes to inspiring the next generation. “As a class each year, we often explore the countries I am about to visit.” says FIH umpire Kylie Seymour from Australia, who teaches a class of eight and nine year olds in Sydney.

She continued: “Most of my students haven't been out of Sydney, let alone our state, so they are always fascinated by what is going on around the world. This year, while looking at the concept of families in a variety of different cultures, we wrote letters to my hockey umpiring contacts all around the world. The students were super excited to receive letters, emails, pictures and videos back.”

“Through my various trips, their exposure in the local media and by sharing my experiences with the school community, the students, teachers and parents have been introduced to our fantastic sport,” she adds.

Sarah Wilson also uses hockey to inspire her students. The former Scottish U21 international has been promoted to the FIH World Development Panel and is likely to be under consideration for nomination to officiate at next year’s Rio Olympic Games.

She teaches physical education in a secondary school in Edinburgh, Scotland and actively encourages her students to get involved in all aspects of sport, not just playing it, but officiating and organising as well. 

“I have put a group of my pupils through their Youth Umpiring Award,” she says. “It allows them to gain knowledge of the rules and umpire games at youth level. I get my team to umpire small-sided games in practice and during school time to appreciate the etiquette involved in officiating.”

And Karen Bennett, a primary school teacher from New Zealand, has become a star-turn in the small community of Banks Peninsula. “Parents and kids follow my umpiring on live-stream and the YouTube channel. Hockey has really become the ‘go-to’ sport at lunchtime and people clamour for photos and updates when I get back from a tournament.”

It is not just those at the elite level of competition that play their part in inspiring youth. Across the globe, you will discover projects that have grown out of one person’s love and passion for the sport.

Mark Jarvis has just returned from working in Ghana through the FIH Targeted Assistance Programme (TAP) which aims to raise aspirations and confidence levels through hockey.

That particular TAP is a collaboration between FIH, UK Sport, England Hockey and the African Hockey Federation, but the people directly involved are a coach, coach educator and umpire educator who are combining their passion for the game with a desire to make a big change in the West African country.

“I am working primarily as a coach alongside Darren Cheeseman and Siegfried Aikman, although I also work as an umpire coach, training both adult and junior coaches,” says Jarvis, a former British Royal Air Force serviceman who now teaches in Cambridgeshire, England.

“We have been running training sessions and umpire courses for kids aged between 10 and 16 from the local schools in Accra, plus kids from Kumasi, (the capital city of the Ashanti, a semi-island exclave in the rain forest).”

The visits to Accra and Kumasi saw more than 150 children in total benefit from the work of Jarvis and his fellow coaches.

And these are not isolated cases, far from it. Across the world, players and former players at all levels, coaches and umpires are getting involved in activities that seek to improve and educate members of the local community, using hockey as the vehicle for inspiration.

For more information about the United Nations International Youth Day, visit: http://www.un.org/youthenvoy

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