Sunday, June 13, 2021

Should hockey follow rugby for ‘no winners’ coaching policy?

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By Helen Richardson-Walsh | Opinion

I’m saddened when I see and hear stories of youngsters, at school level in particular, where the competition isn’t as strong, and who are encouraged to pass to the ‘best’ player, whose job is to try and dribble past the whole team to score the goals.

Who is winning in that situation?

That ‘team’ might win that game, or that tournament, but I can’t imagine many actually enjoy that situation.

Would you enjoy being made to feel your contribution isn’t valued? I know that’s something I’d not go back for.

As for that ‘best’ player, the pressure on them is actually so great, and completely unrealistic, it won’t be as fun as it could be, and even if they do enjoy the thrill of scoring the goals and being, as the media would say, the match winner, as soon as they step up a level or two and join the world of adult hockey, they’ll get a huge shock to the system, and maybe even quit when they realise that the game isn’t played that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are many incredible coaches out there at every level that do try and develop teams and not just individuals.

However, it does make me wonder if rugby has got it right with their ‘no winners’ policy for under 12’s.

It challenges all the coaches, and the parents for that matter, to consider the importance of sport beyond the result. If you’d asked me this a decade ago I might’ve scoffed “how do you produce winners!” – a reaction I know many still have.

Yet, knowing that winning is something you can learn how to do, like any other skill, I don’t believe this should be at the expense of developing team players that learn to love the game, regardless of the level they might eventually reach.

This is an extract from Helen’s return as a Hockey Paper columnist from our early April issue. Don’t miss out on her incisive commentary every month. Subscribe now!

After nearly two years away, we are back as a print product for readers.

Our concept was first conceived thanks to several meetings and plenty of laughs with respected journalist Graham Wilson, who sadly passed away before the first issue was published.

And it is now a thrill to return subscription-only as we chart GB’s Olympic defence ahead of Tokyo 2020 next year.

The relaunch is again in Graham’s memory.


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