Sunday, July 21, 2024

A hockey Christmas wish list: umpire support, parahockey, indoors and cards

No turkeys here! The Hockey Paper’s columnist Todd Williams creates his 10-point vision to make hockey a better place in 2020 

Dear Santa,

I’ve just been up to my daughter’s bedroom and found her Christmas list. You can imagine how surprised I was to find just three requests. She wants world peace, rescue dogs to be given homes and a solution to global warming. Obviously you’ll see this on Twitter later when I post it with a comment like “Ah, so sweet”, when of course we both know I actually mean “Aren’t I an incredible parent???”

Seeing that the list is so short though, I was wondering if I could tack on a few “hockey” requests of my own? I’m not sure if you’ve heard of hockey but being up there in the North Pole you probably know the version that’s played on ice. The one we play here is pretty similar except a) we don’t wear skates and b) we lay an astroturf down first and then in December and January, run around on the ice that forms on top of that.

Of course for all I know, you and Mrs Claus might be avid Masters players up there in the Lapland Leagues. I’ll have a quick look on Facebook later to check. I know you like to keep a low profile, except in December but no Masters player I know can resist posting a team photo or 50, not to mention the mandatory post-game medal shot!

Anyway, here’s my list. By the way, without prioritising my needs over my daughter’s list, if you do fancy tackling climate change, it’s be really appreciated if you could still keep training nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays in January and February dry and above six degrees.

Your sled

Now I know this is cheeky but hear me out. This isn’t just for me but I’m also asking on behalf of people I know in the north of England, in places like Durham, Cardiff and Swansea.

We’ve obviously all noticed that you get around the whole planet in seemingly no time at all, although to be fair, traffic is a lot lighter when you’re at work as opposed to when we are on the M25 or M42 on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Anyway, if we can’t have the sled, then any help or advice on how to modify a car or minibus to do what your sled does would be gratefully received by many, many players, coaches and parents around the country.

Players who can trap

Santa, please don’t think I’m being a rebel or a heretic here and of course I believe that “game play” can solve every problem from urban traffic congestion to Rudolph’s unfortunate flatulence after too many carrots. On the other hand, it’s sort of noticeable that those primitive, backward thinking countries who almost cruelly train their players with all sorts of technical drills do seem in general to produce players who handle the ball a little bit better. And trapping is quite an important skill – you could say it’s almost as important as a rugby player being able to catch. Wait; no, it’s just as important.

Parahockey in clubs

Actually, Santa, can I put this at the top of my list? It’s just brilliant.

Support for umpires

I’ve read plenty about this topic recently and there are a range of areas and ways we can do this. One that immediately springs to mind is to compile some sort of database into the hobbies and interests of our National League umpires. Then, when they are appointed to a 400-mile round trip from say Exeter to Leeds, we can at least provide them with a list of things like rail museums, Roman settlements or antique car dealers that they can visit along the way.

Premier Division hockey in the North

It’s just an idea Santa but given there’s a Premier League in the South that the likes of Beeston, Brooklands and Bowdon get to play in, wouldn’t it be great if we could have one in the North as well? I’ve looked at the Premier League in football and there are loads of clubs, indeed most of them, from the North and Midlands that are nowhere near the M25 or a renovated religious temple.

11-a-side hockey

I’m sure in your youth, Santa, you would have played 5’s. It’s a great game which requires thought, skill, guile and cunning. It can be played anywhere but is best located after a league match, with teammates, in a comfortable pub or tavern and ideally in between 6 Nations’ games. Hockey 5’s, however, no matter how hard it is pushed by the FIH, is a dumb idea. A waste of time and resources, like The Hundred looming in cricket.

Indoor hockey

On the other hand Santa, indoor hockey is a great game. To the uninitiated, it’s hockey but inside. The biggest problem we face however seems to be when to play it and that’s where you come in. As you know, December is when we start sending all those lovely Christmas cards to our friends and family. Do you think, amongst the pictures of you, the reindeer, that cracking sled and all that snow, we could throw in a couple of hockey goals as a hint that it might be time to go inside until it gets a bit warmer? Actually, make that much warmer. Or should I say March warmer.

Hockey balls

Now I’m not being greedy here Santa. I don’t want new ones, I just want a few of the thousands that all those schools and clubs have lost over the last couple of years to come back. Any ideas on where they go would also be gratefully received. Is there a club somewhere shamelessly using their junior section in some sort of sweat house, scrubbing the permanent marker off and the reselling them on eBay? Or is there some dodgy scrap or foreign market that we don’t know about?

Green cards

Yes, it’s an odd request but let me explain. What I want is for umpires to give green cards for tackles in the last quarter of games that would have been a green card in the second quarter. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the threshold for deliberate breakdowns should be higher in the last quarter but that is different. The idea of a blanket “you can’t give a green card with 5 to go” makes no sense.

In fact, it’s unfair that a team should benefit from a five-minute penalty in the last quarter when they only had to endure a two-minute sanction for exactly the same type of offence earlier in the match. A goal is worth the same whether it is scored in the first minute or the last, so why should a team get over twice the time to score with an extra player in the last quarter than a team had in the second, for the same offence?

More female coaches in men’s hockey

Finally Santa, it’d be great if you could help out with this one and actually I can help. I’ve discovered that the best way to get female coaches involved in the game, including the men’s game, is to ask them. I’ve done it this year and both my men’s squad and I are loving the expert knowledge and insight. Of course, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that an experienced international athlete should have a few clues about the game but, well, there you go. So, if there’s any way on your travels of airdropping some numbers around the hockey coaches you know, then that’d be super. As I say, it just takes a call.

Our resident coaching expert Todd Williams runs regular holiday camps. For 2020 dates, go to:

Todd’s column is from our hockey safety special in our latest issue, only available via subscription in print or digital format. Keep hockey journalism flourishing in 2020 by signing up now

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