Friday, June 14, 2024

Hockey Mentors project will help junior players make the most of circumstances

In the third part of an exclusive series, GB goalkeeper Ollie Payne aims to focus on solutions to unite the hockey family in making the sport more accessible

I am a firm believer that young athletes should look at the experiences they have gained throughout their childhood and adolescent years. This is at the core of the Hockey Mentors Academy.

Often, athletes that don’t come from the traditional background within hockey do not fully appreciate the unique skills/lessons that they have learnt, but with the Hockey Mentors Project we want to help them recognise these and make them super-strengths.

Reflecting on my own experience coming from my small local club in Devon and attending my local state school, I am able to see unique skills that helped me on my hockey journey.

For example when I was involved with England U16 I was still playing other sports and only playing club hockey twice a week- this kept things fresh for me and also allowed me to develop more skills through the other sports.

I know if I went to a private hockey school I would have had to play much more hockey and I am not sure if this would have been optimal for me.

Club hockey also gave me an opportunity to play adult sport from a young age. This improved my social skills and also gave me much more confidence in voicing my opinion to all members of the team (which is clearly vital as a GK!).

It may also be interesting to note that Fiona Crackles, a mentor in the Hockey Mentors academy and along with myself the most recent person to graduate into the GB senior squads, also attended a state school in the north of England.

Through the one-to-one sessions with mentors that we offer and other aspects of the academy, we hope that the young athletes involved will look to understand the unique skills that they already have so that they can build upon them further.

Those with barriers to success often above anything else need the feeling of belonging that means they can succeed and also mindset tips to help them on their journey. At the Mentors Project we want the mindset of our athletes to change so that they go from feeling like the odd-one-out to understanding that being different is a good thing.

This will hopefully help the athletes reach their potential and not let barriers get in the way of them achieving their goals.

From my experiences in international hockey it was clear to me that there were many different ways to the top and in fulfilling your potential. I explored this in my dissertation, which questioned 47 Durham University first team members from different sports and did further interviews with a section of them. There were two key findings.

They were that club sport was key in their development and the type of school was a small factor. Although private schools do amazing things for hockey in this country, the findings of my dissertation and my own personal experience do demonstrate that you can succeed from a state school background too.

There has recently been a lot of debate on social media surrounding concerns with England Hockey and its talent development pathways. Lots of the problems that have been raised online reflect the issues that the Hockey Mentors Academy are looking to support, to make hockey as inclusive as possible.

With so many people being passionate about the development of hockey in this country and giving equal opportunities to all, it is understandably a topic that leads to lots of strong feelings and different points of view. As a team delivering the Hockey Mentors Project we want to focus on solutions and uniting the hockey family behind making hockey the most inclusive and best sport it can be.

On our team we have people from rival clubs, state/private schools, different parental income levels and different ethnicities but they are all united in a common vision to help junior performance players with barriers to success fulfil their potential. I know from my own hockey journey that you can connect with people from all types of backgrounds and fulfil your potential in hockey if you get the right support.

Overall the Academy offers a unique opportunity for junior performance players with the biggest barriers to success. It will help them see the super-strengths that are hidden in their experience and allow them to feel fully connected to the hockey family, so their talent can shine.

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