Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Pros and Cons: England Hockey’s new talent development system

England Hockey’s new talent development programme aims to make ‘seismic changes in the sport in the next six to eight years. EWAN HINCKS outlines the pros and cons of the pathway and whether ‘super clubs’ could hinder the domestic game


In its simplest form, the new talent development system aims to create a ‘phenomenal generation of players’, according to England Hockey. The process extends the role of clubs beyond increasing participation to elite talent development. Ideally, talented players have more contact hours at local clubs rather than far-flung county or regional centres, generating a better environment for cultivating ability. 


The old talent ladder consisted of DC, AC, PC, Futures Cup, England Age Group, EDP, England Senior. Each stage (apart from DC) provided both an opportunity to play as part of a team against others of that level as well as a trial for the next stage of development. In the new system, the ‘participation stage’ will consist of the original county hockey as well as talent schools and talent centres (based around clubs), aimed at providing extra possibilities to improve and different pathways to the top.

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  1. There are so many issues in this discussion which are not being openly debated. I just wish that we could have a more open debate.

    For me one of the most pertinent issues is that there is no way to assess if the programme is more or less successful than the previous system – until it is complete. To quote a popular phrase “this is a promise-rich environment”.

    Any new system must be assessed at regular points to ensure it is on track, but there doesn’t seem to be quantitative assessment points except Olympic medals won – that is tracking the outcome not the journey. How does EH propose to show that the journey is working? Especially as it will take at least 8 years to see a difference.

    As the changes are so fundamental to so many clubs – is it the right change for the benefit of the game? And the definition of “right” needs to be the first question answered – what are we aiming at – for the game, not the system?

  2. If everyone in the game flourishes, the system will flourish. I’m worried the new system will alienate lower level clubs. I’m my experience most top players will start off at local club level, so enhancing the experiences at these clubs will produce more talent, rather than removing talented juniors at the expense of parent’s time and money, and general non-elite club welfare.


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