Wales felt the emotional pull of delvering an interactive and engaging session to over 7,000 school children ahead of their clash with hosts India on Thursday at the men’s World Cup.
The session was delivered at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KITT) and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) in Odisha, where students from across the region were treated to hockey practice with players and learnt about the international study opportunities available in Wales.
Wales captain Rupert Shipperley said: “It was an amazing experience and we feel honoured to have such a blessing from the school and to share the culture. It was heartfelt and a bit emotional.”
The lead sponsor, Study In Wales, hosted the event alongside the hockey team. The partnership seeks to bring education and sport together and will see engagements with international education institutions and their students in and around the tournament locations.
Forty schools across the state of Odisha were in attendance, with students from various state, national and international boards ranging from grades 9 to grade 12. The students took part in an interactive Q&A session and were amazed as they heard of the experiences of Welsh players who studied at Welsh universities.
Laura Fergusson, head of markets and operations at Global Wales, said: “This demonstrates perfectly why this partnership is so important. Bringing 7,000 children together through the power of education and sport will help inspire our future generations to bring their education to Wales, and possibly even find some future international hockey players.”
The relationship between Hockey Wales and Study in Wales is also strengthened by relationships with the players themselves. Several members of both the men’s and women’s squad studied at Welsh universities, and men’s team captain Luke Hawker is employed as a senior lecturer in Sport Coaching at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
Hawker said: “India is the one we’ll be looking forward to the most, playing India in India is probably an unrivalled experience.
“I came to study in Cardiff, and it wasn’t until I started playing hockey regularly as a third year student there, I then got invited into the Senior Wales Programme.
“Wales is special because of the environment, the city, coastlines and the major sporting events on your doorstep. Coming to Cardiff for me, was moving to a big city, it had a big feel to it, but actually it was more.
“It has those values associated with being a connected, close-knit community that has enabled success.”