On the 8 and 9 October, St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls in Kloof hosted the Investec Hockey Academy.

HOW MANY? Girls, from all over KZN and further afield, gathered during the school holidays eager to meet SA’s hockey icons and to learn everything they could from these greats of the game.

Among the coaches who passionately spent time sharing their expertise with these young, aspiring players were SA Women’s Hockey players’ Shelley Russell, Kelly Madsen, Bernadette Coston and Sulette Damons, as well as SA Men’s Hockey player Wade Paton, SA Women’s Indoor Hockey player Jess Glass and SA Under-21 Women’s Team coach Lindsey Wright. The national Women’s Hockey Head Coach, Sheldon Rostron, was also there to demonstrate his coaching skills with coaches and provide players with a few tips.

The Fundamental Players’ Course (ages 8 to 11) focused on instilling the basics in players; such as team and individual skill sets, mental toughness, nutrition and supplementation, as well as warm up and cool down methods. The younger girls had a great time and learnt important core hockey skills that will set them up for their growth in the sport as they grow older.

For the girls on the Intermediate Course (ages 12 to 15), the focus was on intensive skills training and individual skill-set development. They went through key elements such as match-specific training, recovery and supplementation, skill drills and mental toughness lectures. As the biggest group at the academy, the girls said they had learnt a lot, enjoyed working with all of the coaches and felt that they had made a few new friends too!

The Advanced Player’s Course (ages 16 to 18) saw girls learning a range of position-specific skills such as goal scoring, goal setting and defence. They also took part in a fitness assessment which assessed their aerobic flexibility, speed and strength. They had the chance to play a game under the guidance of national coach, Sheldon Rostron.

Running concurrently with the Advanced Players Course was the Advanced Schools Coaches Course, where coaches were able to watch and learn from Sheldon Rostron and Lindsey Wright while they worked with the girls.

Schools from all over the country were in attendance – some as far-flung as Midstream College Primary in Pretoria and even Chisipite Junior School in Harare. KwaZulu-Natal girls were strong in numbers, with pupils from Ashton International College, Grantleigh School, Our Lady Of Fatima Dominican Convent School and, of course, St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls.

Overall, every girl was able to take home new lessons from the course she was on, whether it was basic game skills or tips on nutrition for athletes. A fun time was had by all, with girls forging new friendships and enjoying an educational day out with their teammates.