Sean Van Staden
Columnist
3 minute read
14 Jun 2014
12:00 pm

Hockey must think out of the box to progress

Sean Van Staden

Playing hockey might seem insignificant to some because, how can you regard someone who training and playing all day, actually working?

Sean van Staden

Why should players get paid, and why should sponsors place their hard earned business money into teams that are not guaranteed to win anything?

Why should a sport like hockey even get the recognition they think they deserve when they hardly even feature in the world rankings?

This is what you probably are thinking, but wait! Possibly this truth is further from reality than you think.

In the next five years I predict South African hockey, both men and women, will feature prominently on the world circuit.

Hockey can be considered a wounded race horse in South Africa. Our national men’s and woman’s hockey teams are ranked 12th and 11th out of 60 plus countries. This might seem pretty fantastic since Bafana Bafana with unlimited funds are ranked 65th in the world. The problem with hockey, which just so happens to be an Olympic sport, is not funded very well.

Sponsors like Investec, SuperSport and Mugg and Bean have come on board, but their pockets are limited in what Hockey SA actually needs to get to the top five rankings in the world, let alone compete at international level. Our national players are just not getting enough international experience so when the South African Hockey Association do find some sort of funds available to tour, they just don’t seem to feature very well.

The reason that South African rugby has moved from primarily a local game to an international Super Rugby tournament is precisely the reason to compete at a higher level against teams that are the cream of the international crop. And, of course, there’s the not so small matter of money.

This can only strengthen local structures and create a breeding ground for innovation in sport. Lower level teams naturally progress because they mimic what their heroes are doing. This is probably the product of a Darwinian accelerated evolutionary theory, Adapt or die.

The solution for SA hockey is to create an alliance with neighbouring countries and setting up their own international league.

Sponsors will flock for television coverage and you would probably find that the sponsor’s pockets are in fact deeper than originally thought and sponsors would get more bang for their buck. It’s a win win situation.

Another great innovation in hockey, which is in the pipeline, is the possibility of the start of an international Action Hockey League, similar to cricket’s T20. Fast paced, high energy and shorter times per game. This will hopefully attract bigger crowds, more exposure to the hockey, more money and develop a bigger fan base in the lead up to the next Olympic Games.

Ultimately hockey and every other sport in South Africa should stop looking to government like a beggar, and start thinking out of the box.

Look to innovate the sport, look to adding value for sponsors and when you get a sponsor, look after them, treat them like gold and not like a prostitute.

Don’t miss my column next week where I will be covering a truly great innovation in sport which Stellenbosch University are pioneering. This is why my prediction for hockey in South Africa can only go from strength to strength.