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Back You are here: Home Sports Hockey Kwa Zulu Natal Maritzburg College- Hockey MIC
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 20:40

Maritzburg College- Hockey MIC

Having produced 24 international hockey players, six who have represented South Africa at the Olympic Games and a staggering 44 SA Schools Under 18 players, Maritzburg College is recognized as one of the premier schools in the sport of hockey. In the last 2 years College were able to produce an 80.3% win record across all their teams results from the 1st XI down to the 14F team.It is a record to be proud of and one which sees College players striving to maintain and improve upon year in and year out. Brandon Swart is the Master in Charge of the sport at College and he shared his views as to why Maritzburg College remain so dominant in hockey.

What is your background in the sport Brandon?

This is my first year as MIC of Hockey. I am also a provincial coach of 4 years and currently coach the KZN Midlands Under 16 side as well as being an Executive Committee member of the Natal Midlands Boys' Hockey Association. I would say that I have become a student of the game during the years in terms of coaching and have had the privilege of coaching with and learning under schoolboy coaching legends Keith Fairweather and Mike Be'chet. I attribute a lot of what I know as a coach to Mike Be'chet - who is an absolute wealth of knowledge - and to have someone like that at College as a backup and a support is a huge advantage for me because he has made College hockey what it is today.

Over the last 2 years College has only lost just under 19% of all the matches they have played. How are losses taken when they happen?

College boys and College teams never take losing well - that is a fact and a given. We are a competitive school and strive to win as much as we can. Certainly in hockey we only lose a few games each season in relation to the number we play, but this does not mean that we treat losing as a disaster! Losing is part of sport and education and we are in the fortunate position where we have very competent and experienced coaches who are able to put all set-backs into the right perspective. When we lose we aim to identify what factors caused the loss and attempt to improve them for the next game - it's a simple aim. Schoolboys who are passionate often allow their judgment of a situation to be clouded over with emotion and thus the coaches always ensure that set-backs are dealt with in the right manner. Coaching school kids is always about managing the emotions and channelling energies into the right areas. With College sport being synonymous with a winning culture, it's easy to work through the losses because the players don't want it to happen again so they know the work needed at the next practice.






Now you are coaching the Under 14A team at College, how important is it to get the coaching right at this junior level?

Absolutely crucial! The way I look at it is that at Junior Schools there is a very simple game plan taught, it just focuses on simple skills and structures. Now by the time the boys get to high school they are in a position to be developed into 'real' hockey players and have to be taught skills which will take them to a totally new level. I think the level of 'basic raw skills' coached at u14 is the main difference between your good hockey schools and those with average ability. The strong hockey schools have coaches who have an intimate knowledge of the game and can coach the essential skills needed at an Under 14 level; that is what we do here at College, in the u14 year we focus heavily on these core skills that will allow the hockey players ability to develop ten-fold. I personally enjoy coaching at this level - I enjoy coaching skills - and there is a very real sense of achievement when you are able to see a player improve so vastly over a season after working with them.



How popular is hockey at the feeder schools?

Hockey is popular at junior schools - many kids are playing the game in the 3rd term primary schools season. I recently spent some time at Kearsney watching the Natal Under 13 tournament and it was very exciting to see many boys playing at a good level from the feeder schools. Obviously the question you have to ask is 'what sport will they play when they get to high school?' because generally they want to play rugby, which unfortunately clashes with hockey at most high schools. At College we don't offer both sports as we feel that ultimately one of either of the sports will take a back seat and the standard would suffer. So because a boy often has to choose his preference, you have very good hockey players playing rugby and vice-versa. However, this means that the boys will focus on their chosen sport and work hard to excel at it. The important factor is though, that primary school hockey is popular and is providing the important, initial grounding that young players need.

What has been the reason for College's tradition of being a leader in schoolboy hockey?

College is a hockey institution. Boys are coming here because they know that their hockey will improve. Without bias, I could probably easily say that College is probably one of, if not, the best school to go to if a player wants to improve in the sport in KZN. Hockey has never been a status sport, even at a national level, it is viewed as an underdog sport by many in the shadow of soccer and rugby.  I would say, however, that the main reason why we have such a tradition of doing well is because of the early commitment and dedication of a few key staff members about 25 years ago. There were some staff who where passionate hockey people and they were given the opportunity to run with the sport and they did extremely well in setting up solid foundations and creating an ethos where players learn to strive for excellence. One must remember that hockey was generally frowned upon and only became an official school sport from 1974, so it has quite a young history at the school. These early foundations that were laid provided the perfect launch-pad for the success we have seen over the last two decades. We are also fortunate that every A & B team is coached by current or former provincial coaches and we also have 2 current South African u21 players on our coaching staff - this ensures that we are always up to speed with the game on a national level. The players who have come through our systems have bought into a culture of commitment, sacrifice and dedication: 3 values   key to our coaching philosophy here at College. During the last 15 years hockey has really become a strong sport at the school, because of the foundation that was established years ago, testimony to this is that 16 of the 24 College Old Boys who have played for South Africa were selected during this time. Another key success factor is obviously our facilities.


How have the facilities of the school helped the sport?


Facilities have been a huge factor in giving us an advantage. In 1998 we put the first schools AstroTurf field down on the continent of Africa. That helped us to attract hockey players because no other schools had that type of facility. We were also lucky to have the AB Jackson AstroTurf next door to us, so guys were already practising on this surface before 1998 as grass hockey was being phased out. Since we have had this turf we have been second to none and have produced the best years of hockey in the school's history. Of course many of the other schools have also started laying down AstroTurf fields and the level of competition has started to get tighter which is good because it services South African hockey better. The new surface that we re-laid in 2007/2008 is a fully water based surface of test-match quality and probably one of the better surfaces in the whole province, thus ensuring that our top players are being trained on the best surface available.

How much post match details are studied by the coaches at College?

It is essential to be able to break down the various components of a match. Here at College we make use of a program called Dart Fish which is a tagging program, which basically allows the coach to watch on video specific segments or details. Some of the boys have the responsibility to video the matches and then a coach can, for example, if he wants to look at his teams short corners he can get just queue up those short corners of the game. Or a specific player can be tagged and the coach can look at how they are passing, how many times has he intercepted or how many times has he 'fluffed' it. This is what is happening at international level and because the game has become so fast, it is imperative that we make us of this program and video analysis as it is impossible to pick up all the problem areas from the sideline during the game. This key, strategic analysis allows us to plan our practice sessions accordingly. Our coaches here often also engage each other and have input on each others teams and methods to ensure we are always covering the bases and different perpectives.

A boy arrives at College and wants to play hockey, what are you wanting to achieve with him?

It sounds almost 'cheesy' but we are primarily trying to service the game at the national level by equipping players with the necessary skills and temperament to achieve there. For us it is quite simple, you make a provincial side, you go to an Inter-Provincial Tournament and from there you can be selected for a national side. So what we try do for those boys who come here is that we want to give them the skills to play for South Africa - it's as simple as that. We recognise the different phases in achieving that goal like making the school under 14A side, then making the provincial side that year, then clocking over to the next level and ultimately going through the ranks of the College and Midlands teams; and from there being in a position to be selected for the SA Under 18 team. Boys who are serious about hockey here at College know that they can achieve a lot in the sport. Every year College supplies 45-50% representation of all KZN Midlands Hockey teams in u14, u16 & u18! We believe that we can offer an aspiring hockey player some of the best opportunities to accomplish and succeed.

How do you motivate your players to strive and perform?

Our hockey motto is: "We choose to do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard"

We try to get our players to play not only against the opposition, but against themselves to continually challenge their performances to become better individual and team players.

We have this motto on a large sign next to the College side of our dugout so our players are constantly reminded of it while they play and practice.

What makes an ideal hockey player?

think it is a combination of mental strength, skill, a tactical read for the game and also speed. Players who are mentally strong enough to put in the 'hard yards' to develop themselves skillfully and physically will achieve. I also say speed because hockey rules have changed quite a lot over the last years to make the game faster and more entertaining. Thus, it is becoming crucial that players are able to play at speed and make decisions quickly. Guys who harness all these skills are the ones clocking over to school's and men's national teams.


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