The South African women’s hockey team has notched up some impressive results, and they are passing their skills on through hockey clinics for young girls.
THE aspiring hockey players of Roedean School for Girls were treated to a training session with the South African national women’s hockey team – at present in the midst of the SA International Series – on 26 January.
Hanli Hattingh shows young Tamara Henderson the finer points of goalkeepingHanli Hattingh shows young Tamara Henderson the finer points of goalkeeping (Photo: Carey Fisher)On arriving, the younger learners flocked around the girls in green and gold, asking for autographs and pictures. The players were gracious and signed shirts, hockey sticks and balls. Only the first and second teams were allowed to train with the squad, but that didn’t keep the rest of the school’s aspiring sportswomen from looking on from the sidelines.
Lindsey Wright, the trainer of the national team, explained that the squad had already participated in seven clinics and two development clinics over the past two weeks. The team is playing in the SA International Series, in which they face Azerbaijan, China and Belgium in multiple games.
“It’s an initiative to visit as many schools as possible. It’s great promotion while the team is involved in an international tournament in the country.”
The team lined up in front of the youngsters and were introduced by the captain – also the most capped female player in South African field hockey history – Marsha Marescia. She got the girls’ spirits going, telling them: “One day you can be one of these girls in green and gold. With a lot of hard work, a lot of time and a lot of commitment, you can get here.”
After being split into groups the girls were taught various skills by South Africa’s finest before playing a friendly match against each other.
Young Tamara Henderson, who plays goalie, received special attention from Sanani Mangisa and Hanli Hattingh, two of the national team’s most promising goal keepers. “It’s really cool that they’re here. They know so much and I’m learning tonnes,” said an excited Tamara.
Concentration as Dani Forword gets down toConcentration as Dani Forword gets down to the ground to demonstrate a blocking move (Photo: Carey Fisher)As fun and fruitful as the clinic was, Wright’s comments on the difficulties the squad faced were sobering. She explained how, despite their impressive results, the team got little or no airtime and media coverage. This meant that sponsors did not come on board.
With attention mainly paid to the three male-dominated sports of cricket, soccer and rugby, young girls were unable to watch female athletes and aspire to be like them, she added. As a South African hockey player herself, she knew the obstacles women faced better than most.
“Women train just as hard as men do and often they sacrifice a lot more to do what they love … These girls are students and working. For part of my career I was a wife, mother, business woman and coach. We do this because we love the sport.”
The women’s squad, sponsored by Investec, will play 18 home test matches in just 22 days during the series. They are up against world number 14 Azerbaijan, fourth ranked China and Belgium, which is ranked 17. South Africa is ranked 12.
The team have proved their worth so far, winning four matches and drawing one against Azerbaijan. They won both matches against China at Wanderers Club, with four games to go before they travel to Bloemfontein to play Belgium.
So far unbeaten in the series, they will face China again over the next four days at Wanderers and the Randburg Sports Complex at the weekend.
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