Erwin Handura eats, sleeps and breathes hockey. The Head Coach of Namibia women’s indoor hockey team explains that not only is he Head Coach for both the outdoor and indoor women’s squads, he is also Head of Development and Portfolio Holder with the Namibian Hockey Association and coaches hockey at the University of Namibia. Much of his coaching work is done on a voluntary basis and, in his own words, hockey is a passion that “takes too much of my time”.
Not that there is any chance of Erwin giving up any of his hockey commitments anytime soon. We met at the end of the Fifth Women’s Indoor World Cup in Berlin, where Namibia had finished a credible ninth. Erwin was relatively pleased, although his original target was to finish in the top eight. This result them ranked the top women's indoor African team in the latest edition of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Hero Indoor World Rankings, in position 11th, five places ahead of rivals South Africa.
An appearance at the Indoor World Cup is one reward for a development system that began back in 1995, suffered a demise from 2004 until 2015, but in recent years been raised to a whole new level.
“We have a three year plan which runs from 2015-18, so our target is to introduce hockey to all 14 regions in Namibia,” said Erwin. “We go to one area and introduce hockey into four primary schools. We give the schools equipment, sticks and balls and, over a four day period, we hold an introductory course for the teachers; we spent two days coaching the children and teachers together; then on the fourth day we have a festival.”
Just three days to learn the game?
Erwin is certain of it. He said: “In just three days kids can play hockey, largely because they already know football or netball and the principles are the same. They can pick it up quickly and it is so important that they play the game."
Getting the children to play regularly is one of the stipulations that comes as part of the hockey development programme. In return for four days of coaching and a set of equipment, the schools must agree to enter a local mini league with other schools on the programme.
The programme is funded by one of the Namibian national banks and, although the sponsorship is due to come to an end this year, Erwin is confident the programme will be extended. Much of this confidence is based on the good performances of the national indoor team, both in qualifying for the Indoor World Cup and for their results at the event.
The original programme, which Erwin ran from 1995 to 2003, has produced a number of elite players. Captain in Berlin was Magreth Mengo – a product of the 1995 coaching programme. Many of the children from that programme were part of the team that came third in the Junior World Cup qualifier in 2004.
“We have the players to be good,” says Erwin. What Namibia lacks is facilities and a wide pool of coaches and umpires.
To that end, Erwin is looking to big businesses and support from national and international governing bodies. “There is a growing interest in sponsoring hockey, especially indoor hockey,” says Erwin. “We are discussing this with banks and businesses. For an investment, a bank could have its name on a state-of-the-art indoor facility for the next 10 to 20 years.”
To address the coaching and umpiring gap, Erwin is encouraged by what he has seen in Berlin. “The FIH Academy was running a High Performance Coaching Course for indoor hockey and there were several coaches from African nations there. That is what we need – to get our coaches on these courses.
“If we can get the structure right, we will be looking at a top six finish at the next Indoor World Cup.”
Such development programmes are great examples of National Associations engaging with the International Hockey Federation's strategy. With an aim of making hockey a global game that inspires future generations, Namibia's development is an example of positive progress being made in the African continent.
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