Hockey for All : Hockey Para Todos – Junior development lesson#1 !

(Dedicated to inspirational  Argentine hockey coach Carlos “Chapa” Retegui , the fantastic Las Leonas players  ( #27 xx) & the hockey family in Argentina)

Carlos Retequi Leonas Coach, a former international and one of the father's of the modern game in Argentina.

Carlos Retequi Leonas Coach, a former international and one of the father’s of the modern game in Argentina.

Intro

All three of my own children, now in their thirties , play club hockey to a high regional standard, one’s great keeper, the others speedy forwards. It was following them in their very early teens, taking along my camera, that introduced me to the sport and its wonderful sport spirit and community and I have to thank the game for it’s very positive influence on their personal and social development but also for enriching my own life from the touchline with my camera at all levels.

Through my professional coverage of the game at all levels and through interactions and dialogues with fans , players and back staff on line on social media, I have also actively promoted the merits of the game and voluntarily supported various international teams and their players through photography and online journalism. No other part of the international hockey family or national team  has touched me more or shown such appreciation or recognition for my work than the hockey community of Argentina , typified in the fact  that over half my friends on Facebook are fans, players, club and national officials and coaches from grassroots to the awesome national women’s team “Las Leonas.”

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Coaching Hockey for all. Junior Development . Lesson #1.

Introducing my grandson to hockey with "granddad's stick game !

Introducing my grandson to hockey with “granddad’s stick game !

 

Interests and passions are first developed at home from a very early age (trust me I am a qualified special educator!) just as language and the joy for reading  are inspired by sitting together child and parent and sharing. The child associates the book with good feelings, security and reward. The same with early toys and the child repeating a process, say a shape matching game  that gives them a sense of can do  and success so they repeatedly play with the toy. Peer pressure in the distant future  will come in eventually but very young children are chiefly influenced by their parents and the things they do within the home, hence, at 16 months , having seen me at my piano, my little  grandson copied me and played when we sat him on the stool. Likely it registers with the very young from books, instruments , recorded music heard and other objects around the home that those things have value and meaning. (Likely too that if they see both parents doing chores then they will not have gender role issues later on!) You very likely are what you live as a young kid.

To introduce a child to sport you should follow the same process – it can start at such an early age, the earlier the better , with just  a very simple game. Here I came up with a simple game , planting the seed of the idea with my little grandson ( sixteen months old) because in a real sense the stick is the unique symbol for the game.  I wouldn’t force him into the game – if he lects to later on fine. The game for me demonstrates excellent values and has enriched my own life , not playing , but photographing it and through dialogue, brung me many new friends.

Little one here   has just learned to walk so he will not actually be playing for a while but, now he likes to play  “Where’s Granddad’s stick?”

That game is so very simple. “Granddad” (or you the hockey keen mum or dad) places the stick between his knees and the little one pulls is out , holds it and then is encouraged to  puts it back. Then I say “Where’s granddad’s stick” and he points! He pulls is out , shows me and then replaces it. I then hide the stick and pretend I can’t find it, leaving the curve showing. He finds the stick and gives it to me.

Little one gets an early grasp of the game, starting with the basic - hold the stick. He needed no tutoring in that !

Little one ( at 16 months ) gets an early grasp of the game through play, starting with the basic – hold the stick. He needed no tutoring in that !

On his next visit the little stick will be on the sofa and we will surely play it again. That is the end of lesson one!

What shirt do I wear?

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A treasured personal gift from ARG national coach.

A treasured personal gift from ARG national coach.I don’t do Visa but thank them for sponsoring the team!

 

You may notice the shirt I am wearing at home that day and I do not actually play the game myself although my own children, now in their thirties all do and they got into the game because they were lucky enough to meet a great coach in the start of their teens from an initiative in a nation where most schools do not actually play the game. I wore that shirt for a very good reason, given to me by one of the father’s of the modern game in Argentina at the end of a press conference in London 2012 after a Pre-Olympics  invitational tournament where the main interest was Argentina v GB and simply to raise a smile when he sees this new  family picture , again what has grown from a simple and selfless  act of kindness towards me. Gracias Chapa.

My grandson will not notice the shirt, recognise the badges, ( or the blue and white flag I keep in my office  drawer , the signed #27 shirt hanging there too and that is of no consequence because hockey is a family of people who love the game regardless of what flag or coloured shirt you wear or what language you speak or where you live. Hockey is a game for all (Hence “Hockey Para Todos” in my title – reflecting  the name of a national grassroots inclusive innitiative in Argentina to engage with youngsters across , get them off the streets , into a club, working co-operatively with each other , more active and in a safe environment with family  fun thrown in .)

This is a national drive to encourage positive social change  in the knowledge that hockey   brings so many positives socially, physically and developmentally  and builds confidence, respect for others, co-operation and other life skills on top of fitness and ball skills  and hand eye skills  development. The hooked stick is the universal symbol that identifies the sport and those hooked on it!

#Foot note:

Whilst for my grandson, that Argentine shirt is and must not be of any significance because the young do not have any concept  of nationality and they do not discriminate say against other kids who say have a different coloured skin. Adults  reading this and seeing the photograph and my affection for Argentina and it’s hockey community may bring their own politics and prejudices and think it odd or unpatriotic but I am a huge fan of my own national team and do as much on a voluntary basis through my professional photography and journalism for my home team as I do for my friends Argentina.

Argentine national flag , from London 2012 pre-Olympic tournament during the national anthems. I don't speak Spanish , only french, so use Google translate to write it, send messages to my friends in Argentina and to translate their press releases for publication on social media.

Argentine national flag , from London 2012 pre-Olympic tournament during the national anthems. I don’t speak Spanish , only french, so use Google translate to write it, send messages to my friends in Argentina and to translate their press releases for publication on social media.

For me that shirt is precious not because it has any intrinsic material value but  because of who gave it to me and why he gave it to me.

It was an unsolicited acknowledgement from Carlos Chapa Retegui showing appreciation for the friendship I had shown the team and long term help in promoting it on a completely voluntary basis. For me the Argentina way of hockey is an exceptional model and the family spirit , the warmth, the fun, the humility , the passion shines  through it and the national team which Chapa over sees but he is also very active promoting the game at grass roots level working with adults and kid players with equal passion that he invests in the national teams .

Las Leonas- passion, hard work,humility, sisterhood, paying for each other as family.

Las Leonas- passion, hard work, humility, sisterhood, playing for each other as family and with joy.

 

I have never earned a cent in that effort and neither did I seek profit other than to show the game at its best and show my appreciation very publicly of the values the country embodies in its national coach and throughout the hockey community there.

That the shirt was given to me openly as a personal gift after the second press conference , more or less in front of the gathered mainstream national and some international broadcast and print media journalist fraternity (mostly British and including hockey specialist ) and big agency photographers and independent English hockey journalists too was a sweet moment for a small business, independent freelance photographer either virtually unknown  and even, with some justification,  seen as  bit of thorn in the side of the game’s establishment in my own country!

International politics have no place in sport or the game of hockey

A friendly wave of recognition from one of my favourite players in the world & one of the anchor players in the squad, here sitting it out in London nursing a leg injury prior to the final match in the series . I'd waved & signed to ask how her leg was - a thumbs up and a smile , wving back- it's an Argentine thing!

A friendly wave of recognition from one of my favourite players in the world & one of the anchor players in the squad, here sitting it out in London nursing a leg injury prior to the final match in the series . I’d waved & signed to ask how her leg was – a thumbs up and a smile , waving back- it’s an Argentine thing!

In fact both  press conferences were sparsely attended, GB having won the tournament, and the bulk of establishment media attention left to go back to their media stations for coffee  straight after the GB press call. although there as a photographer not a journalist , I was very conscious of how disrespectful the situation may have been perceived by the reps of the Argentine game , the awkward pregnant pauses that I felt compelled to try and fill by asking a few relevant questions. I was especially annoyed by one national press journalist who asked coach Carlos Retegui what for me was an extremely impertinent and deliberately provocative political question following the publicity stunt, very possibly organised with a nod from the Argentine  president herself where a male interational player was filmed one early morning training in the Falklands capital and doing stretches on the British ,military war memorial. Carlos fielded the question with good humour saying hockey was beyond politics, his mind was on the Olympics and we could talk about “Las Malvinas” after the games . Since Carlos is Spanish speaking and knows very little English( his words and the two other team representatives were translated simultaneously by an interpreter) he would naturally use the Spanish name for what in Britain we call the Falklands and in no way could his use of that word be interpreted as political, disrespectful or provocative. Yet of course, and the journalist knew this, a couple of the national press papers , who rarely even mention hockey, made his “insult” to our nation headline news. It was outrageously contemptuous in my view.

Reap what you sow?

Sole, Sole give us a wave! Now, sadly,  ex-Leonas #10 one of the best players in the world who played for Dutch Hooftklasse team SCHC & voted most effective player in that league many times. The humility, openess and accessibiloity of Leonas players is very touching & an ocassional reply to a supportive Tweet now and again from me is typical of the humility and grace of players like her

Sole, Sole give us a wave! Now, sadly, ex-Leonas #10 one of the best players in the world who played for Dutch Hooftklasse team SCHC & voted most effective player in that league many times. The humility, openess and accessibility of all the Las Leonas players is very touching & an ocassional reply to a supportive Tweet now and again from me is typical of the humility and grace of players like her. No prima donas in that team.

I live on the basis of what goes around comes around and you surely will reap just what you sow. You wave and smile as a general way of behaving and either get completely ignored or reciprocated or two fingers. The sower whether the gardener or farmer , broadcasts his or her seeds in the hope of a crop- some take some not and essentially it is the same in establishing new relationships and not always for reward or something back- with me it is simply part of my nature.

My photography enables me to record events and provides a substantial archive of world class hockey shots which at will, I can use to help the interests of the game and individual teams. It also helps to build a dialogue with people , whatever language they speak, and I continue in that via Facebook and increasingly on Twitter. Mostly responses from supportive tweets arrive as direct messages but I can tell you they confirm that behind the team are some genuinely nice people happy to wave back. That means the world to me.

My photography enables me to record events and provides a substantial archive of world class hockey shots which at will, I can use to help the interests of the game and individual teams. It also helps to build a dialogue with people , whatever language they speak, and I continue in that via Facebook and increasingly on Twitter. Mostly responses from supportive tweets arrive as direct messages but I can tell you they confirm that behind the team are some genuinely nice people happy to wave back. That means the world to me.

Carlos’s shirt is priceless to me because it symbolises that having the courage to be yourself, genuinely share and respect others , be prepared to reach out,  even at the risk of a kickback or ridicule, in general such behaviour  is , not only its own reward but roots out those who get you and share your values.

Post press conference, media tent at Nottingham after Argentina's win in the Champion's Trophy v Holland. You rarely see me looking embarrased but thank's to my pal FIH offcial photographer , who set me up here , Wolfgang, Christmas came early that year!

Post press conference, media tent at Nottingham after Argentina’s win in the Champion’s Trophy v Holland. You rarely see me looking embarrased but thank’s to my pal FIH offcial photographer , who set me up here , Wolfgang, Christmas came early that year!

 

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