The idea that sport in Scotland has to improve its quality has been roaming around sports representatives’ heads for years. And with exactly this in mind, Scottish Hockey is now undergoing a transformation. For the first time, three professional coaches have been appointed to work with selected National League hockey clubs on a full-time basis.
Since April of this year, Scottish Hockey launched the Professional Coaching Programme to help develop both current and future hockey talents in teams around the country. Eight months later, the first phase implementation is over.
After a successful application and interview rounds, three candidates were picked to commence the programme: John McKnight will be coaching Men at Clydesdale Hockey Club, Sandy Keith will be in charge of Granite City Wanderers‘ Women, and Chris Anderson will coach Grove Menzieshill‘s Men. Lee Cousins, Non-Executive Director of Scottish Hockey, is convinced that their appointment will be rewarding in many ways.
“These individuals have the required coaching qualifications and experience to make a positive impact across the range of activities included in their remit and to bring success to the clubs they are working with,” he said.
The experience of these coaches is diverse and all have achieved several titles and success within the clubs that they will now be coaching full-time. Among their most interesting achievements, in 2006 McKnight finished runner-up with his team in the Scottish Cup; while Keith has been successful both in indoor and outdoor formats and has had several district and international coaching positions; on the other hand, Anderson led t Menzieshill’s 2nd team to National Indoor League Division 2 titles in 2010 and 2011.
With this, Scottish Hockey not only looks to strengthen the abilities of its athletes and coaches at international level, more interestingly, it aims to improve its National League and have stronger competitions around the country.
Cousins considers that this programme will not only benefit players and coaches currently affiliated to local hockey clubs, but will also open the door for university players interested in turning professional.
“Universities are a huge generator of players and 83% of our members have been to university,” he explains. “It’s important that we bridge the transitional period between university and joining a local hockey club by offering players the opportunity to be coached by experienced and qualified individuals.”
The creation of this programme was also thanks to the support of Aberdeen Asset Management, the largest ever investor in the development and growth of hockey in Scotland. Founded in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1983 this group of investors nowadays operates in 23 countries around the world.
Aberdeen Asset Management decided to get involved with this idea because according to its CEO Martin Gilbert, it is a “forward-thinking programme” that will increase the professionalism of hockey coaching in Scotland.
“We are partnering with Scottish Hockey in an effort to change the culture of hockey coaching, creating career opportunities and making the distinction between professional coaches and development officers within the sport,” he says.
But the programme has not only been planned for male hockey players. It also seeks to generate greater opportunities for women in hockey by “supporting the Women in Coaching scheme which provides mentors to female coaches, advising how to progress as a professional coach and raising awareness of the opportunities available,” Gilbert concluded.
With all these plans into action, Scottish Hockey has tackled several objectives established by Sport Scotland’s “Coaching Scotland 2011-15” strategy. Specially when it comes to developing an adequate workforce of coaches within the sport, which they will do through recruiting and retaining the right coaches and ensuring that they are supported, developed and recognised for their contribution.
Perhaps the actual results of the programme will only be evident to public eye in several years. But with a plan that will consider all levels of the game from elite to grassroots, and the appointment of these first three professional coaches, Scottish Hockey is certainly taking the right path to vindicate Scotland’s reputation in sports.