During the 1980s and the early part of the 90s Hockey in Australia had a broad base of support and people playing the sport across the country.
These people came from all walks of life, but now for some reason the game in this country – a country that is considered by many to be leader in the game – is now only played by a very exclusive group.
It has in effect become a sport run by the elite for the elite. This must end and must end now otherwise the game in Australia will disappear into irrelevance.
We have to take the game back into schools, we have to broaden the base and we have to get more people interested in the game and more young people interested in playing the game. In this paper I am going to explore some ways that we can use to achieve that.
During the 1980s and early part of the 1990s when I went to primary school you would regularly play hockey as part of the Physical Education classes. It was part of the school sports programs in both the private and public schools systems and there were always inter-school competitions.
From around the mid to late part of the nineties the sport seem to disappear – at first from the public school sector where it is now non-existent, and later in the private system.
The governing bodies who run the game in Australia have failed to put the effort into producing a game and the resources to go with it that are simple for schools and teachers to implement who in most cases have never played the game.
The governing bodies have failed to come up with a modified format of the game, which is easy, cheap and safe to play in schools while keeping the basic integrity of the full game in place.
So how do we change this? How do we take the game back into schools?
The first step is to develop a modified version of the game that is tailored to school and actually works, a game that doesn’t necessary need a full hockey field or a hockey turf to play it.
Therefore I am proposing a new modified game call X8s Hockey, this game while based on the full game only requires a maximum of eight players per team on the field at any one time, and each team is only allowed a maximum of two interchange players on the side lines. It also removes the feet rule from the game other than in the attacking and defensive circles, and takes away the dangerous penalty corner.
We have reduced the games to a total of two eight-minute halves with a four-minute half-time break, meaning that games can be over and done with in a maximum of 20 minutes. All of this will make it more appealing to schools, and the game much more straightforward hopefully to teach, while still keeping the basic integrity in place.
Action needs to be taken. I urge Hockey Australia, the state bodies and the hockey community to have this debate.
The Kookaburras missed a medal and the semi-final round at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the first time they have missed the medal round since the 1980 boycott (2012 was eight in a row), a record better than all the other top-ten ranked nations in the world.