Famous Friends - Eight young local hockey players got up close and personal with a couple of Hockey World League guests.
There were awkward handshakes and bashful greetings at the start of Wednesday’s Hockey World League meet-and-greet session. Student athletes, who were in attendance to interact and pick up tips from international hockey personalities, looked nervous at the prospect of speaking to these invited guests. The stars themselves, far more used to action on the pitch, also seemed slightly uncomfortable sitting under the glare of relentless camera flashes.
However, as with all sporting matches, things got better after the warm-up. What started out as a sharing session soon turned into an informal gathering where age, experience, and rank boundaries served to aid interaction rather than establish distance.
The meet-and-greet was part of a host of initiatives introduced by the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) to inspire young local athletes “whenever there’s an occasion that is specific to a certain sport,” according to SSI athlete advisor Marcelino Jr. Lizaso. Last year, the SSI organised a similar event during the WTA Finals, featuring tennis star Li Na.
Although round 2 of the Hockey World League is in full swing at Sengkang Hockey Stadium, the Singapore men’s team captain Enrico Marican and Poland’s under-16 national team coach Mateusz Grochal took some time to dish out advice and training tips to the eight local inter-school hockey league players present at the Athletes’ Centre of the SSI.
The topics that Enrico and Mateusz touched on were wide and varied, including the highs and lows of their sporting careers, nutrition tips, and how they usually prepare for a game. Placing the audience at ease with warm and earnest demeanours, the young men also bantered with each other and shared personal anecdotes.
Enrico related that the Singapore hockey squad remained upbeat and grateful for the opportunity to garner playing experience against international stars, despite being underdogs in the Hockey World League.
In fact, Enrico hopes that his team’s optimism and tenacity in the face of difficult challenges would be a source of inspiration to the younger players.
“I hope they learn something that they can bring forward into their lives. I really want them to understand how important discipline is in field hockey,” asserted the passionate player.
It definitely seems that Enrico’s efforts to reach out to the kids were not in vain. Resolving to put in more training and playing hours following the hockey captain’s words of wisdom was Victoria School representative Muhammed Bazil Bin Kahar.
“We’ve learnt that it’s important for us to play more as a team. Also, we need to have a lot of discipline and determination,” expressed the 16-year-old.
Also keen to apply what they had learnt at the event were the C.H.I.J. St. Nicholas Girls’ School hockey captains, Sarah Phua and Quinn Cheong. The girls already have plans to “take some things from here and include them in [their] training sessions,” as Quinn puts it.
“We also learnt how they prepare for their matches, which is very important for us when we start playing for our competitions,” added Sarah.
By the end of the meet-and-greet session, boundaries and nerves had been done away with, thanks in part to both stars and students alike sharing an immense enthusiasm for the game. Enrico and Mateusz even remained behind after the official photo-taking and autograph session to mingle with their new friends, watch videos and pose for the inevitable selfies.
With opportunities such as this, the local hockey community certainly looks on track in their plan to raise the standards and inspire a new generation of players.