SuperSport Schools Plus

Domingo pleased with schools’ talent as SASHOC continues to grow hockey

By Avuyile Sawula , in Hockey | Featured Hockey | News , at 2024-07-08 Tags: , , , ,

SASHOC Chairperson, Wendell Domingo at this year's u18 SASHOC National Week closing ceremony. Photo credits: TeamPhotoSA
SASHOC Chairperson Wendell Domingo at the 2024 u18 SASHOC National Week closing ceremony. Photo: TeamPhotoSA

The annual SASHOC National Week tournaments concluded this past Wednesday when the curtains were drawn on the u16 events hosted at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.

In the A Section, the Boland u16 boys claimed the top honours, defeating Eastern Province 1-0 in a penalty shootout after regulation time in the final had ended at 2-2.

The girls’ section was won by Eastern Province A, who edged out Boland A 1-0 to claim their first national title since 2017.

A week before that, the Western Province boys and girls won the u13 titles.

Last month, the Western Province u18A boys successfully defended their title, holding off Boland 3-2 in the final, while Southern Gauteng beat Northern Gauteng 4-3 in a penalty shootout to take home gold in the girls’ section. The teams had finished level at 2-2 in regulation time.

While the action was exhilarating in the Free State, the u14 event was hosted in Johannesburg, where the Southern Gauteng boys won gold, while the girls’ title went to KZN Coastal.

It was four weeks of enthralling hockey, which brought together the best of the country’s school players.

One man who was pleased with the talent on show was South African Schools Hockey (SASHOC) Chairperson, Wendell Domingo, who attended all of the Bloemfontein events and experienced the action firsthand.

After the completion of the tournaments, he sat down for an exclusive interview with SuperSport Schools Plus hockey writer, Avuyile Sawula.

In it, he spoke about growing the game, how teams can look towards the top regions to learn lessons about preparation, and he also looked ahead to next year’s events.

2024 was a success

Domingo began by declaring the 2024 events a success.

The u14 tournament, after several years of being played on a regional basis, was re-introduced as a national tournament, with Jeppe High School for Boys and King Edward VII hosting it during the holidays.

Meanwhile, Bloemfontein hosted the u13, u16, and u18 events for a second year running.

“Our events seem to be getting better as the years unfold, and I’m quite pleased,” Domingo told SuperSport Schools Plus.

“The standard of hockey has improved from what it was two or three years ago. I’m also happy that our regions are embracing our plans for the future.

“We started eight years ago trying to transform our game and giving everyone an opportunity to participate, and the teams are happy. There’s camaraderie among the players, and it looks like our future is in safe hands.”

Domingo cited out Western Province A and Boland A as two of the regions who are "planning well" ahead of each SASHOC National Week. Photo credits: TeamPhotoSA
Domingo cited Western Province A and Boland A as two of the regions that are “planning well” ahead of each SASHOC National Week. Photo: TeamPhotoSA

How teams can prepare better

In the u18 event, the Western Province boys were a cut above the rest and, despite being pushed by a resilient Boland side in their second meeting with their neighbours at the SASHOC National Week, they finished the tournament unbeaten.

That clean record was a repeat of the achievement of the 2023 Western Province team, and it was also a third gold medal in succession for Province.

Boland, who finished in fourth place in 2023, finished as the runners-up this time around, while KZN Coastal A secured the bronze medal for a second year in a row.

Those three teams were challenged by Southern Gauteng A, Northern Gauteng A, and KZN Inland A.

Meanwhile, in the girls’ section, Southern Gauteng A was unstoppable, while Northern Gauteng A and KZN Coastal A, the silver medal and bronze medal winners, were not far off the pace.

Domingo said the performances of those teams was a testament to the hard work those regions are putting in. He added that exposing players to club hockey further helps their development.

“Western Province, Boland, and a few of our top regions, seem to be getting it right,” he said.

“They start preparing their players before the end of each year, and you find, when they come back to the event, they’re better prepared and in good shape.

“I’ve also found that players that play league club hockey in their regions are much more mature compared to players that only play at school.

“You can see the difference and that’s why regions need to prepare players beforehand and not a month or two before the event.”

Photo credits: TeamPhotoSA
Photo: TeamPhotoSA

Taking the game to more communities

Currently, hockey in South Africa is being played at predominantly private and Model-C schools, and that’s something SASHOC wants to correct, Domingo said.

Despite the game being the fastest-growing sport in schools, there’s room for improvement, he said, and SASHOC, along with its partners, is on a mission to expose more communities to hockey.

“What we’ve done as SA Hockey in the past few years is that we’ve launched what we call the modified hockey programme,” he explained.

“The programme focuses on starting hockey in areas where the sport was never played before and having a footprint of hockey in all the districts in our country.

“Out of the 52 districts, we have [hockey in] 37 now, and the aim is to get the game out there. At the moment, the game is being played by a quarter of our schools, and out of the 23 000 schools, we’d like to see hockey grow.

“In terms of development, that must take place in schools and the club system. We, as a structure, can’t necessarily develop players. We don’t have the budget.

“We have programmes in place, and, with the help of the Department of Sport, we are trying our best to not only get more eyeballs on the game but also players picking up the stick.”

Looking ahead

For the past two years, the SASHOC National Weeks have been hosted in the cold of Bloemfontein.

Domingo hinted that a new location for the events would be on the cards because it is SASHOC’s policy to allow different regions to stage the events.

He further said that in the future SASHOC is looking at combining the u13 and u14 events at one location and doing the same for the u16 and u18s.

“We had this event in Bloemfontein, also, last year. We were always going to give a region a two-year stint to correct the mistakes of the previous year and improve,” he said.

“We have a tender system, where we send the events out, and at our annual general meeting (AGM), we will announce where the events will be for next year,” he concluded.

Avuyile Sawula