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Selborne raring to tackle the 2024 hockey season

By CS Chiwanza , in Hockey | Featured Hockey | News , at 2024-03-08

Under normal circumstances, Selborne College coach Kenneth John (KJ) Friend high-fives the assistant coach and players around him after his team scores. On Tuesday, 27 February, he did not. He remained “chilled” and his stoicism was only broken by the smile that hovered on his lips.

Tre’ Gilbert had scored the only goal of the game, deep into the fourth chukka, to secure a win for Selborne College. His young team had just defeated Phoenix Hockey Club 1-0.

“The victory was sweet, but the most important thing from that match was seeing that we were on track with our plans,” said Friend.

Phoenix was one of the teams Selborne played as part of their pre-season schedule, which was a little difficult to get underway because a few of their key players were also crucial members of other teams. Tre’ Gilbert, Friend’s captain and star player, is also the captain of the Selborne 1st cricket team, and a few other members of the hockey side play water polo.

Before their duel with Phoenix, Selborne had faced off against Merrifield. The challenges presented by the two teams were like night and day. That is how Friend wanted it to be. Vastly different teams ask you to adapt your play to be able to compete.

“We try to go up against teams that provide a challenge to us. Against Phoenix, we went up against adults with a lot of pace and experience. That was a learning curve for our team,” he said.

The Gilbert-led unit is no longer the same team that competed on the schools’ hockey circuit in 2023. Five of their key players matriculated and a new group has had to step up to fill the void. That was not difficult because the youngsters, who include Daniel Sirgel, Cade Kock, also a provincial u19 footballer, and Waeden Plaatjes, were part of the 2023 campaign. “Last year we had a lot of juniors in the team, and they learned a lot,” said Friend.

The four-member core doesn’t just boast experience from last year’s campaign, Sirgel, Kock and Plaatjes featured in the Amathole (Border) u18 team, while Gilbert was part of the National u17 team that competed in the Mirnawan Cup in Malaysia in October last year.

Their experience and the pre-season preparations will be crucial for Friend’s boys, who kick off their 2024 campaign with the Tony Godding Festival, which will be followed by Nomads, then the KES Easter Festival, and finally the Hibbert Shield.

Selborne will also play several Derby Day matches in an itinerary that includes Queen’s College, Pearson, and Grey College in April, Dale College, Cambridge, Stirling, and Merrifield in May, and St Andrew’s in June.

Those fixtures will put Selborne’s free-flowing and possession-based style of play to the test. “I always remind them to keep possession and the rest will happen for you,” Friend said.

However, Friend, who tends to be philosophical, pivots to add that while they want to win matches and improve on their 2023 showing, which saw Selborne finish in the top 20 among the hockey-playing schools in South Africa and secure a third-place finish at the Hibbert Shield, winning is not the be all and end all for his boys.

“Sport is the best educator in life. These boys are not just learning to compete against different teams on the field, they are also learning how to be agile and develop skills that will benefit them in the world after school. They are learning to deal with pressure and how to handle themselves as individuals,” explained Friend, who places a lot of emphasis on winning graciously and losing with grace.

While his team plays to win, he has created a safe space within the team where his players are not afraid to lose. He reminds them that after a loss, the sun will rise again tomorrow. Therefore, it’s not the end of the world.

error: Sorry ol' chap, those shenanigans are not permissible.