Hockey development is sailing along with the help of Development Projects Manager

Imagine a ship at anchor, ready to sail away on an adventure; with all the right supplies and crew, decent weather and wide open waters full of potential for a rich harvest from the sea.

But there is one problem. The crew cannot lift the anchor without some outside help.

Gabrielle van Doorn, FIH Development Projects Manager, views many developing hockey countries like such a ship. And the role of the 32-year-old Dutch native, as she sees it, is to be the one to help them lift the anchor.

The work of the Development Projects Manager is based around four key objectives, the first of which is assisting hockey developing countries in drafting their national development plans, and then executing their planned activities.

The weight that holds down hockey development in a given country could be virtually anything. Distance, weather, lack of resources, lack of players. These are all things that pose obstacles. And certainly, these obstacles will differ from country to country. In aiming to achieve the first objective, it is up to Gabrielle advised by the Chairman of the FIH Development and Coaching Committee, Theo Ykema, to determine what exactly is holding back development. And the next step is to devise a plan, with input from Committee members, to overcome the obstacles and get them sailing along.

"Our primary focus is developing hockey countries that have a certain existing infrastructure and can be self supporting in the future," Gabrielle explained about their approach. In other words, once the ship has left the dock, Gabrielle's job should be mostly finished, that is, unless it hits stormy seas, or has no wind at all in the sails, and she will again be there to help move the journey along.

Already, since beginning her work in late November '98, efforts have resulted in success, thanks also to the privately-funded sponsorship of Mr. Coen Teulings. Gabrielle's first project was in the Ukraine, which she visited in January. Along with Pavel Rossa (Slovakia), Zonal co-ordinator of EHF Development Committee responsible for Eastern Europe, the pair went on a fact finding trip to help assess the situation and to help determine not only the constraints, but hockey's potential in the Ukraine.

Detailed discussions were held with the Secretary General of the Ukraine Federation and members of their Board. They learned about the structure, clubs, schools and administration. Based on these findings, a three-year development plan with specific targets was to put together in conjunction with the Ukraine Federation. A detailed plan was drafted for 1999.

They also visited the Ukraine National Olympic Committee, working on the basis that real progress in development will only be possible if the country itself delivers energy and money to help the effort. A meeting with the Secretary General of the NOC, Vladimir Geraschenko, resulted in a promise of future co-operation, with Geraschenko committing to look for ways to support hockey development. And the outcome? A week-long players and coaches camp was held 8-14 July thanks to the impetus provided by the FIH and funding provided by the Ukraine NOC through Olympic Solidarity. Coach conductors Norbert Nederlof, an FIH Coach, and Albert-Kees Manenschijn co-ordinated coaching sessions for 40 children and 20 coaches, as well as separate sessions for the coaches.

Other concrete results that have already come from contacts in the Ukraine include donation of equipment and clothing, and a series of matches between the Ukraine national women's team and national and club teams in Belgium and Holland, scheduled in July.

Arranging a series of matches may, on the face of it, appear a simple task, and something one might expect the Ukraine Federation to accomplish on its own. But there are many things the more developed countries take for granted - like fax machines and clear phone lines, ability to communicate in a common language, reliable transport, surfaces on which to play, money - that are still further weights, and stand in the way of development.

While contact and development in the Ukraine continues, Greece was the next challenge. After a visit to the Hellenic Hockey Federation earlier this year, together with DCC Chairman Theo Ykema, Gabrielle was able to assess the situation, and discovered a very different profile to the Ukraine. There is almost no hockey in Greece, so development of hockey in general is the priority. Although Greece has little, if any, existing hockey infrastructure, development there is critical, as Greece will be hosting the 2004 Olympic Games.

But unlike in the Ukraine, the weather is not an obstacle, language is less of a problem and it is generally a more wealthy country. This makes clear the need for individual assessment and tailored action plans. While there may be some consistency of approach, there is no cookie cutter solution to development issues.

At the moment, Greece is working on drafting its own development plan, taking into account the FIH's recommendations. They are also trying to create a national hockey infrastructure. Again, the first small steps have already been taken. The first official FIH Coaching Course ever held in Greece was conducted by Niall Sturrock (Scotland) in May in Athens, and it was very well received. The Greek Federation has since requested that Niall serve as a Technical Advisor to the Coaching and Development Committee of the HHF, to continue the co-operation and development. Gabrielle sees this as very encouraging step, which demonstrates the Greek Federation's keen interest in progress.

Already Gabrielle has made contact with Zimbabwe to address hockey development there, and in September, will begin working with the Hockey Association of Zimbabwe with the aim of drafting a national development plan.

In addition to working directly with member associations to assess and develop their hockey potential, there are three other chief areas of activity that make up Gabrielle's brief. They are:

Supporting the Development Committees of the Continental Federations - In this area, Gabrielle will work toward establishing a network of Development Consultants throughout the world. The network will be a pool of experts from developed hockey countries who can eventually function in the same capacity as Gabrielle, under the guidance and direction of both herself and the DCC. The Network should also function as a key forum for the exchange of ideas, opinions and experiences. These individuals will be identified through the Continental Federations, and a first meeting will be in October to get the ball rolling.

Supporting the different task forces of the DCC - The Development and Coaching Committee has a clearly defined structure with various activities being covered by specific task forces. It is Gabrielle's role to support the specific activities of the DCC's members and its Task Forces, which are: Education and Training, Coaching and Youth Promotion. At the moment, she is working on an evaluation of existing educational materials with an eye toward a virtual library, and a proposal on establishing 2001 as the FIH's Year of the Youth in hockey.

General Development Issues - Finally, Gabrielle works on general development issues that are either generated from the FIH office in Brussels (awarding of Hockey Development Pitches, for example) or issues that are raised by Member Associations.

All Gabrielle's activities are executed in close conjunction with Theo Ykema and FIH Executive Director, Hans Bertels.

Gabrielle van Doorn has broad international experience in hockey development, coaching, promotion and event management, including four years as the Coaching and Development Project Co-ordinator for the Royal Dutch Hockey Association (1989-1992). Since 1995, she has been Project & Event Manager and Strategic Planner for the KNHB's Development & Promotion Department, and she continues to hold that position on a part-time basis, as her role as FIH Development Projects Manager is a part time (50%) one.

But Gabrielle also has broad life experience, having spent two years travelling the world, and she feels this experience, which expands and enhances her education and work experience, is the most valuable asset she has to offer in understanding and working with different countries and different cultures she encounters in her present role.

The signs are already good that this world traveler is well able to provide the assistance and know how required to set developing hockey countries off on their own successful voyages.