Ireland’s high performance planning producing results
05 Sep 2005 16:27
Irish Hockey: Irish Hockey’s High Performance Plan is already impacting on the performances of the Irish international teams this year, with all enjoying unprecedented success in 2005.
The plan has been developed this year by the acting Performance Director David Passmore, and is an ambitious ten-point plan aimed at restructuring and developing Ireland’s international teams at all levels.
The goal is to have Ireland’s national teams consistently qualifying for World Cups and Olympic Games, and ultimately winning medals. However, the results are already being seen in the national teams’ performances this summer, and the senior men’s squad’s preparation for the European Nations Trophy in Rome in two weeks time.
Asked about the plan, Passmore said that “Ireland possessed real potential but there was little continuity across teams and there need to be a more structured approach to all areas of athlete development, especially in the sports science and technology used within the teams”.
With Ireland’s women reaching their highest ever finish at the European Nations Championship in Dublin a fortnight ago, both boys and girls U18 teams reaching the semi finals of their respective European tournaments (only Ireland and Netherlands achieved this), the U16 teams convincingly winning their series of matches against Scotland in July and some very promising senior men’s results, this is arguably Irish hockey’s best ever season.
“Hopefully we are now starting to realise our potential. We need to strive to bring hockey to the cutting edge of international sport and that is what the high performance plan has started to do – but there is a long way to go,” Passmore said.
“We have achieved some progress already but so much more can be achieved across the next few years in the build up to the 2012 Olympics.”
Passmore’s high performance initiatives have introduced a degree of professionalism in the preparation of Ireland’s national squads that has not been seen before and focuses on a broad approach to all aspects of player development, rather than just technique skills and results.
“International sport is now very scientific and we have to keep in mind that we are competing against many countries with full time staff and athletes.”
“The priority with the junior age groups has been the introduction of a strategic sports science program that covers all aspects of their fitness, injury prevention (core stability) and life style. If we educate our athletes when they are young good habits will remain with them moving forward and physically they will develop far more in the longer term.
“Our athletes have to be training six days per week over 3-4 years to really develop. We are also working towards an Irish style of play. This is to develop the instincts of the players and ensure that they can move up and between the age groups at a faster rate."
The replacement of the U21 squads with development squads has also been a radical element of the plan. When asked about the purpose of these teams.
“Ireland does not have the player base or finances to run teams at all levels so something had to give. The idea of the senior development squads is to fast track those players, of all ages towards playing at senior level.
“The squads, due to be reviewed next month, will include our best U18 and possibly U16 athletes who have demonstrated they have what it takes to play at the top. Run alongside the senior programs these squads should create more competition and ensure Ireland’s future is rosy.”
With the women’s European action put to bed, attention is now focused to the senior men’s crucial showdown in Rome, where they will be bidding for promotion back into the sport’s elite ‘A’ Division and qualification for next spring’s World Cup Qualifier.
The senior men’s success in Rome will be key.
“Winning the tournament is a big ask but we have been worked towards that since my appointment. We have a tough group and the heat could also be a challenge but that is why we are all involved in the squad – we are a tight nit bunch, “Passmore said.
After Rome the plan is to complete a skills DVD, talent identification program and to continue to work with our talented and hard working group of international coaches.”
It’s early days, but the implementation of high performance planning is undoubtedly paying off already and moving Irish hockey from being a keen competitor on the international stage to a genuine contender for major international honours, with participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games a genuine possibility.