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Fiji Time: 5:07 AM on Thursday 24 April

/ Front page / Sport

Working the sticks

Arin Kumar
Friday, January 03, 2014

INTERNATIONAL hockey Master Coach Dr Burt Bunnik has been to Fiji only twice, and on both occasions he was here for only a week.

The former Netherlands coach was conducting coaching clinics in the last week of October which went on until early November and then he returned in the third week of December.

In those two weeks, he identified the strengths and weaknesses of Fiji hockey.

Bunnik believes the main power source of the sport is its players and it's their contribution that will determine the fate of the game in the country.

Internationally, he says, sports has become a way of life for some athletes and that is all they care about and how they live their life. And he believes Fiji hockey players need to increase their level of commitment if they want to excel in the sport internationally.

"For a player or an athlete, their strongest positive point is themselves and their weakest point is themselves too," Bunnik said.

"You give up early, you are weak, but if you continue to struggle, you are a hard worker.

"You cannot be a world champion if you train one week before the competition because, internationally, four years of dedicated training by athletes make them winners."

Bunnik said that during his clinics some players didn't show interest which he described as a sign of lethargy.

"If you have an opportunity to train with an international coach there should be continuity but several boys didn't show up for all training sessions.

"Which means it's either the sport is not important in their life or they don't value the opportunity.

"Players need to be committed because not many athletes in Fiji have continuity in their sporting career except for rugby.

"I was also asking the players to bring notebooks. Some did but some didn't and that shows they are not committed enough."

However, Bunnik said those players who did attend his clinics gave him positive feedback by saying they enjoyed the clinics.

Another weakness of the sport he identified was the quality of goalkeepers.

"Goalkeepers need a totally different training program compared to the rest of the team because of the importance of their position as they are the last line of defence.

"Additional training for them is needed so they can become better.

"Overall, to all players, I would advise them to just continue training as much as you can, work on your skills and fitness as much as you can, know about the turf inside out, know about the stick and the ball so well that you eat, sleep, think, dream and talk hockey and nothing else."

During his coaching career, Bunnik was also assistant coach of the Pakistani and Spanish sides at past Olympic Games.

He said he knew how hard the job of a coach is but he wanted Fiji coaches to put more effort in their jobs and become more technical and tactical.

"The coaches I worked with in Fiji were active and asked questions, which is very good.

"But the coaches need to be available to their teams and need to study the game more, see how the game is changing and come up with new and exciting training programs.

"I would advise them to continue to develop the sport, develop themselves physically, technically, tactically and mentally, and to keep to the positive side as the driving factor."

Bunnick said another area that restricted the sport's development was the facilities. There is only one artificial turf which is located in Laucala Bay in Suva while the rest are grass turfs.

"Here in Fiji there is only one artificial turf, meaning many players in the country need to adapt more to playing on artificial rather than grass because international hockey is not played on grass.

"Stakeholders of the sport need to know that to make a champion team, you need to invest in the sport and the athletes.

"Development is great but you need more artificial turfs in the country, especially in the major centres where the game is played."

Bunnick also recommended that the Fiji Hockey Federation increase the participation of schoolchildren in the sport to keep a stable player base.

"If you want to develop a sport in the country, you need to have the participation of schoolchildren and their teachers.

"Teach them the basics at school level and they will be fine by the time they are adults

"I think more emphasis should be put on teaching the sport right at high school level to the athletes so that the students can pick their choice of sport and stick with it and not jump from sport to sport

"That is one way hockey can bring in more players, by tapping into the natural talent of the youths in school."

Dr Bunnik wishes to return to Fiji one day to check on the progress the sport has made and he believes this year may be lucky for Fiji with the number of regional competitions.