Scottish Hockey Talent Pathways update
Update from the Scottish Hockey Talent & Performance Team:
As our sport emerges from the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, we wanted to update you on our plans for our talent pathways programmes over the summer months. Clearly things are still far from back to normal, but with restrictions recently lifted for U18 contact activity, we are keen to get our young hockey athletes back onto the pitch as quickly and safely as possible.
Unfortunately, there are still many uncertainties that provide challenges to planning, particularly around access to facilities – and we ask that you remain patient and prepare to be flexible if plans change at short notice. Under the current circumstances, we are working as hard as we can to deliver the best programme possible.
Given that we have lost a whole year of international activity; talent identification and development through 2020, our priority in 2021 is to re-balance the system and ensure, as best we can, that there are opportunities available to showcase talent and progress. Bearing in mind the lack of opportunity last year and the challenges still surrounding international travel, the 2021 summer season will look different in a number of ways.
Firstly, we are still hopeful that the European U19 Championships will still take place in Valencia this July – and we await final confirmation from EHF (expected at the end of April). As a result, the regular U18 programme will become an U19 programme this year, and we hope to have those players back on the pitch together from mid-May. Players who were previously part of those squads will remain so and may be joined by others selected by the coaches.
As part of that process the U18 Academy programme, which started in late 2020, will resume this month culminating in the U18 Academy Series – a set of round-robin games – provisionally scheduled for May, subject to government guidance. Details of the remaining Academy programme dates have now been circulated and these will provide opportunities to be considered for selection moving forward.
Due to the change to U19 programmes this year, we also intend to run U17 programmes through the summer, building towards the Futures Cup in late August. As part of that, our aim is to provide as many competitive U17 opportunities as possible, depending on opposition availability.
Finally, as part of our efforts to provide as many appropriate development opportunities as possible, U18s currently in the Academy programme who are not subsequently involved in the U19 programme may still have an opportunity to feature in the School Games in early September.
In a similar vein to the older age group, there will also be no U16 international programme this year, with those U16 athletes being provided with opportunities to be selected for the wider than normal U17 programmes or remain in the U16s regional Academy squads. We will run a wider U16 programme this summer, with the intention to compete at the Futures Cup in August.
As some will be aware we did attempt to begin a talent identification process at regional level last November, which was unfortunately cut short by the second lockdown in December. These regional sessions are due to commence again this weekend now that restrictions have been lifted, with a view to running a Junior Academy League and training planned to run through to late June and beyond for those selected for Futures Cup. This is designed to give those talent identified at U16 level an extended opportunity to shine within their respective regional programmes, with the carrot of Futures Cup at the end of the summer.
We are also conscious that the U14 Inter District Competition scheduled for next month has been cancelled due to ongoing uncertainty and lack of preparation time available. We will however be engaging with our district partners this month to discuss when best to run district competitions – and to ensure equality of opportunity for talented young hockey players from all over the country.
Further information on dates and details of programmes will be made available as soon as is possible. However, we hope this update will give athletes, parents, and coaches comfort that we intend to provide as many opportunities as possible for talented young Scottish athletes to show their skills and potential.
Scottish Hockey Talent & Performance Team, April 2021
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