International Women’s Day gives the global hockey community the perfect opportunity to showcase and celebrate some of the great work being carried out by women across the world.
Many of the women celebrated during our week-long recognition of achievements have become leaders within our sport and are the driving forces behind the change, progress and development.
Whether it is having the vision to provide leadership experience opportunities through coaching hockey or whether it is developing the skills to lead a national team, these are all instances where the hockey community is demonstrating yet again, its huge and uncompromising approach to equality in all aspects of life.
Combining hockey coaching with leadership and personal growth is the aim of the Aspire to be Deadly programme that is effecting change across Oceania. And the initiative is being driven and led by three women who have the vision to see hockey’s potential to drive social change as well as attract more people into the sport.
Under the scheme, young women and girls use hockey as a vehicle to improve their health and well-being; to improve their educational aspirations and achievements; to experience and enhance leadership skills, and to enable them to access more opportunities both in work and personal growth.
Clare Prideaux is President of the Oceania Hockey Federation (OHF), and she is a passionate advocate of harnessing the potential of hockey to accomplish social change.
“It’s a pleasure to be working with the eight nations of Oceania to develop and grow hockey, to support coach education and to support a pathway for umpires,” says Prideaux.
“Hockey is a great way to be able to develop community, to build an active and healthy lifestyle, to really bring people together socially, and also to promote well-being.”
Under Prideaux’s leadership, the OHF is working closely with both Hockey Australia and Cairns Hockey Association to develop the Aspire to be Deadly programme.
This programme seeks to use hockey as the platform to enhance the education and leadership opportunities for young women and girls in the Oceania region.
It is an all-encompassing programme that delivers hockey and its associated health benefits but also enables young girls and women to develop their skills of leadership.
Julie McNeil is Operations Manager at Cairns Hockey Association in North Queensland and the general manager of the Aspire to be Deadly programme. She explains what the programme hopes to achieve and how.
“Aspire to be Deadly is a community service, designed to drive social outcomes in education, health and well-being and leadership, as well as professional development for indigenous young women who don’t always get opportunities. A unique part of the programme is that we use the sport of hockey – a very inclusive sport – to drive this outcome and give these girls opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have.
“One of the key principles we found as we developed this programme over the years is that we can’t be ‘a fly-in, fly-out’ programme. We can’t just be there for five days a year and expect anything to progress. We have built into the programme sustainability. It delivers education and training, leadership and an understanding that there are levels you can progress through.
“We think that approach builds capabilities, strength and personal growth. If you connect that to our social outcomes, you can connect with schools, health centres and you can drive some really good personal and professional development with your people.”
The programme is certainly delivering some great measurable outcomes. Five regions participate in Aspire to be Deadly, there are more than 1,500 young women and girls doing the programme. 40 girls are currently in specific mentoring programmes and the programme has 10 ambassadors.
Offering practical support is Melanie Woosnam, the president of Hockey Australia. The national governing body is donating 200 kits of hockey packs to support the work of the programme. In the pack is a hockey stick, a hockey ball, a pair of shin pads and a reversible singlet.
Woosnam says: “The work [of Aspire to be Deadly] really goes towards promoting an active lifestyle for these children who probably don’t get the opportunity to participate in a lot of different sports. There are health opportunities, social opportunities and the pleasure of just having some fun and enjoying the sport. That is what we are really trying to promote as well – a lifelong love of, and participation in, sport.”
The final word goes to McNeil, who says: “While the programme has been running for many years, this collaboration with OHF is new and very exciting. I believe we have a model programme that could be instrumental in the growth stages of the Oceania nations. In particular, for us, we think the opportunities for our young female leaders travelling to deliver the hockey coaching across Oceania, to Papua New Guinea and the other island nations will very much help and support their growth potential and self-confidence. In turn, we hope young women will be able to help hockey grow and develop in these Oceania nations.”