Accustomed to spending a lot of time together, Kookaburras Olympic silver medallist Tim Howard and Hockeyroo Savannah Fitzpatrick have spent the past month journeying to parts of Queensland for a host of what they have coined #HowItStartedClinics.
From the Sunshine Coast to Bundaberg (which hosted the Queensland Under 15 Boys Championships), Gympie, Maryborough, Toowoomba, the Gold Coast (location for the Queensland Under 15 Girls Championships) and Brisbane, Howard and Fitzpatrick, who are a couple, have been sharing their hockey knowledge and experience with budding youngsters.
Targeted at kids between aged 7-15, the duo hope to have inspired the next generation and recreate a similar experience to what they both had as juniors.
Amazing childhood memories have been a key instigator for Howard and Fitzpatrick to conduct the clinics.
From their early days they both recall attending clinics hosted by some of Queensland and Australia’s hockey greats.
There is also the motivator of sharing their knowledge with aspiring juniors and doing something beneficial with the rare extended time they are having back ‘at home’ due to COVID, coupled with the postponement of the national program and the Sultana Bran Hockey One League.
“The times we come home, we always have such limited time and we end up choosing to spend it with our families,” said Savannah.
“We’ve never had this chunk of time to actually do something like this, so it is great having the freedom to do it.”
“Secondly, both of us can so clearly remember clinics being held for us when we were kids in Brisbane with people like Mark Knowles and Angie Lambert (nee Skirving).
“It’s a lasting memory and whether you go on to play for Australia or not, you never forget it so we wanted to be able to do the same thing because I think it has been a while since Queensland has had that, especially in regional areas. So that was what sparked it.”
Fitzpatrick, who heralds from Cabarita Beach just south of the Tweed River in New South Wales, represented Queensland growing up.
She was also a member of the triumphant Brisbane Blaze team that won the inaugural Sultana Bran Hockey One League Women’s Grand Final in 2019.
For Howard, who is one of the few Kookaburras to be able to fly back to his home state and show off his Olympic siler medal, said a big component of the clinics was replicating similar drills the national team do at training.
“We have been trying to run a lot of the drills and training that we do as part of the Kookaburras in Perth,” said Howard.
“Teaching little things and skill circuits and showing them that we also spend a lot of time working on the basic things.
“It’s not all about the flashy stuff…it’s a lot about the basics, so just trying to make it as fun as possible but also trying to teach the kids some things they can take back to their club or school.”
There have been no shortage of kids’ eyes lighting up when they get a glimpse of Howard’s silver medal which he invites them to put it on.
“It’s great to see the smiles on the kids’ faces and see how excited they are when they put the silver medal over their head,” said Howard.
Among the hundreds of juniors that have attended the clinics, there was one distinctly familiar face that Howard recognised and was buzzing to see again.
“In 2017 Queensland had a mentoring program where an Under 13 player was mentored by an AHL player. One of the kids that I mentored actually came to the clinic in Brisbane, so that was pretty cool to catch up with him,” said Howard.
“He used to be half my size and now he’s bigger than me so he must be doing all of the right things.”