Vanuatu Hockey hopes competing at the Youth Olympics will inspire more young people in the country to pick up a stick and give the sport a go.
The Vanuatu men’s and women’s Under 18 teams finished runners up in the Oceania Qualifier in Port Moresby at the weekend to earn their place at the Youth Games in Buenos Aires later this year.
Women’s coach Jen Bowtell said Vanuatu hosted the previous Oceania qualifiers in Port Vila four years ago and some of the spectators from that event are now competing for their country.
“For us international tournaments is such a motivator to get all the guys coming to training,” he said.
“As much as it’s a challenge it definitely has its benefits but having these kind of events (such as the) Youth Olympics is such a good way to get a new crop of kids up and playing.
“When they get to travel they see the opportunities that exist within sport and it’s a really good way to hold them tight for the next few years.”
Vanuatu proved too strong for hosts Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands during the round robin phase but were no match for Australia.
In the men’s competition the Melanesians were thrashed 20-0, 12-0 and 16-0 in three head to head clashes against the green and gold while the women’s team were obliterated 30-0, 21-0 and 29-0.
Despite being brutually outclassed, Jen Bowtell said Vanuatu came up with their own scoring system to ensure the players had a way of measuring themselves against one of the top nations in the world.
“We gave the kids a point for a tackle, a point for a shot on goal where the Australian keeper had to save it, five points if we could score a goal and in the end it actually turned out the kids really enjoyed that system,” she said.
“While Australia had 30 points on the board actually in the end it was like 32 to Vanuatu, in terms of our scoring system, so that was a really good way that the kids could see it as a learning curve and I think they improved against Australia.”
Jen Bowtell said Vanuatu Hockey is hopeful their qualification will open some new funding doors to assist the team in getting to Argentina for the Youth Olympics in November.
“We were supported through the International Olympic Committee through our national organising group VASANOC,” she said.
“They organised the funding to get us to Papua New Guinea. It was hard to get it there, it’s not as easy as just applying and it all flowing through.
You’ve still got to really push it to get through but it came through and we got there.
“From my understanding there’s a similar pool which is available to firstly help train, so in the preparations there should be a pool of money available to train and then there should be a second pool of money to get the kids to the Youth Olympics.“