SHC Life in Lockdown Series, #1:
By Surbiton HC
In this series of short interviews, we will talk to a range of club members to find out what they’ve been up to during lockdown. Over the next few weeks we will cover work, hobbies and life in general… if you have a story to tell, or if you know of another club member who does, Beckie would love to hear from you.
SHC Life in Lockdown Series: Coaching with Jimmy Culnane
Jimmy Culnane is Head of Hockey at partner school Surbiton High School, as well as Assistant Coach for the SHC Men’s 1s and the England U18 Boys. Without any team hockey out on the pitch during lockdown, he’s managed to find creative ways to continue to support the development of players and coaches.
"The initial idea of posting some skills videos came about when I saw what some others were putting out as 'challenges', which I just didn't think were challenging at all. I realised that there was probably some opportunity to help kids learn to challenge themselves at home.
I thought that social distancing would initially be about a month, which would take us through the Easter holidays, so I aimed for four weeks of challenges. It was tricky to find ways to make the ideas to come to life but I knew what I wanted to cover. My thinking has started to move towards how it would relate to the game, so at the moment I’m looking to do some bridging pieces to help with vision on the ball.
We have been meeting our school groups online, which started as mainly a social hangout with some physical challenges. We've had excellent culture building conversations with the older students and had some guest speakers in. The younger ones have started doing some technical work over Teams as well. The Surbiton High students were really good during the initial stages of the videos. We were sending out our internal challenges and they were recreating but also putting their own spin on things, which was really good to see.
For the England junior squads we have been setting physical and technical challenges every week. We meet once a week for guest speakers, conversation and bring those challenges together with some context.
For my own learning, I started a little community of practice with a friend in the States, which quickly grew into this cool opportunity to hear from some of the best coaches in the world, some from different sports or specialisms and also the perspectives from top players. It's been interesting to see how much people are willing to help and share. It's been really cool.
I've also started doing some reading again as I look to start a professional doctorate this summer as well as writing and presenting a workshop for the FIH with coaches from ten different countries, which was fantastic.
Missing the social connection is probably the biggest challenge during lockdown. We have been teaching online as all the students have iPads so to be fair, we were probably able to be more prepared than others for this. The interesting thing to me is that the students weren't particularly aware of the social process of learning. I think they now are more aware about that, which could be of real benefit when they all get back. I do miss them – there is a reason I wanted to get into coaching and help young people get something out of the sport. I think we can influence them from home but obviously nothing compares to being on the pitch with them.
For me the biggest opportunity has been the time to reflect and have discussions about the way our game is taught. ‘Why' we do the things we do or deliver the way we do has been fascinating to unpick with other coaches. I think people will get back to the versions of themselves that picked up a stick as a player and deliver the kinds of things that got them hooked in the first place.
It’s strange for hockey because in terms of timing, we have of course felt the impact, but hitting the off season means we haven't felt the impact the way that cricket, tennis and athletics will have done. If we are allowed to play come September I think we will all be very grateful. The biggest challenges are probably still to come as we work out how to come back effectively. They say that necessity is the mother of invention so it’s possible some of the ideas that come out of this have a long term benefit. For example, effective team meetings on video calls might mean that teams don't feel the need to have meetings before or after training. It might simplify match days as briefings could be done earlier or even in the car on the way to away matches. We shall see!
The thing I'm most looking forward to when lockdown finishes is simple really - just being back on the pitch. The enthusiasm and appetite from the players will be really refreshing and energising. There will undoubtedly be that feeling of seeing someone after the summer and thinking, 'Crikey, you've grown!' but I’m sure there will be a, 'Crikey, you've added that to your hockey toolbox,' as well. It will be exciting to see where everyone is.
I think the hockey community has been amazing in this time as we try and find ways to get better, learn the game and learn about ourselves. It will be interesting to see who comes back more independent, more in control of their own development and driving things for themselves. I would encourage players to be bold, reach out to the players, clubs and schools they respect to see what they can learn from them. Although this time has been incredibly hard and we will feel the effects for some time, there is opportunity in it for those who can see it."