“Hockey has been far more than a game for me,” shared Old Oak and Stanford alumni, Frances Carstens, at the ‘Spotlight on Hockey’ evening at Somerset College. “It shaped and moulded me, preparing me for life itself.” In listening to insights shared to parents, staff, and players by Heads of Hockey in the Senior & Prep School, Ainsleigh de Kock and Quentin du Toit, into the planning, expertise, commitment and passion behind the sport at College, it’s clear that hockey offers students so much more than ball skills and why hockey is so successful at the school.
“With 41 prep and 12 senior teams, our team of highly experienced coaches are guided by a clearly thought-out hockey development plan across the grades,” highlights Ainsleigh. “Individual, as well as team achievements, are testimony to the success of the implementation thereof.” She adds: “Our U16A Girls’ team, for example, is currently ranked 9th amongst 100 schools, competing against those with much larger talent pools – we are a lightweight playing in a heavyweight boxing match and yet we are winning!”
A key factor to hockey’s success at College is the continuous investment in training and mentoring of students across both campuses. “Ten of our coaches train over both prep and senior,” commented Quentin. “This allows us to identify and nurture talent as well as build strong cohesive teams.” He further highlighted the depth of experience of the current coaches, with two thirds currently playing at very high levels and/or coaching at club and provincial levels.
With exceptional staff and a proven training strategy, Somerset College has all the foundational blocks for building ongoing success. Yet is faced with one critical constraint moving forward: time on the Astro “Winter darkness is against us, limiting our children’s time to train and play due to daylight hours,” explained Chair of the Parents Association, Louise Ehret. “As a result, prep players only get to play on Astro every second week, and 4 to 5 senior teams share the Astro during an hour’s training session thereby not gaining the full field experience.”
Louise invited parents to invest in current and future players by contributing towards the installation of much-needed Astro floodlights. “Floodlights would increase our training time by more than 50% with early morning and evening sessions,” shared Louise. “Furthermore, College would save on the hiring costs of Maties Astro, currently R750 per hour, and we need to take into consideration the costs and safety of the bus trip in the rainy winter months.” She further highlighted the advantages offered in terms of the Astro generating revenue through hiring out for external events as well as the ability to host more tournaments.”
“We have already received a generous contribution towards this project and encourage others to step forward to help us make floodlights a reality as soon as possible for our players to enjoy the benefits,” concluded Louise. “Let’s support our hockey’s success and switch on these lights together.”
As part of this initiative, Somerset College has launched a “Light up the Astro’ campaign in which the College community is invited to purchase blocks of R250 each, to light up an online grid image. For each block sold, the Old Oaks Association will donate a further R25 towards the Acorn Bursary Trust. Blocks can be purchased via Karri. Alternatively, Heine Matthee at firstname.lastname@example.org can be contacted for single pledges.