I’ve been fortunate enough to see a wide range of destinations, experience diverse cultures and make life memories through hockey. The one thing we have in common, is the love of the game and the privilege of representing one’s country.
The most common misconception is that a hockey tour, is like a personal holiday. People’s perceptions are of us, on a beach with mojitos when the reality is far from that.
What is tour life?
I’ve been involved with our national side in various roles; video analyst, a stint as the official manager at the Commonwealth Game and since March, as an assistant coach. I won’t go into the details of pre-tour logistics planning,as thats an article in itself.
Firstly, on tour, its common practice to have a daily planner. Free time in the truest sense of the word is limited when you consider the following:
- Organised training sessions
- Organised training matches
- Tournament fixtures
- Recovery sessions
- Physiotherapist sessions
- Psychologist sessions
- Individual video sessions
- Team video sessions
- Team meetings
and thats excluding the travel from the hotel to the various venues.
Amongst all of this, players need to find some downtime. For some, thats a feet up approach, others need ‘fresh’ air and pop out the hotel whilst others immerse themselves in technology. Interestingly, some teams go offline with regards to social media for the duration of the tournament. The central idea is to create a sense of flow and subtract any activities that effectively distract one, from their central purpose.
Whilst FIFA World Cup teams, select a private venue and effectively build themselves a small city with their own chefs, home food and all manner of home comforts, hockey is a little simpler. In Holland during the World Cup, most of the teams stayed in the same hotel. We ate in the same restaurant, shared meeting rooms and use the same laundromat. Naturally, what’s on offer in the host country is not always ideal for all teams. Korea arrived at the hotel with a truckload of their own food. There is even a story of a certain team, walking up to 5km daily so they could eat at a restaurant that served the cuisine of their home country.
There are a wide range of staff on each team, who play an integral role. I will go into detail with the three roles I have personally experienced.
- Plan training sessions
- Analyse video for:
- player feedback , team feedback
- opposition analysis
- Match preparation
- Management meetings
- In Game Analysis and feedback
- Post Game Feedback
There are a plethora of meetings to attend and registration processes to comply with.
- meals, venue, times
- laundry dropoff and collection (* more complicated outside of hotel but often cheaper)
- daily planner communication
Pre – game:
- admin: communication of team colours
- admin: submission of starting lineup before every game
- pre – game tv protocol management
During and post game
- managing coaches/players conduct on the bench
- substitution management
- signing of match sheets
- collection of official sheets,post-game
- post – game protocol management
- drug testing protocol compliance
After the Commonwealth Games experience, I have a lot of respect for what managers do. It may seem easy from a distance but its a demanding role. You effectively manage the entire team.
- transport ; booking departure and return dates and times
- communication; confirming and printing of daily planner & providing a digital version
- managing and complying with all FIH requirements
- working with team liason
- any other team requirements
This is the role I have experienced for the longest duration. Potentially the least understood role by outsiders. Different head coaches have different requirements and ultimately that’s who you report to. Secondly, some teams can afford to have more than one analyst to share the workload.
- Database (video based) preparation/ team profiling
Capturing and coding of matches * some teams have a reciprocal agreement and swap footage and others prefer to do all the matches themselves. An analyst can spend up to 8 hours at a field and sometime longer, return to the hotel and have additional work to complete at the hotel.
- Preparation of individual clips ** if not done live
- Stats report **not done by all teams
- Data transfers and backup processes
The analysts who are fortunate to call this a full time job, return from tour and can be required to do the following:
- post tour team report
- post tour individual report
- data compression & backup processes
Without going into details, the below personel, also play an invaluable role:
- Sport scientist
- Media officer
- Sleep coach
- Team doctor
** not all teams will travel with all of the above personel.
Match Day Planning:
- Wake up time
- Recovery run
- Team Talk
- Specialist Meetings
- Pre-game activation run
- Meal times
- Pre-match nutrition
- Departure and return times from hotel
- Physiotherapist times
- Departure time for stadium
All details are influenced by when your match is taking place.
Whilst it’s mainly work, there are moments of downtime where one can appreciate/experience the local culture. In India, some teams sat on a bus for hours to visit the Taj Mahal, whilst others had a ‘no tourists’ approach. It’s a personal choice and teams differ in their approach.
I hope you can appreciate that tour life is both challenging and a significant commitment. All the stated actions, by the people involved, are geared to give their team, the best possible competitive advantage. How each team does that will differ but ultimately its to achieve the same goal; to win.
Current SA Senior, assistant coach