The story of Justin Reid-Ross?
Hi everyone! I was born in 1986 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. I grew up in Port Elizabeth as well as Pretoria. My father and uncle both played hockey for South Africa so I was exposed to the sport from a very young age.
When and why did you start to play hockey?
Growing up, I preferred playing rugby, cricket and football. My parents always encouraged me to try as many sports as possible but I never really enjoyed hockey. My family relocated to Pretoria when I was 13 and I had to change schools. The new school didn’t offer rugby, so that’s when I picked up a hockey stick for the first time and my love for the game grew from there.
What was like growing up playing hockey in South Africa?
It was very different to what you see here in Europe. In the youth, I started playing on grass fields and only when I got older did I get the chance to play on artificial surfaces. The game on grass is completely different to turf, so I had to re-learn a lot of techniques as I started playing on turf more regularly. For a long time there was only one artificial surface in Pretoria which was miles from my house, so on weekends my dad used to drive me out there so we could train together.
When did you decided to move to Europe in order to play hockey in a professional basis?
When I was 21 (2007) I was playing club and provincial hockey in SA. I had played a few big tournaments for the national team and then not been selected again. I found I wanted more of a challenge than what was available in SA at the time and I got the opportunity to join ARA Gantoise, in Gent, Belgium. I went over with 2 of my best mates from the national team and haven’t looked back since. I played at Gantoise for 2 seasons, spent one season in Australia with Guildford in Perth and since then I have played 5 seasons in the Netherlands.
You are one of the best drag flickers in the world? Is it a inner talent or you developed it over time?
I’ve always believed that like many things in sport, drag flicking is about hours and hours of practice. I started training the flick quite late, at age 17, and all I remember doing was watching videos of Taeke Taekema and Christopher Zeller and then going out to the field whenever I could find the time and trying it myself. I do think that you need to understand the movement and execution, as well as put in hours of training to get anywhere near consistent enough to be a top class drag flicker.
Can you describe your weekly routine regarding drag flick practice?
I usually do 4- 5 sessions a week, on flicking specifically. 3 of those are during team training sessions with the whole PC team. I’ll also do 1 session with just our PC coach, the keeper and some balls at the top of the circle for rhythm. Depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll try to fit in one extra session on my own. Add that to 2-3 gym sessions a week and that’s my schedule usually!
Any original tip for drag-flick beginners?
Flick balls whenever you have the chance! Get to training 5 minutes early and you can flick 10 balls, stay 5 minutes after and that’s another 10. One thing I learnt from my dad is that every bit of training counts, and it’s that little bit more that separates you from the rest. Also, watch videos of the top flickers and take videos of yourself, compare and learn!
As a especialist would you change something in the penalty corner? Rule, format, etc.
I’m pretty happy with things as they are to be honest!
Last year you become the Hoofdklasse (Dutch top league) foreigner top goal scorer of all time with 85 goals (105 now in total) . It is a huge achievement when you consider that the world’s best players have always played there. What was the secret all along the way?
Thank you very much. It’s a great honour to sit on top of that list and to be in the same arena as Sohail Abbas and Phil Burrows. There is no secret to be honest, just persistence. I had some good seasons along the way and some really disappointing ones. I just want to keep challenging myself.
There is an ongoing discussion about the number of foreigners in the Hoofdklasse and how that can affect the Dutch youth development. Obviously in a ‘suspicious’ position but what is your opinion on this discussion?
I understand the predicament and I think youth development is hugely important. At the same time, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t have developed the way I have, if it wasn’t for my time in the Hoofdklasse. At this point, I’ve made Amsterdam my home and I’ve been here almost 6 years so I don’t entirely consider myself a foreigner anymore. I give a lot of drag flicking and general training to dutch youth players because I feel that’s important to give something back to the environment that has given me so much. I believe that the best players in the world want to play in the hoofdklasse, but I don’t think that means that teams should necessarily be able to have 6 or more foreigners in their ranks. Perhaps having a limit set at 3 or 4 will encourage clubs to use their skilful and hard working youth players, or even to rather “buy local” and give the best young players a chance. I think this will also make the foreign internationals want to work that little bit harder to have a run in the Hoofdklasse.
SA national always had some great players in international level but in the last few years is not really able to compete at the highest level, what is missing?
We are seriously lacking support and funding. There are no sponsors. We have no money to compete at the highest level and that has resulted in players having to pay their own way to represent their country. A lot of people can’t justify the expense, especially if it means they have to leave their careers, or clubs, who provide their livelihood.
Most special moments in your career?
Making my debut for SA in 2006, scoring my first Olympic goal in London 2012, becoming Hoofdklaase topscorer and highest scoring foreigner this year and definitely having my wife, dad and mom watch me in the playoffs for the first time last season.
Which teammate did you admire the most and the best opponent you played
That’s a super tough question… For SA I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Austin Smith, his work ethic is immense and he’s been a great captain and roommate over the years. At Amsterdam, last year I had the chance to play with Santi Freixa and Floris Evers who were both idols of mine growing up and I really loved learning from them. The best opponents I ever played against are Mark Knowles and Mo Fürste. They’re both such dominating figures in their teams and they understand the game so well. I think both have them also have an incredible passion for the sport.
What brings the future?
Its hard to say! I’m looking forward to the next 2 seasons with Amsterdam and I’m super excited to play in the EHL for the first time this season. We have a great team and I think we can really achieve something special. I want to keep pushing myself and I’m really excited for the challenges that lie ahead!