Shane McLeod has been Head Coach to the Belgian Red Lions since October 2015. In that time, he has led the team of talented players to a silver medal at the Hero Hockey World League Final in 2015, a silver at the 2017 Rabobank EuroHockey Championship and a fantastic silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Having raised his team to serial medal contenders, now he is looking for the big one – World Cup gold.
“That is a big one for our team,” says McLeod, “We have never stood on the podium at the World Cup level. Therefore there is a desire for our group to continue rewriting the history books. We collectively enjoy those challenges.”
For Caldas, the challenge is slightly different to McLeod’s. Where the Belgium coach is seeking to get his team to the top of the podium at a major international for the first time in nearly a century, Caldas is seeking to lift the Netherlands back to where they were just a few years ago. Gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and gold at the 1998 World Cup were the Netherlands' last two victories on the largest international stages, although they have reigned supreme at the EuroHockey Championships, winning in 2015 and 2017.
"This award says a lot about the group of players that I have the privilege working with and the staff that work with the team.”
Max Caldas, Netherlands Men's Head Coach
Caldas and his employer, the KNHB, are hoping that the coach can turn his Midas touch onto the Oranje men in the same way he achieved such success with the women.
But for Caldas this is never about just one person. “It is a very flattering to hear that I am Coach of the Year but it is not the reason why I work as a coach. It is never individual recognition that motivates me. This award says a lot about the group of players that I have the privilege working with and the staff that work with the team.”
Analysing his own coaching performance, Caldas is constantly seeking feedback from the very people he works with. “I have a desire to keep learning, to be very critical about my own performance every day and I look for feedback not only from our staff but also from the players with regards to how I go about my work. I am constantly trying to look for the edges of learning.”
With a challenging year ahead, receiving the award for Men’s Coach of the Year is a great confidence boost. Both coaches are delighted that they have been voted in by their peers and took a second to reflect on the year just gone.
“2017 has been a very enjoyable year with lots of moments to cherish,” says Caldas. “But to pick a standout moment is difficult. I think that different moments come with different lead up stories and details so each one of them is amazing in its own right.”
“It really is a great honour to receive this award,” says McLeod. “I know the coaches that have received it in the past and it is very humbling to now be recognised alongside them. It is also special as it is voted by my peers. These are coaches that all battle on the side lines but each of us know the time and commitment that goes into coaching international hockey. For all of us there is a shared respect of the work that we all do. That is why it has an extra special meaning to me.”
Like Caldas, McLeod also attributes his success to the people around him: “One of my best skills is to surround myself with the best people and then to work hard to get the most out of them. This is a skill I have learnt at an older age and I see the benefits when both players and staff are fully invested.
“Most of my personal investment has been around the learning styles of myself and others. This is an ongoing area of interest for myself and it has helped with the connecting with players who operate on a completely different value systems that I am used to. It is also something that has assisted our team to build a culture that is successful.”
Both Caldas and McLeod had some standout moments in 2017. For Caldas, a great performance at the Rabobank EuroHockey Championships saw his side defeat, ironically, McLeod’s Belgium in a 4-2 victory. For McLeod, it was the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg, when the Red Lions won the final 6-1 against European rivals Germany.
“It was not the score line but more the style in which we played,” says McLeod reflecting back.
For now though, Coach of the Year trophy safely stowed, both men’s thoughts will be firmly turned towards Bhubaneswar and the Odisha Hockey World Cup 2018. Caldas says he is “dreaming” about the World Cup already, while McLeod acknowledges that every coach whose team has qualified will have their eyes on the World Cup.