In 2008 hockey in China, particularly for women, seemed all set to explode as the women's national team won silver at the Beijing Olympic Games. While China has maintained its place in the top echelons of the world rankings, neither the men's nor women's teams have quite reached that level again. A school-based initiative being launched country-wide is hoping to change that.
A total of 20 schools have been added to the number of schools that provide for hockey athletes of the future via a number of schools being designated National Olympic Reserve Bases for Hockey Talents. Among the places that are benefiting from the increased focus on hockey development are Inner Mongolia, Liaoning Province, Jilin Province, Shanghai, Jiangsu Province, Guangdong Province, Sichuan Province and Gansu Province.
A spokesperson from the China Hockey Association explained that coaching in the schools will be provided by provincial club teams, while the overall coaching programme is overseen by the General Administration of Sport of China. The driving force behind the schools' initiative is to help hockey participation develop and grow across the entirety of China.
And then, of course, this will strengthen the talent pool from which regional and national teams are selected.
The added incentive for the talented young hockey players to keep progressing within the sport is the increased opportunity to secure places at university. Many opportunities exist for athletes with the potential to make the national teams.
Talented young hockey players in the Gansu Province of China are among those being offered more hockey coaching opportunities through the programme.
Gao Xiang, principal of the Sports School of Jingyuan County in Gansu Province, is inspired by the fact that his school is on the list.
“Three schools on the list are in Gansu. This is a new start for us to explore more field hockey talents. And I hope that my school could be a cradle for them,” Gao said
The Sports School of Jingyuan County already has a strong recent history in hockey. The school’s hockey team was established in 2008 – the year of the China women's team's silver success. The progress is self evident. Since the school started specialising in hockey, more than 20 players from the school have progressed to represent Gansu Province and the national youth teams. The school currently has 150 potential hockey stars in its ranks at the moment.