The Hockey Dreams Foundation has a big aim – to take hockey development to ten different African countries. With the Foundation’s support, coaches will be trained to run hockey sessions but also to develop hockey within the community as a sustainable activity. Over time, the coaches will be running hockey in their community as a business, with sponsorship from local companies and businesses, and teaching a new generation of young people the skills of coaching.
The additional impact engendered by the Hockey Dreams Foundation is to make a better society through knowledge and learning. The coaches are expected to finish their mainstream education at school and college, they will learn about the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle, taking exercise and eating nutritious food. They will be expected to act as role models, steering youngsters away from drugs and crime.
The Hockey Dreams Foundation began life in Zambia in 2012 as the Kadish Foundation, initiated by Gijs Hardeman. Its recent re-brand in 2016 was to give it a wider reach across Africa.
The emphasis of the programme revolves around the coaches. The Hockey Dreams Foundation works with trainee coaches to improve their educational, personal and social skills. The concept is a simple one: ten coaches are identified and trained and then each work within their local community to develop a club. Each club attracts hundreds of people to the coaching sessions, they in turn learn the importance of education, health and exercise. They also get the chance to play sport in a safe environment. Gender equality is paramount.
Over time, thousands of people are reached as the creation of a safe sporting environment draws interest and support from family and friends.
“We admire the same good moves and nice skills, we laugh at the same mistakes and we understand it is a team sport and effort and not an individual sport." Tomislav Jamicic
The Foundation’s part in this is a facilitating role. Coaches are helped through their education, including college if that is an option. They also follow a computer course. Once a coach is running a club, the Foundation withdraws from directly helping but offers support and advice from the sidelines.
Currently the Hockey Dreams Foundation is operating in four countries – Zambia, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Support in terms of equipment, coach education and financial aid comes largely from the Netherland, with Bjorn Kellerman and Maria Verschoor two of the ambassadors for the programme.
A number of other hockey players and coaches from Europe have worked alongside the Hockey Dreams Foundation, providing their knowledge of the sport while also experiencing life in a very different culture.
Former Croatian international and high performance coach Tomislav Jamicic was one player who found the call of Africa irresistible. He travelled to Uganda and met local coach Innocent Mbabali, who invited Tomislav to a training session at the local sports ground. Here he recounts his experiences.
“There was a practice session in progress so we introduced ourselves to some spectators on the stands and soon we found out who Innocent was. After the session had ended, Innocent told us that the children would very much like to play against us, team Muzungu (meaning: whitey ones).
“They quickly arranged some sticks for us. Luckily Innocent joined us as well, so we could play an equal match against the dozen of eager children. And you know what… Uganda has a different culture, different climate, different food, different traffic, different economy, different animals, but on the hockey pitch everything was just the same. The same like in Amsterdam or in Stockholm or in Berlin or Buenos Aires or in Tokyo, the hockey language we speak with each other on the pitch is universal.
"We admire the same good moves and nice skills, we laugh at the same mistakes and we understand it is a team sport and effort and not an individual sport.
"During the game more and more children joined, some joined the children’s team, others the Muzungu team. It was a real celebration of the game of hockey. There was a big difference in level, with some kids showing truly impressive skills. Talent is everywhere in the world. We played and played until it was so dark, that we had to stop.”
Tomislav learned that Innocent was developing a new generation of coaches. He coaches at the local club and across a number of schools. There are now five men’s teams and five women’s teams in Uganda thanks to the dedication of Innocent and the support of the Hockey Dreams Foundation.
Later this year, The Hockey Dreams Foundation will be organising the African Hockey Experience, which is a fundraising trip to Zambia. Players and coaches from the Netherlands will have the opportunity to work with coaches and children already involved in the Zambia programme. For more information on the African Hockey Experience click here
The work of the Hockey Dreams Foundation, which introduces sustainable hockey activities to diverse communities are very much aligned to the FIH 10-Year strategy and its overall aim of making hockey a global game that inspires future generations.