The State of South African Hockey
Garreth Ewing is currently assistant coach to the South Africa men's hockey team and is Head Coach of South Africa U21s men and the University of Johannesburg. Here, he blogs for EVO Hockey exclusively about the state of the game in SA. Garreth is on Twitter as @SAspringdog
The current state of South African hockey
SA hockey, despite the knock our national teams will take after not being allowed to compete at he Olympics, is in great shape in terms of participation.
There is a huge group of players competing at every age group - 100 000+ is the figure thrown around. The sport is very active at high school level, with very high levels of competition in festivals and at tournaments like Aitken etc. Masters hockey is huge and we send national teams over in all the older categories every year.
There are some big events that attract thousands of participants, indoor and outdoor, so there is a great love for hockey.
Hockey is a sport that has been identified by the government as a development priority, which is very positive for the game in general.
There are more than 100 Astros around the country.
We have provincial tournaments from age 13 to masters every year.
The future and challenges
The game's administration (Saha) has been split into a commercial arm and an administrative arm, this is to professionalize the sport and boost event to fund the national teams. It should start showing dividends from 2016.
We are slated to have an NHL competition in 2016 with the top 100 players from around the country competing in regional franchise teams, which should be very exciting.
The biggest challenges are at national level, because the Olympic issue means our FIH ranking is going to suffer. How much remains to be seen, but it's a real concern. In terms of funding all our national teams struggle for funding and there is at least some money contributed by players in every national team (100% in some cases). This isn't unique to South Africa but the level of competition we aspire to (and the potential to compete at a higher level that we have) it's an obstacle.