The Coordinator of the Sierra Leone Hockey Association (SLHA), Philip Silas Bangura has said that they have been running a number of community outreach programmes and are using Hockey as the medium for sending a strong message about discipline, self-respect and self-confidence, as well as all the health and well-being benefits of playing a team sport. He said it is a solid and steady base from which people can rebuild lives.
“It was initially difficult to get the kids on board. Most of them only know how to play football but we have succeeded in showing them how to play hockey and they are now fully committed to hockey, not football.”
Osman Sillah, Outreach Officer and Hockey coach
Bangura said that the growth of hockey in Africa has been steady and logical, adding that two years ago, the SLHA embarked on a coaching and umpire education programme, with help from the Hockey Association in Ghana and one of the top-ranked European nations, Spain. He said the coaches have also been helping to develop elite players at different age group levels.
Mr. Bangura went further to talk about the creation of a national league, in which ten primary schools, ten secondary schools and ten colleges played in competitions. He said they rolled the programme out to introduce the sport to schools and colleges, adding that they applied the three-a-side variation, which allows children to master the skills of the game and enjoy a competitive experience on a smaller playing surface. He however lamented that facilities and equipment are in short supply.
The plan to develop the game in Sierra Leone was initially met with both skepticism and resistance. There was a feeling that hockey was not a popular sport and parents did not see the value of their children learning a sport that was a minority activity. But, by sheer will-power and the hard work of a number of people, the SLHA is gradually winning hearts and minds and hockey is emerging as a popular sport.
The Outreach Officer and Hockey coach, Osman Sillah said that he has been working with a group of girls and boys between the ages of 8-15 to develop an understanding and love of the game.
He added that one of the recent campaigns run by the Sierra Leone Hockey Association (SLHA) is the Eat and Play Hockey project. This he said, is being implemented in two communities in Freetown, where they offer young people a meal either before or after hockey training.
The Programmes Coordinator, Silas Bangura intimated NewsWatch that many young people cannot afford a meal a day so they tend to focus on searching for a meal instead of engaging in education or sporting activities.
“What we do is provide them with a plate of food. Because of this, we have been able to feed about 60 young people, who are living in deplorable conditions.” He concluded.