Up-and-coming hockey talent in Levin have an amazing opportunity to learn and play alongside a former New Zealand representative this year.
Cathryn Pollock, a former Black Stick, has taken on a role as player-coach role of a young team based in Levin competing in the premier Manawatū competition this season.
Pollock, who played 65 test matches for New Zealand, saw it as an opportunity to give back to her sport and remembered her own game improved markedly by playing alongside older players when she was in her early teens.
The Levin side is made up mostly of players in their early teens. Mixed with five more senior women, the average age of the team is 18.
"That was the drawcard for me. I remember those senior players helped foster skills and a passion for the game, and it was a segway into the women's competition. It was really good for my hockey," she said.
"I truly believe Levin is a good breeding ground for hockey talent and it's important to have the opportunity to play at this level, without having to travel all the time to do so."
Pollock said watching young players develop their skills was its own reward.
"The goal is to improve week to week rather than look for the big win at the end of the season," she said.
So far, since regrouping after the Covid-19 lockdown, the Levin team was unbeaten in two games and would shoot for a hattrick against High School B at Halliwell Hockey Turf tomorrow afternoon (3pm).
Pollock said it was the small things that helped players to improve, like discipline and learning to deal with adversity.
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"Their ability to get back up when they've had a hard knock is a reflection of how far they have come already," she said.
"I have high expectations for what training looks like in terms of time management. That can be transferable into other areas of life too."
Team manager and co-coach Lyndon Cooney said while Horowhenua has always a good breeding ground for hockey talent, in the past young players had ended up playing for other teams outside the province as they grew older.
So he approached Pollock late last year with the idea of building a team based in Levin that in time could compete against the best in the area at club level.
He said Pollock didn't hesitate, and the players are the better for it.
Cooney said it was brilliant that a player of Pollock's calibre was giving back to her sport and the young players were extremely lucky to be learning from someone of her experience.
It was a professionalism that came from playing high level sport and the little things that Pollock was imparting on the young players that made a difference, he said.
A good example of that was, as training began at 7pm at night, the onus was on the players themselves to arrive 10 or more minutes earlier to warm up so that they were ready to go when training began.
It was that sort of discipline and habits that would serve them well for the future and set the tone for how they approach the game, he said.
Manawatū Hockey had combined division one and two this season, which provided the Levin with a chance to break through in the top league and hopefully stay there.
"They're holding their own and it's because of what Cathryn is doing. They're exceeding expectations," he said.
Meanwhile, a biography piece on a hockey website has an inspirational quote from Pollock that sums up her approach to sport, and was advice that would resonate well will all young sportspeople.
"Have fun and remember that strength does not come from winning. The obstacles you face develop your strengths. When you hit an obstacle and remain focused and don't surrender, that is strength," it says.
Pollock played 65 games for New Zealand, scoring 18 goals after first making her debut in 2010 against Australia.