Hayden's hockey passion rewarded
For Hayden Boyce, hockey is life.
Undoubtedly the brightest of this province's shining hockey stars, 15-year-old Hayden lives and breathes the sport he loves. When the year 11 Marlborough Boys' College student is not at school, almost all his time is spent at the College Park turf.
Whether it's training, playing, coaching, umpiring or just helping out, he is doing something hockey-related at every available opportunity.
Little wonder, then, that this year Hayden has made the step up to his first full season in premier men's hockey with relative ease and with two more years left at high school is one of the senior heads in the MBC first XI.
Although his performances for the Arotea Kiwi premier side so far have proven he is more than capable at senior men's level, the modest and reserved teenager said it has been challenging competing with older and more experienced players week in, week out.
"It's a big step up because I've normally played a defending role and for prems I play in attack, so I've had to change my style of play. You can't muck around with the ball; you have to just receive and pass the ball and make sure you keep calm under pressure so you don't give away the ball easily ... it's a lot more difficult because they are a lot more physical on the ball and you've got to be strong and stay low."
From being one of the junior members of the Arotea team, each week Hayden has to make the adjustment to being a senior member of the MBC side, which plays in the Friday night division one competition.
For someone who achieved the rare feat of making the first XI in year 9, he has more than earned his role as a leader in this year's team.
Hayden admits being part of a first XI full of much older players in his first year at college was slightly daunting, but he also notes it was the moment he decided it was time to get more serious with his hockey.
"I didn't really get into [hockey] until about year 9. When I was trying to get into the [first XI], I started training a lot more and started thinking about what I wanted to do with hockey."
While he credits the countless hours at the turf and the massive amount of advice he has received from mentor and departing Marlborough hockey development officer Brent Edwards for his rapid rise, Hayden's natural talent was obvious from an early stage.
Interestingly, it is one of his Arotea Kiwi premier team-mates who was largely responsible for him picking up a stick in the first place.
In year 5 at Riverlands School, representative midfielder Blair Walker was his teacher and it was not long before he inspired his pupil to give hockey a crack. After a year of eight-a-side, Hayden moved up into full-field 11-a-side the following year. Along with playing for the MBC first XI, since then he has played two years for Marlborough at under-13 level and spent another two years in the under-15 representative team, captaining the side last season.
He was also selected in the Nelson under-18 team last month, but had to withdraw because he has a minor health issue and does not want to overload his playing schedule.
However, his problems with a low immune system are abating, and he plans on playing at next season's national under-18 tournament. "I want to play for either Canterbury or Capital under-18s next year. I might be moving to Christchurch next year to be a part of a bigger hockey association."
In terms of other sports, social volleyball and tennis have featured briefly, but these days hockey is No1, though he does a bit of hunting with his father, Dean, every now and then.
For the moment, though, his sights are very much set on continuing to climb towards the pinnacle of New Zealand hockey.
"Since year 9 I've wanted to be a Black Stick and if not I want to play for one of the bigger NHL associations. It's going to be tough and it's going to mean a lot more hours of training. I've also got a goal to be at the Olympics in 2020."
The Marlborough Express