Introducing more children to the game and working on the retention of players will be the main focus of new Taranaki Hockey development officer Mark Lyes.
Lyes, 31, started work in the newly created fulltime role last week and hit the ground running, coaching players with a wide range of abilities while still organising his office.
With 1200 registered hockey players in Taranaki, Lyes hopes to increase that number, while driving New Zealand Hockey's Small Six and the Fun Six programmes, which are for 5 to 13-year-olds.
"We are starting to introduce them into schools, as well as running them after school time."
Taranaki Hockey will also work in secondary schools using a programme organised by New Zealand Hockey.
"My main role is to increase numbers across the board, and the other is the retention of those already involved in playing the sport," Lyes said.
"Basically, for the next three years, it will be concentrating on building awareness in the community, building numbers as well as sustaining numbers."
He said NZ Hockey had moved away from coaching children in how to play the game, preferring to get them out having fun.
"All the stuff they're learning will relate to hockey and rather than having a hockey stick in your hand and doing all the drills, it's more playing games and having fun and then, in time, moving on to more skill-based activities," he said.
New Plymouth-born and raised, Lyes has represented Taranaki and Manawatu, and also Central Districts at under-21 level.
A former New Plymouth Boys' High School pupil, Lyes moves into fulltime sport administration/coaching from a retail background as manager of the Elite Fitness store in New Plymouth. He coached hockey in his spare time.
Lyes believes Taranaki Hockey has done a lot of good work to improve the sport.
"I think in the last three years it's made a big step forward and it's still going forward.
"The people involved have vision and drive to do their very best for the sport."
Lyes is optimistic, with the success of several age-group rep teams last season, that Taranaki will have more players representing Central Districts.
Initially, Lyes will be based from home but work closely with Sport Taranaki and Taranaki Hockey staff based in Stratford.
Taranaki Hockey manager Tracy Collier said employing a development officer was an important step.
"Mark will have a huge role - responsible for growing and strengthening the delivery of hockey throughout Taranaki," Collier said.
"So much needs to be done to develop hockey and there is so much enthusiasm out there for it," she said.
Collier said the position was made possible thanks to funding from The TSB Community Trust and the three-year NZ Hockey development project.
She said the association was thankful to New Plymouth's Energy City Ford, Taranaki Hockey's first official sponsor.
- Taranaki Daily News
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