VIERUMÄKI – While the IIHF Hockey Development Camp is mainly known as a sport camp, its newest program is designed to help improve those people using their passion for hockey behind the rink boards and player benches.
While players, coaches and officials have usually been the main focus, those working behind the scenes will also get their share in Vierumäki, Finland, this week. Managers, secretaries, organizers and other people from the IIHF member national associations and clubs convened for the one-week Administrator’s Education Program.
In total 16 men and 12 women are present to follow the interactive sessions in groups and workshops led by Paul Carson, Vice President of Hockey Development with Hockey Canada.
“We targeted associations that need support in everything from building a capacity as administrators to improving the capacity of coaches and coach development programs,” Carson said.
“Everything that we’re doing this week with associations is to put them in a better position to serve themselves in an efficient way and to take full advantage of the resources that are available to them internationally and to ensure they have good strategies to operate and to grow.”
The participants are here to learn but also to exchange experiences about their challenges and how to address them despite different backgrounds.
When the different groups presented their needs, Miren Meyerson Uriarte from Spain represented a group that also included participants from Bulgaria and Mexico. One situation they share is that there’s not much room for hockey in their respective countries behind one dominant sport, football.
“Our challenge is to promote ice hockey to the public and schools,” she said. “We want to develop our program, learn from others and improve our situation in ice facilities and government support.”
Jos Lejeune from Belgium underlined what many are here for: networking and to understand how the different national associations solve problems and respond to challenges. Orsolya Mercz from Hungary meanwhile talked about how to structure an organization and distribute tasks and job responsibilities while Kadri Akkerman from Estonia wants to collect best practices. And that’s what will be done in a manual by the end of the week.
Issues also include the way hockey is presented in some countries.
“Marketing is an important point. We need to make sure that TV doesn’t just show big hits and fighting from the NHL”, said Kari Berg Rogstad from Norway. “This kind of image of the game is a problem for us in recruiting new players, especially girls.”
Carson describes his group of 28 people as very enthusiastic with a very broad range of challenges
“What we’re trying to show in the end is that the challenges are very similar in nations and often there are similar strategies that will help solve a number of those challenges and it’s important to get those on the table of the groups,” he said.
“First the participants need to feel at ease that their problems are not unique and I think a lot of the associations know that. In creating this network of individuals they can work with each other through relationships that evolve and share best practices and support one and another to get through challenges.”
Lithuania is even represented by two people. The organization, that originally was founded to build up a recreational league that eventually multiplied the number of senior club teams in the country from four to 21, took over all national and international hockey operations just some months ago after the bankruptcy of the former Lithuanian Ice Hockey Association.
This new body will organize the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in its capital of Vilnius.
“We are new people and for us it’s very important to have good relationships in the European hockey family,” said Vaclovas Gedvilas. “In Lithuania we haven’t had many IIHF tournaments and organizing the World Championship Division I Group B will be a great challenge for us.”
The program includes people from a big variety and levels in international hockey.
“We started to improve in the technical and development areas and now we want to improve our administrative system,” said Ferhat Tözünler from Turkey. “This program is very good for our federation.”
“We want to take a step forward in things like budgeting, dealing with the authorities but also with the minimum participation standards and building up a hockey culture in Turkey.”
Carson filled the representatives from smaller hockey nations with confidence that hockey can grow with time. Even in a hockey country like Canada studies showed that it takes three generations until a family with immigration background takes on hockey.
Apart from having ice rinks, the ice availability is a problem in some countries. While Carson estimated the rent for an hour in rural Canada at €50 per hour, it can be much higher in countries with fewer capacities and privately-owned rinks that are financed by public skating.
Kin Ng reported about hourly prices of €1,100 in Hong Kong. The number can even be up to €2,000 during peak hours at the biggest ice rink. Situations like this can be challenging for clubs and hockey bodies. Ng also hopes to learn more about how to work with clubs and how to have a good influence on them.
“There are many good ideas from the IIHF but how do we do them in practice with limited capacities?” Sharon Fisher from South Africa pointed out.
Making sure that the representatives know about possibilities like the national association assistance program is one of the goals of this week.
Jukka Tiikkaja presented the program of the HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences and the possibility of student placements within countries of IIHF member national associations for support through the Development Program.
Students from the program in Vierumäki have had hockey-related placements with national associations and clubs in 21 different countries all around the world in Europe, North and Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and even as far as South Africa and Australia.
“I think one of the most important parts is that the end of the camp is not the end. Because we created this network of individuals and we’re going to show them some strategies for sharing information,” Carson said.
“It’s quite conceivable that they will maintain these relationships beyond the camp to support one another. It’s conceivable that we could identify students to work specifically with associations who have projects they would like to do.”
The goal at the end of the camp is to work with any of the associations in the administration program to piece together an application for national assistance.
“The goal is that they would be able to identify a project, that they would be able to frame the project in terms of what the goals were, how to measure the success of the project, what the costs of the project would be and we would support them,” Carson said.
“My feeling is that we should see a number of groups put together a plan of that nature. If two or three associations were to put an application together for national assistance funding they would be able to create for example an administrators’ training program for clubs.”
And like that pass on what they’ve learned to their own members.