VIERUMÄKI, Finland – South Africa is 32nd among the 38 women’s national teams ranked in the World Championship program. Team Manager Trudie Coetzee hopes to improve and is doing her part by learning at the Team Manager Development Program of the 2014 IIHF Hockey Development Camp in Vierumäki.
Four team managers and two mentor trainees joined the camp to lead the six teams formed and mixed with players from dozens of different nations. Off the practical work at the rink they get theoretical education in their field and can discuss their individual approaches, problems and solutions with Harald Springfeld, who mentors the team managers.
Two had a long way coming here and their nations met recently in the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification: Nelly Selem from Mexico and Trudie Coetzee from South Africa.
For Coetzee it’s the second time in Vierumäki. Two years ago she came as a mother, now she wants to learn herself since she’s leading the women’s national team.
“My daughter was at the camp two years ago, it was a great experience for her. It’s always nice to come here. For us who are so low ranked it’s a fortunate thing to be able to come to Finland,” Coetzee said.
“I learned a lot especially about administrative things and paperwork we haven’t done before. It was a bit overwhelming in the beginning but once it went on it was easier.”
Her program is one of several programs built around the team program. In Team Blue she’s working with coaches from Hungary, Hong Kong and the Vierumäki institute, a goaltending coach from Iceland, a Spanish equipment manager and player from a wide range of countries from Korea to Belarus to the United States.
“It will definitely change my work in the future. I learned how to better administrate the team with many things that will make my life easier in South Africa,” Coetzee said.
And like all participants the main goal is to take things with her and teach it to others within her country.
“I can teach to team managers in South Africa so they know from the beginning how things work and not after struggle through two tournaments and find it out. That’s the problem in South Africa. I’m on my way to work on a program,” she said.
One year ago in Spain the South African women’s national team fell out of the Women’s World Championship Division II Group B.
“So we had to re-qualify this year. We lost against Mexico this year so we have to re-qualify in Hong Kong next year,” Coetzee said.
On the hockey map, South Africa is one of the most isolated countries with no other ice hockey national teams in the region. The only other sub-Saharan African country that is an IIHF member is Namibia but the neighbouring country has so far only competed in inline hockey. The focus is therefore on national play.
“We play in Gauteng, most players come from this area, and we play in Cape Town where our biggest rink is and where we will also host the men’s Division III next year. Most players come from two provinces. We just finished our interprovincial tournament with the U14, U16 and U18,” Coetzee said.
Approximately 70 female players are active in South Africa in the age group between 14 and 34 although most players are rather young.
“In South Africa there are no countries nearby to play with. The only chance to play internationally is the IIHF events,” Coetzee said. “The national players ask to go to practice camps beforehand but with the exchange rate low it’s very expensive for us so it’s not possible.”
The South African Rand against the US dollar is only worth a quarter of what it was 25 years ago making travelling more difficult than it used to be.
Still, three participants made all the way from South Africa to Finland. Apart from Coetzee, Danielle Kotze is in the Team Coach Development Program and Robyn Adamson in the Long-Term Player Development Program.
“It’s the first time South Africa sent a woman for a coaching course. Kotze is also one of the players on our national team. It’s nice to come here as a player. You learn more things, respect the coach more, you know the difficulties and know what it is about and why the coach sometimes tells players they do something wrong,” she said about her compatriot.
Now the hope is South Africa can implement what the three women have learned on the national level. Maybe improvements can already be seen soon. Next February South Africa will play host Hong Kong, Bulgaria and Turkey in the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification.