Meet the new Director of Hockey

August 02, 2016 | Campus

Mr Robin van Ginkel, Director of Hockey and Head of Sports Science at Saints, is a relatively new addition to the Saints team. He joins us with a wealth of experience as a hockey professional. Also, he has recently been re-elected as the SA U18 girls' hockey coach. 

We managed to find some time to chat to Rob about his experiences as part of the prestigious Hockey India League (HIL) and his vision for hockey at Saints. This is what he had to say.

SA hockey stars. From the left: Mr Rob van Ginkel, Director of Hockey, Tamsin Copeland, SA schools hockey player, Taryn Rauff, SA schools hockey player, and Olivia Levieux, SA schools hockey player.

Hockey India League

We began by asking Rob about the HIL: what it involves, how it works, and how he got involved with it.

"It's the Indian hockey league [and] it's exactly the same as IPL cricket. So, every franchise gets $750 000, there's a big auction, and you buy your team. There has to be 10 internationals [and] 10 Indians per team... You buy the six teams and then you get asked to coach or be a part of the coaching staff. So, [there are] 12 coaches worldwide that are involved in this tournament and I was one of them. So, it's very prestigious [because] you get invited [to coach]," he says.

Of the league, Rob said: "[It's] a very prestigious tournament. Very few people get a chance to go and experience the Indian hockey league." Rob has been invited to the tournament for three consecutive years.

"I was with the Deli Waveriders and the first year I went there they won the tournament and then last year they came third, and this year they came third again. But, they're the only team [that's always] on the podium," says Rob.

He explains that the team was quite diverse and the team worked well together. "We had...Australians, New Zealanders, there was a South African in the team, there was a Canadian in the team, and all the Indians, and there was a[player from Great Britain]," he says.

He continues: "You get different cultures, you all work together, and obviously you play in this big hockey tournament where you play five away games [and] five home games in India and then a semi-final and final."

Rob explains that the away games are played "all around India" so the players would represent a particular Indian city as their "home" team and then they would play in other Indian cities for the away games. 60 international players are chosen from around the world and 60 Indian players are chosen for the league, he explains.  

"You always have to have 6 Indians on the field at all times and 5 international players on the field at all times," he adds. 

The big spinoff from the league is that there are "12 coaches from around the world and the knowledge that you share is quite exclusive and [I am] bringing that back to Saints... We're one step ahead of the curve," he says. He explains that this includes the latest trends, tactics, and all the latest ways hockey is being played internationally is fed straight back to Saints through his involvement in the league.

Lessons learnt in India

We asked about some lessons that he would like to share following his trip to India. This is what he said.

Saints will have its own brand of hockey, is his larger message.

"Being in India I've got a good idea of the trends and what's happening in international hockey and what we want to do is develop our own brand of hockey at Saints," he says.

He would like to have a skills roadmap from the age of 6 through to U18. Rob explains that he has started to have coaches' meetings to ensure that we are using the same terminology throughout all the age groups. This is especially helpful for players as they will be hearing the same terminolgy from each coach regardless of their age group.

SA U18 hockey side

Vision and plans for hockey at Saints

"The big picture is just to grow and develop hockey players holistically," Rob says.

"We are trying to educate all the coaches so all of them will get a South African hockey accreditation," he says. "So, we will give them development in their coaching career," he adds.

"Another big thing," Rob says, "is we're using the same coaches throughout. So the Prep Easter Fest [coaches] are the high school coaches... So, once I educate 12 coaches those 12 coaches are coaching prep school all the way into high school so that we don't have [different coaches in various different places]."

Rob would also like to focus on development and depth in the hockey teams at Saints. "The depth of hockey needs to improve," he says. He would like Saints to be the school of preference for great hockey players. "We should be that school of preference," he says.

In reference to his own position as the SA U18 girls' hockey coach, Rob adds: "I'm the SA U18 girls' coach so..being an SA U18 coach, if we have provincial [and national] coaches within our set-up we start atttracting the right players to our school," he explains.

"I'm the national coach and if girls want to play for South Africa U18 they are going to have to be coached by me," he continues.

Similarly, he feels its important to have provincial coaches at Saints. "We want to align ourselves a lot more with Southern Gauteng and provincial coaching," explains Rob. For him, this is an important aspect of having a successful hockey programme at Saints.

"We want to align ourselves with provincial structures in order for our [players] to get the best opportunities to play sport at the highest level," he adds.

"We want provincial coaches and managers at Saints because they understand the bigger picture of hockey and where it's going and we're just breeding a better hockey brand at Saints," he continues.

We are happy to have Rob join our fantastic team of staff and we look forward to seeing what he will do with hockey across our campus.