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Back You are here: Home Sports Hockey Eastern Cape Hockey: Selborne Duo Determined to make it...
Friday, 02 November 2012 12:45

Hockey: Selborne Duo Determined to make it...

Written by  Jonathan Cook

Talking to Selborne College hockey players Dylan Billingham and Sarvesh Naidoo, there is no doubting their ambition to succeed at the highest level of the game.

sel hockBillingham is 17 years old and in grade 11 at the highly regarded East London school. He has an interest in biology and physical science, and attended Stirling Primary School before Selborne.

When he is not at school, Billingham resides in Beacon Bay, East London and since he started playing hockey in grade 6, has been selected for the Amatole/Border U13A team (grade 6 and grade 7), the Border U14A team in grade 8, and Border U16A in grades 9 and 10, while he achieved his first recognition nationally when he was selected for the SA U16 squad last year.


He has a love for indoor hockey as well. “Indoor is considerably quicker than field hockey and the speed at which you have to make decisions and react really tests your hockey ability - and I like a good test,” he says.

Billingham also plays squash and tennis in the summer terms, while he used to play cricket as well in his earlier years.

“I had to choose between rugby and hockey long ago but hockey has always been my main sport and that will never change,” says the hockey livewire.

“I started playing hockey when I was five years old at the East London Mini Hockey Academy, which is a great place to start when you are very young. After my first year there, I kind of fell in love with the sport.”

The Selborne lad puts a lot of effort into his game. “I train with the Selborne first team three times per week,” says Billingham. “I gym my legs and core muscles, and I run as well.”

Billingham also plays club hockey for Bohs in the Border Premier League. “This helps because when I play with older guys with more experience I gain experience from them.”

The biggest influence on his hockey career has “probably” been his father. “Whenever I need anything related to hockey, dad will provide it for me, whether it is support at away games, new equipment or a pep talk before the game. Dad has always been there for me.”

What energises Billingham internally? “Self-motivation is definitely something that I do not lack!” he chuckles. “During the December holidays I asked my coach to lend me some hockey balls and every second day I was on the Astro, setting up beacons and practising by myself in preparation for the season.

“During the first term I practised by myself after school, every day on the Astro. My motivation comes from my dream of becoming an SA player. I never lose focus and am working hard to one day live my dream.”

Billingham’s ultimate goal in the sport is playing in the Olympics for the SA men’s side. Does he really believe he has the desire, dedication and willingness to make sacrifices to achieve that goal?

“I will do anything to achieve my goals and dreams in hockey and I know that one day I will have to make tough sacrifices, but I will never lose focus of what my goals and dreams are.”

Next up is Billingham’s ambition to make the SA U17 side, which will be chosen after the U18 Interprovincial Tournament. “This is my main goal for this year but first of all I have to make the Border U18A team before I can even look at the SA U17 side.”

One day, Billingham wants to play hockey the way Australian captain and four-time International Hockey Federation (FIH) player of the year, Jamie Dwyer, does. “I would really like to play in the Hoofdklasse in Holland; this is another one of my goals.

Billingham acknowledges the role that Selborne has played in helping him develop his talent. “Selborne's hockey coaches are brilliant. They are very experienced and are the geniuses behind Selborne's victories. Having an Astro on campus makes practising our hockey that much easier. With such easy access to an Astro, Selborne players can improve their hockey whenever they want to, whether it is in an official practice or by themselves.” 

Does family support play a role; his parents? “My parents are extremely supportive of my hockey. They are always there to cheer me on in the grandstands. I also have a brother, Jason. When we were younger we used to play soccer in the backyard together.”

Recently, an opportunity has opened up for Billingham to study on a full sports scholarship at Michigan State University in the USA. “Apparently the hockey is very competitive. At the same time though, I will be looking to study in the field of biomedical engineering.”

A little-known fact about Billingham is that he is pretty good at playing the piano. “Even though I can't read sheet music, I play by ear. I can play songs such as, You got a friend in me from Toy Story, Someone like you by Adele, Maple leaf rag by Scott Joplin, 1000 miles by Vanessa Carlton and many more.”

Sarvesh Naidoo also possesses the same burning intensity and passion for the sport. He is still only 16 years old and also in grade 11, where he has an abiding interest in physics and maths.

Like Billingham, Naidoo also attended Stirling Primary and, like his team-mate, has also played for Amatole/Border through the age groups. He spent two years in the Border U13 side, graduated to the U14 provincial team, spent two years in the Border U16 line-up, and also made the SA U16 squad.

And like Billingham he just loves indoor hockey. “It’s a high-intensity game and you need to be moving on and off the ball constantly,” he says.

Cricket is another sport he plays. “Hockey has always been my preferred winter sport since primary school,” he says. “I played rugby until grade seven and at high school I chose hockey.”

As a tireless grade two boy with limitless energy, Naidoo was eager to try any sport and burn up energy, and it was here that he was introduced to hockey.

“I train with the Selborne first team three times per week and I also play club hockey for United Hockey Club. Since I moved up to the Premier League, I train five days a week at Virgin Active. Playing club hockey does give me more experience and the value can be seen in that you are always a step ahead of players your own age.”

Naidoo’s parents and coaches have been the biggest influence on his career, “and I also have a brother, Vishay, who is 11, and we still play in the back yard at home.”

But what motivates him internally? “I have a dream of representing the South Africa men’s team at the Olympic Games, and it has made me realise just how much work there is to do. Nothing comes easily and you have to have the desire, dedication and willingness to make sacrifices to achieve that goal.”

Naidoo’s next step on the path to his Olympic dream is to be selected for the SA U18 squad and SA U17 team, while further down the track he would like to play in a top European club league like the Dutch Hoofdklasse “to play with and against the best players in the world”.

He says a big plus is Selborne’s team of dedicated coaches, who motivate and develop the players. “The school has the facilities we require; our own Astro turf and school gym, and we are also afforded the opportunity to play against the best schools in the country.”

Naidoo has already mapped out his future. “I am planning to study at UCT; I would like to study for a degree in mechanical engineering. Education is key,” he says.

Away from the books and the hockey pitch, Naidoo has a keen interest in cars, “mainly BMWs”, he smiles.

Just like Dylan Billingham, Sarvesh Naidoo is in the fast lane.

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