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Back You are here: Home Sports Hockey Western Cape Hockey: Wynberg Boy's A Top Unit
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 15:36

Hockey: Wynberg Boy's A Top Unit

Written by  by Jonathan Cook

The Wynberg Boys’ High School first team is laying a strong claim to being the top side in the country this year and much of the success can be attributed to the man at the helm, head coach Anton Grobler.

But sometimes it’s worth going back a bit to see where the legend of Wynberg hockey began.

Wynberg’s hockey really took off with Paul Revington’s coaching and philosophy about 10 years ago. The current head coach of Malaysia, former head coach of the South African men’s team and, more recently, Ireland’s national side, Revington was an inspiration.

It is a fact that is acknowledged by Wynberg’s astute headmaster, Keith Richardson: “Personally, I think it was the fact that we were, together with Maritzburg College, the first two schools to acquire an astroturf that gave us the edge. Having Paul Revington was the cherry on the top”

The school also had the foresight to employ a professional coach, starting with Craig Sieben, who is currently coaching at the Huizer club in The Netherlands, and now Jamie Kroukamp, who is also a gifted video analyst.

“I believe our current coaching staff is the strongest group Wynberg has ever had,” says Grobler.

Indeed, Wynberg has the likes of Daniel Ramage (U14), Brendan Keevey and Greg Davis (U16), and Warren Grobler, (who is involved in the U19 age group) on board and their combined coaching acumen is reaping dividends.

“Wynberg’s other teams also have very competent coaches,” says Grobler. “We have a total of 19 hockey sides and have even instituted an internal league, as we struggle to get games for the excess U16 and U14 players. Having a headmaster who loves all sport but has a particular interest in hockey also goes a long way in this process.”

And now with Wynberg’s new, second, synthetic turf in place, the school can look at a new era in the sport that will possibly take more work but will also pay great dividends in the next few years and beyond.

SA School Sports asked Grobler what the quality of coaching was like at Wynberg Junior.

“The quality of junior coaching is quite good, but could possibly be improved upon,” says Grobler. “Roy Clark, the ex-national player, coaches at Wynberg Junior and does a great job with the little ones before they come to us. The U14 group for this year is particularly strong and I am very excited about the next five years of Wynberg hockey.”

Does the strength of the domestic league in the Western Cape have anything to do with Wynberg’s success?

“Including Paul Roos Gimnasium, I will stick my neck out and say that the Western Province probably has five of the top 10 schools in South Africa,” says Grobler. “With this kind of competition, you have to improve.”

Another reason, says Grobler, is that many of the top WP schoolboy players play senior hockey (Grand Challenge) as well.

“Nine players in our first XI play senior hockey, with four playing GC,” says Grobler. “Fish Hoek Hockey Club is based at Wynberg, with Wayne Denne - one of the best coaches in SA - as the head coach, and this ensures quality training for the youngsters.”

In total, Wynberg has about 15 players in various senior leagues, four of whom are still U14.

Grobler strongly recommends the Wynberg format of having a first team head coach as well as an assistant coach who doubles as a top-class video analyst.

“Not only is Jamie a great analyst, he is a very competent coach as well. During games, we can focus on different aspects and be far more effective in giving feedback to players,” says Grobler.

And it goes without saying that the two personalities have to be compatible.

“This is fundamental to our success,” says Grobler. “Jamie and I complement each other; we have different strengths and we are great friends. Our relationship is transferred to the team, as they know that ultimately we are always in agreement when we make a decision - and they find this easy to follow.”

Jamie Kroukamp is an analyst at senior national level and is a respected coach in his own right, so what knowledge does he bring to the team?

“Jamie often adds value on technical aspects - and his analytical skills help me and the players to focus on the finer details in a press, for example, or with regard to other aspects in defence or attack. Set-pieces have become a major part of the modern game and analysis of this is vital in preparation. I must add that the roles need to be well-defined and personalities have to be flexible to make it work.”

As head coach, how does Grobler instil discipline in his team, as a group and in the individual sense?

“Always, we play as a team first - and the team dynamics are central to our whole philosophy. I will always strive towards having a team that is happy.

“At the start of every season we have a marathon team session, often taking up to five hours. In this ‘honesty session’ we spell out the values of the team, the principles we live by and the goals we will set for ourselves. Every player is also given feedback from everyone else about strengths and weakness, as well as positive criticism on personal issues. This builds massive trust and the players bond in ways that are meaningful, on and off the field. As coaches we also give feedback and ask players what they want from us.

“There is never initiation and a grade eight is placed on equal footing with a grade 12. Everyone in the team is responsible for our success - and the same applies when we fall short.”

Yes, all well and good, but how does Grobler take into account the different personalities in the team?

“Every team has a ‘character’ or two. These guys need to be managed - the team dynamics and expectations also make it easy to deal with. Sometimes I nudge Jamie to sort out a particular player, as I may say something that will not be beneficial. This is another advantage of having more than one coach.”

And how does Grobler motivate his players? The answer is immediate: “My players are already motivated – we have developed a culture of hard work, enjoyment and high expectation. Often I have to calm them down as they are too hyped. They also have a lot of fun but understand the white-line principle – when you get onto the turf it’s business, sacred and different.”

Who are Wynberg’s biggest rivals in the Western Cape?

“As mentioned, I think the Western Cape has the toughest league. Last year the Bishops side was superb. Other really good sides would be Rondebosch, SACS and Paul Roos Gim. Then you have Fairmont and Paarl Boys’ High and Paarl Gym. All of these teams have very competent coaches and competitive players who never give you an easy ride.”

And who are Wynberg’s biggest rivals and the teams Grobler and Kroukamp most admire in SA and why?

 ·         Maritzburg College – they have produced the best sides consistently for many years.

  •          Selborne – well coached and hardly ever give anything away.
  •          Bishops – very skilful players and well coached.
  •          Grey High – same reasons as above.

·         Paul Roos – they have tremendous depth and Neville Rothman has established very solid structures that will see them consistently performing at the highest levels.

What style or brand of hockey does Grobler try and get his team to play?

“We strive to play a high-paced game, sometimes with some risk, as long as we create more than what we concede. There is a fine balance in doing this and you need a really strong and confident bunch to look for attacking potential from almost all sectors of the field.

“Winning is not the most important thing to me. I will always want every player to be the absolute best he can be. If we win or lose it is of little consequence. I do know that if the team play to potential on any given day; we are likely to see a few great results. As coaches, Jamie and I have often expressed our disappointment when they have let themselves down, even after winning by a fair margin. It is important that after every training session and every match, the players can identify at least one thing that they have done better than the session or match before. That excites me!”

Do Grobler and Kroukamp work on players individually – for example, to iron out mistakes in technical areas and to improve on strong points?

“Yes we do. For one session a week we work only on basics and technical issues. This is also done through all levels at one session, where younger age-groups are also involved.”

The writer of this feature was thrilled to personally witness Wynberg’s stunning victories over top UK hockey school Millfield as well as Maritzburg College during the Nomads Festival that took place at KwaZulu-Natal’s oldest boys’ school over Easter, as part of their 150th anniversary celebrations, and asked Grobler if those wins had given him great satisfaction?

“The first half against Millfield we lacked discipline, but the second half was a great display of hockey and I enjoyed that. We were in unfamiliar territory in the first half against Maritzburg, being 3-0 up. I was really proud of the guys for not giving an inch throughout that game and having that result. To beat Maritzburg two years in a row is something special. Next year will be another Epic Battle!”

Grobler sees every game bringing with it a different challenge, with separate issues. The night before the 1-0 win over Grey High School at Wynberg, he had three players with flu and a striker with a collapsed lung, yet his comment tells you everything you need to know about the man. “I was really excited to see what a few new faces could do.”

Goals for the season? The answer is short and sweet: “To score as many as possible and concede as few as possible.”

And does Grobler think Wynberg will have a strong representation in the WP U18A and B sides for SA U18 IPT?

“WP has a panel of independent selectors, which makes the selection process unbiased. I think we could have five or six in the WP A side and possibly two or three in the B side.”

Is there anything else Grobler would like to add? “It is a great honour to serve this fantastic game and meet up with ‘old’ friends in derbies and at festivals. I have made some friends that have lasted for more than 30 years – how great is that?

“It is also awesome that Mugg & Bean, through Famous Brands Limited, have come forward to support the SA men’s hockey team and I applaud them for that.”

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