Blair Chalmers thought he couldn’t have found a more dream job when he was appointed Regional Coaching Coordinator for the Northern Inland two years ago.
Now the Armidale native has scored a potentially even more dream role, being appointed the Participation Manager for Hockey NSW.
The job will see him traveling the state spreading the hockey message, and working closely with NSW Coaching Director Warren Birmingham and Athlete Acceleration Program manager Richard Willis to ensure the sport is in a strong position.
He will officially take up the role after the Basil Sellers Regional Challenge later this month, and will be succeeded as Northern Inland RCC by Greg Doolan.
The Tamworth local is presently the RCC for Newcastle.
Doolan will look after Tamworth, the New England and Upper Hunter, with Chalmers looking to engage a local in Moree and Inverell to do a few hours each week there.
The self-professed hockey fanatic, is excited about the challenge ahead and spoke about boosting participation as two-pronged.
Firstly they’ve got to recruit and secondly they’ve got to retain new players.
“Hockey NSW visited 187 schools last year and exposed upwards of 20,000 people to hockey.
“One of my challenges is converting those visits to registrations,” he said.
One of the ways of doing that is forging stronger links between the clubs and schools.
“One of our focus areas is obviously the schools,” he said.
“We’re looking to increase U12s registrations by 2020.”
The aim is by close to 80 per cent, recognising the flow on that will have through the other age groups.
“It’s more an aspirational goal for us, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to give it a go,” he said.
Another area they’re targetting is social hockey.
“We’ve found social hockey is what people want to do,” Chalmers said.
“There’s a few social hockey formats out there we’re looking at.
“It’s a good way to reintroduce people to hockey that haven’t played for a while and new people to hockey.”
Chalmers said they are also looking to reinvigorate the Hook In2 Hockey program.
Hockey NSW have also mandated that all U11s play Kookaburra 8s.
“14 out of 27 associations currently do it,” he said.
Both Tamworth and the New England presently do.
Played eight-a-side and on half a field, the modified format encourages more touches, more running and more opportunities for development.
“We know it work and we know it gets people engaged,” Chalmers said.
Tieing in with that they’ve launched a new ball. Joey ball is like a minkey ball but has a softer outer casing. The aim is to try and promote hockey as a safer game while not comprising on skill development.
“There’s been a good response,” Chalmers said.
“We’ve even had interest from the USA in seeing how it works here.”