Hockey's Final Push for gold
Hockey to get funding in SportSG's bid for 2015 SEA Games gold rush
Singapore's hockey men are perennial bridesmaids in the region, finishing behind Malaysia at the last two South-east Asia (SEA) Games in which the sport was featured (2007, 2013).
Ahead of the 2015 Games in the Republic, they have received a significant financial boost from Sport Singapore (SportSG).
Named The Final Push, the funding programme is part of SportSG's bid for a gold rush in Singapore's 50th birthday - its golden jubilee.
It is aimed at plugging gaps in its Annual National Sports Association Grant Exercise (ANGE) funding, to give various sports their best chance at striking gold.
While the Singapore Hockey Federation has signed the letter of offer, confirming the inflow of funds, SportSG is still working with various NSAs. It is expected to make an announcement on The Final Push at the end of the month.
"We have been consistently getting silver, behind Malaysia, and a gold medal should be the target for the next SEA Games," said coach Solomon Casoojee, who was not at liberty to reveal funding figures.
"And this funding gives us a chance at closing the gap with Malaysia."
Ranked 36th in the world, Singapore fell 5-0 to their 13th-ranked Causeway rivals in the 2013 SEA Games final.
The funds, which started yesterday for a 12-month programme to next June's SEA Games, will be utilised for players to train full-time as well as to secure specialist coaching.
Six players will commit to full-time training, while five more student-athletes will commit more hours to the sport.
The programme, which includes video analysis, conditioning, field work and individual training sessions, will see student-athletes train for 11 sessions each week, with full-time athletes chalking up 18 sessions.
The team will also hire a drag-flick (stroke utilised especially in penalty-corner situations) coach and a video analyst to compile a database of videos.
"Tactically, we're not too far away from Malaysia,'' said Casoojee. "In terms of physical conditioning, we are quite a fair way off; and in terms of exposure and experience, we're a long way from them.
"I don't think we can close the experience gap but, with the increased contact hours with the players, we can spend more time on conditioning and refining core skills.
"And that could make us competitive."
Casoojee believes The Final Push could go a longer way than just its goal of gold in 2015.
"This gives us a platform from which we can launch hockey, an opportunity to get a leg up," said the South African.
He pointed to how increased training can fuel their dreams for the Asian Games, with better results possibly earning the sport more funds at the next ANGE.
"Just what we do with this opportunity is up to us, if we mess this up, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves," he said.
"I hope the players will commit to it; and their parents support it. This is really a great opportunity - not just for a gold medal next year, but also for the sport in general."