Hockey Teams Hone Their Skills in Hamburg
The U16 and U18 indoor hockey tour to Hamburg at the start of the Christmas holidays proved to be another fabulously intense and enjoyable hockey experience. Some of the highlights of the trip were:
- The men’s national league game: The speed of the game and technical skill of the players was actually quite hard to discern, so fast, so natural and so accurate were the players as the ball whizzed around the boards. You could forgive the boys for thinking they too play at that level. The opposition brought a hundred or so supporters and this made for a noisy, partisan atmosphere. Five of them were U9s and they had a great time with Tom GS as he taught them some cultural British hand signals.
- The warmth of the welcome from our host club ‘Der Club an der Alster’, otherwise known as Alster. At half time in the national league game one, of their boys grabbed the microphone and drew attention to us and wished us a warm welcome in Hamburg. Several of their boys then came over to chat. Needless to say they were fluent in English and utterly polite and charming. It was a similar experience with the German parents and coaches.
- The Saturday evening matches. Alster played two teams, one weaker and then their championship side, including national and regional players. The U16s lost narrowly to the weaker side and the U18s won. Against the championship side the U16s were blown away by the speed of thought, movement and skill of the German players and simply could not evade the suffocating press. Goalkeeper Josh CS thought he was in a goalkeeper’s heaven as for 15 minutes he was required to make upwards of 20 saves, most of which went in, unfortunately. The U18s started very well, but the intensity of the game and lack of cover on the bench created holes and in the end the Germans ran out clear winners. A wonderful experience though for all the players, 'a privilege' as one thoughtful U16 admitted.
- Hot chocolate: at the Hamburg Christmas market, against a background of delicious smells: cinnamon, sizzling bratwurst and gluhwein.
- The transformation Saturday night: whilst the boys were sleeping something miraculous happened; they woke up and, without realising it, they were a yard quicker in thought and deed. Despite their fears about playing Flottbeck, Harvestuder and the Alster championship side again, all the boys played with much more composure and intensity. The U18s played with a control and verve which enabled them to be leading 3-1 against Flottbeck after 16 minutes, much to the surprise of Flottbeck. In the end a late flurry of goals tilted the balance in the German’s favour 5-4, but it was an excellent performance from the U18s. They would go on to win well against Harvestuder 3-2 and lose in a much closer game against Alster. The U16s lost all three of their games, but throughout were competitive, even leading Harvestuder 3-1 with 10 minutes to go. Their progress was confirmed in the game against Alster and for the first 8 minutes (out of the 25) they kept Alster to 0-0, a totally different experience to the night before. Above all, the intensity of our game meant that by the end we were matching the Germans in speed of thought and work rate, if not quite tackling and shooting skills.
- 5pm, the post-match tea with all three German clubs with players, coaches and parents all mixing together.
- 8pm: The delicious 18 inch pizzas at L’Ostoria.
And playing highlights include:
- U18s: Freddie Col reverse stick roofed finish, Brad M’s immense ‘knuckle-dragging', ‘back-wrenching' defence, Adam B’s resurrection as a talented RB, the intensity of effort of Alex P, Jamie B, Freddie C, Bradley M, Matthew J and Bass; Matt J’s immense helmet smashing save (and all the others), Miss Goulding’s reverse short corner special and just the all-round work-rate and camaraderie of the boys.
- The U16s: Jo P's tackling, Alex S' nutmeg goal, Henry M and Josh B's silky skills, Ben B and Dan E’s short corner specials and the intensity and passion of the whole team especially in that final game against Harvestuder.
Many thanks to all the adults on the tour for their wholehearted support and all their thoughtful advice. Many thanks also to all the parent drivers for giving their time so willingly and saving the tour £900 of extra costs. The challenge now is to ensure the 16s maintain that intensity as they once again try to reach the National Finals for the third time in three years, this January.
Graham Brooks, Deputy Head & Boys' Hockey Coach