Guernsey’s new Hockey Development Officer, Sam Watson, has certainly had a busy first few weeks since moving to the island in late August. He’s been pretty much thrown in at the deep end with the Guernsey Sports Commission’s Utmost Community Sport Fun Day, swiftly followed by Hockey Fest and the visit of GB hockey star and reigning Olympic champion Shona McCallin and then the Hockey for Heroes Men’s team tour to the island.
But he seems to be taking it all in his stride, enjoying the opportunity to meet new people and getting stuck into playing, coaching, and umpiring.
‘I really enjoyed the Hockey Fest event with Shona,’ said Sam.
‘We had a couple of hundred kids come down and try out the different skills stations and it went really well.’
Sam’s love of hockey started when he was in secondary school in Deal in Kent.
‘I was more of tennis player when I was a bit younger,’ said Sam. ‘But I enjoyed the social side of hockey and realised I was more of a team sports person.’
Those team sports included rugby until Year 10 when Sam realised he was going to have to choose.
‘I was playing for Deal Hockey Club on a Saturday and then the local rugby club on the Sunday and it was all getting to be a bit too much. I enjoyed the hockey slightly more so carried on playing.’
Next stop for Sam was the University of East Anglia to study for a degree in Geography and International Development where he quickly got involved in the hockey scene.
‘I got picked in the first week at University and was thrown in at the deep end a bit playing for the seconds and then quickly moving up to the first team and we ended up winning the local league in our first year.’
Sam began his coaching journey the following year when he started helping out with the men’s 4th team, but that journey was to be interrupted by the onset of the Covid pandemic affecting both his hockey and his overall university experience.
‘It wasn’t until my final year that I was really able to get into my coaching, still with the men’s 4s but also the ladies first team. I was coaching for four or five hours a week as well as playing and studying and just started taking my hockey kit to the library so I could go to training straight from there.’
As his studies drew to a close, Sam started thinking about what to do next.
‘I didn’t really want to go straight into an office job, and I felt that having had a Covid-hit university experience I was looking for something that was a bit more fun. I had started to look for jobs abroad, possibly school based as I had thought about going into teaching. I was looking at countries that had some sort of hockey on offer but because of Covid there didn’t seem to be many opportunities around.’
Fortunately, Sam’s grandparents who live in Guernsey saw the Hockey Development Officer post advertised and sent it on to him.
‘Although I have visited Guernsey I have never lived there and didn’t know many people of my age there. But it was something new and I wanted a challenge and thought it would be good for my development personally.’
Sam has settled in well.
‘It’s been good. I’m enjoying getting into the schools and but have had to adapt to the way the island does things at junior level. There are limited pitches and spaces in the schools, but I want to make it the best session I can with the resources and space available,’ said Sam.
As well as his work in primary schools Sam is also helping to coach the U14 boys and U16 and U18 girls’ teams. He’s also been signed up to play for Clubhouse Casuals and will no doubt be pushing for a place in the Guernsey first team ahead of this season’s national cup competitions and next year’s inter-insulars.
He's also keen to introduce some new initiatives such as Walking Hockey as well as improving his umpiring skills, running some more after-school clubs, and helping out with the necessary administration tasks.
‘Everyone seems really energetic and happy. They seem to really enjoy their hockey,’ said Sam.
‘The facilities are good here in Guernsey and there is the potential to do more. I want to grow interest in hockey and try to get more young people involved.’