Sport

Hockey federation on track, says Mitchell

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer Senior Reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 12, 2013    

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AFTER 18 months in charge of the Jamaica Hockey Federation (JHF), president Leon Mitchell, believes his organisation is on track to achieve their mandate.

"From where I sit, we are nearly there. We are basically on track in what we felt we were able to achieve," Mitchell told the Jamaica Observer Sports Club at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters yesterday.

With a mission statement to foster, encourage, develop, administer and play the game of hockey locally, regionally and internationally, the JHF is busy in trying to achieve those goals.

A change of infrastructure, upgrading of the Mona facility and enticing more youngsters at school to fall in love with the sport are some of the issues on hand.

"To be frank, we had planned the turf change last year but it got caught up with the 50th anniversary celebrations. So we were kind of sidetracked a little bit. Plus we made a conscious decision to go to Mexico which we did and that was within the first mandate," noted Mitchell.

"We are quite proud of the fact that we sent two teams, both boys and girls at the same time," he continued.

"My main mandate was to change the infrastructure and getting the facilities funding which I must confess was started by the previous administration," said Mitchell, who took charge in 2011.

"If you don't have an infrastructure where we can accommodate international games, teams and (somewhere) comfortable and safe for all levels of persons who play hockey to come to, you start behind the eighth ball," he argued.

Plans are in the pipeline to upgrade the facility and have a world-class water-based turf installed for high quality-international competitions but that could cost between $20 million and $30 million.

The astro turf at the Mona facility is said to be approximately 15 years old and Mitchell believes in order to attract top teams and to host international tournaments, the entire facility must be upgraded.

Currently with a football field next door the astro turf, the venue is rented to offset the JHF's expenses.

Plans are afoot to have the facility rebranded by a potential sponsor or renamed in honour of a past player.

"What we want to do is start the process of renaming the venue after some stalwart of hockey, or whether it be through a sponsored programme having a company come in," Mitchell, who is the assistant general manager of Jamaica National Building Society, pointed out.

"We also started the process with NWC in re-signing the lease and negotiation for the property with them and we are planning to get another 20-odd years," he revealed.

According to Mitchell, if all of this could be achieved before November, he would be very satisfied after taking over from Victor Tomlinson.

"We like to say we put hockey back up there. Having a sport recognised internationally and the quality of hockey has improved significantly," said Mitchell.

"We are not eighth or ninth in the region, we are on par to get to fifth or fourth and that's where we want to measure ourselves," he added.

"To get to that finish line we have to re-market, reposition hockey and we haven't quite got there yet. We all need to come together as a team to better hockey," he pleaded.

"Whatever the challenges we have to overcome them as a unit. They did very well in the 90s in hockey and we need to get back to that same resurgence and deliver hockey to another level," said Mitchell.

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