DUVAUGHN Henlon, Jamaica's men's hockey head coach, is optimistic his players can perform well at the 2023 Pan American Confederation Hockey 5s World Cup qualifiers, despite their lack of experience in the format.
The Jamaicans are set to host the regional qualifying tournament next month, with hopes of advancing to the 2024 World Cup.
The qualifiers are scheduled to take place at the Mona Hockey Field from June 4 to 11, with nine teams competing in the women's category and eight competing in the men's.
The Jamaican men's team is in Pool A with the United States (USA), Puerto Rico, and Panama while Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Paraguay, and Costa Rica are in Pool B.
The Hockey 5s competition is a short version of the sport that can be played on multiple surfaces. It also stands for producing highly skilled and super fast action.
"The Hockey 5s format is a new format that has never been played in Jamaica nor at the club or high school levels; the majority of the payers would be playing it for the first time. I mean, a few of the boys played it at the Under-18 level six or seven years ago but it's never been played in Jamaica before," Henlon told the Jamaica Observer.
"The team will be going out there to give their best effort. It is a new format of the sport; it is not something that is regularly played in this region. It is very new, and so we don't even have any history to say this team is that or that team is that," the coach said.
The Jamaicans are to face the United States on June 4, followed by Panama on June 5, and Puerto Rico on June 6. The tournament's knockout phases begin on June 8.
"Every team is going out there and trying out this thing for the very first time to give their best shot. It will be the first time the public will be seeing it as well," Henlon noted.
He said it has been tricky preparing for two major contests, the 24th Central America and Caribbean (CAC) Games, to be held from June 23 to July 8 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to follow right on the heels of the World Cup qualifiers.
"Well, training has been challenging. The team has been trying to prepare for two tournaments at the same time — two different formats of the game — with the competitions taking place within two weeks of each other.
"Our training resources are limited to none, as we only recently gained access to the boards required to play the sport and it has been difficult to get everything together and ready. The guys, on the other hand, are ecstatic. They want to play, and everyone wants to play as much hockey as possible.
"It is good when the country can host as we get an opportunity to play, we get their family and friends to see them play, so there is a buzz around that. Most of our tournaments are away, so when we do get the opportunity to host it is always good and welcome as the players get a chance to play in front of their home crowd, and that adds to their support," he said.
Henlon said qualifying for the Hockey 5s World Cup would mean the world to both the players and the country.
"It would mean everything to the players and it would be huge for the sport. Making it to the World Cup for the first time would be a great effort, a tremendous effort, and a wonderful look for the sport," Henlon concluded.