Little Tanya is a toddler, still in diapers and is only just starting to talk, but nevertheless, she knows exactly what she wants to be when she grows old enough to play in the hometown hockey team of the Mpumalanga Mambas in Witbank (Emalahleni), South Africa.

She’s obsessed with the game.

Tanya’s dad, Gift, who works on the field maintenance crew at the Hockey Farm sports stadium and club, says that the biggest problem he has is keeping Tanya off the fields during tournaments and practices. “She wanted her own hockey stick and ball, so I bought her a starter kit from the clubs’ shop and now she is obsessed with the game,” he told me.

Advertisement
Advertisement

“Even the tricycle we gave her for her birthday cannot take her attention from the sport of hockey.”

A kid with a dream.

For a kid with a dream, the Hockey Farm is a paradise as there is a constant stream of training sessions, tournaments, and games on the schedule. Tanya prefers the indoor game to the astroturf, probably because she can actually see the end of the court. “I am not going to push her to play the game as she gets older,” Gift determines, “but if she still wants to play hockey when she is older I won’t stop her. Sport is a healthy activity for the kids.

Advertisement

It keeps them away smoking and drinking and they learn how to relate to people from all walks of life."

Does he think Tanya will play in the Olympics one day?

“It would be very nice for her if she can go to the Olympics, but that is a long way in the future. For now, I like to see that she is healthy and bright as a button, and she is showing definite talent.” Gift has a broad grin. “Whatever she does, I think she will be a success because she is so determined to get it right."

The Rio Olympics.

Hockey in South Africa took a huge blow back in December 2015 when the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) determined that they would not allow the men and women’s teams to compete at the Rio Olympic Games.

Don’t miss the latest news!
Click on the topic you interest most. We'll keep you updated with all the news you shouldn't miss.
Donald Trump

This was despite the fact that both teams qualified when they won the African Championship. Following appeals and petitions, Sascoc stuck to their guns, citing a lack of experience in the Hockey World League.

Taking the game to the schools.

The teams are naturally disappointed and despondent, but the future still looks bright for hockey in the country. Earlier this year it was announced that the Hockey Farm, in association with Emalahleni  Sports and Recreation will embark on a partnership to promote the game in schools.

The aim is to get mass engagement with a sport that is often denied to children who attend schools that simply cannot afford the equipment and the infrastructure to learn the game. Kids between the age of 10 and 16 now have the opportunity to get quality coaching twice a week.

Olympics of the future.

Tanya could be the youngest wanna-be hockey star in South Africa, but she won’t be able to participate in any official coaching until she is at least five years old, and by then circumstances may have changed.

Advertisement

But, if she holds onto that determination and love for the game, there is a possibility that she might actually represent South Africa in the Olympics of the future

Don't miss our page on Facebook!
Click to read more