Guyanese hockey coach moulding prospective US national players
By Michael Da Silva
May 2, 2004
Former assistant national hockey coach, Guyanese, Steve Clarke is assisting the New York State Athletic Commission to mould players for the USA's national grid.
Clarke, who,prior to migrating to the USA, worked as an assistant to the legendary George Powdar then later to Canadian Keith Burrowes, has been teaching youths attending school in Queen's, New York, the basic skills and techniques of field hockey.
Clarke told Stabroek Sport that he has been working as a certified hockey coach/umpire for the state for the past five years and coaches children between the ages of eight and 14 years.
Clarke said over 300 students from six schools in the Queen's borough benefit from his programme. He said he conducts three sessions per day and has an average attendance of 30 students at each session.
The level A umpire/coach said the age groups he works with are six to eight years, eight to 12 years and 12-14.
Guyanese Steve Clarke (right) at one of his sessions in the Queen's, New York, neighbourhood.
While Clarke is in charge of schools in Queen's, another Guyanese, Derek Lovell, the person responsible for him (Clarke) finding a job, is in charge of schools in the Bronx, New York. Lovell is also a level `A' umpire/coach.
According to Clarke, Trinidadian Jeff Grovesnor was in charge of all New York State umpires, but he went on to bigger things with the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and on leaving, he (Grovesnor) handed over the mantle to Lovell who recruited him (Clarke). "I'm responsible for Lovell's success as a former national hockey player and now level `A' umpire. I was his coach here with the Guyana Defence Force team but now he is my boss," Clarke stated with a smile.
Clarke, who also teaches physical education, said the youths are not involved in competitive hockey, since only high schools and colleges play competitively.
"The US is now trying to promote field hockey since this is an Olympic sport. They know about ice hockey. So what myself and Lovell are doing is building a nursery, so when these children go on to high school or college, they would have already been au fait with the basics of the game, thereby making the transition to play competitively simpler.
"The US is trying to mould a team so they thought the best way to go is to start in the school system, and it's catching on very well," Clarke stated.
He said when he first went to New York, he started officiating at the annual four-day Labour Day International Hockey Festival that attracts teams from Holland, Pakistan, Canada and the Caribbean.
"I was later recruited as a coach for the New York State Summer Camps where I became popular. These are six-week camps that various disciplines are conducted by a number of international coaches.
He said hockey attracts approximately 150 students on a daily basis.
Clarke said at first he had difficulty adapting to the American culture. "You have to do a lot of talking and you cannot punish a child so easily because you can face the courts, but to get the job, one has to be licensed by the New York State Athletic Commission and every year you have to be upgraded, you have to take fresh examinations," the former Linden hockey coach said.
According to Clarke a lot of schools in Long Island and Manhattan have hockey teams but Manhattan is noted for having the largest number of female teams.
Asked to compare local (Guyana) hockey to that in the US, Clarke said while there are a lot of hockey players in Guyana who possess natural ability and skill, there are not enough facilities for the game locally, unlike the US.
Clarke said he and Lovell are toying with the idea of starting a US/Guyana association and once it gets off the ground, Guyana stands to benefit from donations of gear and equipment.