The long-time Fijian hockey mentor Hector Smith has been awarded the sport’s highest coaching accreditation.

The 63-year-old is a former coach of Fiji’s senior men’s and women’s teams before moving into his current role as the Fiji Hockey Federation’s national head coach, which allows him to get out into the islands, alongside the Fiji Sports Commission, and conduct coaching clinics in the community.

He said it came as a complete surprise when he was presented with the FIH Master Educator accreditation at the weekend, during the final of the Fiji Invitational Series in Suva.

“I had no idea at all but I’d been following through on all the courses and things like that and pleasantly surprised and, at the same time, honoured that a Pacific Islander has got it,” he said.

“It’s up to me to keep progressing and hopefully move another level up while my health allows me and share it with the new talent that’s coming through and we’ve got some good talent that’s coming through and looking forward to the Oceania (Cup) next year in Rockhampton.”

Smith said he was introduced to the sport that would become a life-long sporting passion while growing up on Vanua Levu in the 1960s.

“I started playing when I was in primary school and actually my first hockey stick was shaped from a mangrove tree by my dad,” he said.

“From primary school I moved onto a place called Levuka. Levuka is the home of hockey as it was our original capital of Fiji and we had a lot of English settlers then when hockey was introduced.

“From there from school in the 70s and then into the main city looking for a secondary education and I moved onto playing in the capital city side and ultiumately going onto the national side.

“At the end of my playing career, which was in 1995, I decided to take up coaching, although in between I was doing club coaching and things like that. One thing led to another and with the support of the local Fiji Federation and Oceania I was fortunate enough to be given some training

“So from then, after playing for the country, I decided to put back something into coaching and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”

Fiji were no match for China at the Hockey World League.

The Fiji men’s hockey team up against China at the World Hockey League Round 2 event in 2017. Photo: FIH

Smith’s passion for hockey has also been passed onto his three children, Hector Smith Junior, Adrian Smith and Lucretia, who have all played for and captained their country.

“I am fortunate I’ve got a daughter and two sons and one is the current captain of the national team, Hector Junior, and my young son, Adrian, is playing in Christchurch (in New Zealand) at the moment. The Avon club took him up and he’s benefiting from the hockey up there,” he said.

“And my daughter, Lucretia, she had to stop playing to have some children and she’s starting to get back into shape again and hopefully carry on playing and share her knowledge to win the game. It’s been good for us as a family. It’s taken us all over the world and it’s been a privilege to play the sport.”

Fiji men's captain Hector Smith Junior puts his body on the line against India during the World League Round 2 match in New Delhi in 2013.

Fiji men’s captain Hector Smith Junior puts his body on the line against India during the World League Round 2 match in New Delhi in 2013. Photo: AFP

Smith juggles his coaching commitments with a full-time job as an engineer at a shipping firm but said after over half a century as a player and coach he relished the opportunity to give back to the sport that has given him so much.

“I feel really priviliged to do this and I think it’s going back to where as a player I started and also with Fiji giving me this training and with a little bit of support from FIH and Oceania then it’s only right I take it back, since I’m here full time,” he said.

“We only can discover better talents and new talents and it’s something I actually look forward to while at the same time I work with our current (senior) coaches and hopefully I share a little bit of what I’ve learnt over the years, through the support of the national federation, FASANOC, (Fiji) Sports Commission and the Federation of International Hockey, who took me to a coaching clinic in India a couple of years ago.

“It really opened my eyes, meeting people that I only used to see on TV and you’re working with them: you’ve got the Mark Hagar’s, you’ve got Terry Walsh, Ric Charlesworth and all these people. You rub shoulders with them, you do benefit and you can see their level of thinking and how tough it is with them.”

(Source:Radio New Zealand)

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