FOUR years ago, only one hockey player from the Borders was representing Scotland at Under-21 level.
This season, nine players were selected from Under-16 level to go forward into Scottish squads, two at Under-18 level, two at Under-21 level, with one player (Sarah Robertson from Selkirk) receiving the first full senior cap for 21 years.
Local development officer Janet Jack believes that more regular hockey at club level is a key factor to this increase in international honours, along with increased exposure to artificial surfaces and more quality coaching and training time, including the involvement of the ASP programme.
Scottish Hockey has recognised this increasing number of quality players by asking for a Performance Hockey Centre to be set up at Tweedbank to be coached by the former international player and her hard-working squad of helpers.
“The more hockey that the youngsters are exposed to playing on a top-quality surface will naturally increase their skill level, and league competition will improve tactical awareness,” she told TheSouthern.
Since the age of eight, Selkirk schoolgirl Emily Newlands has been blazing a trail on the local hockey circuit. Now 16, she has reached the dizzying heights of the Under-18 national squad.
And, Emily for one, doesn’t think she would be where she was today without the support of Jack and Borders Fjordhus, now Fjordhus Reivers club, where she has been a member since the age of 13.
She told us: “Playing with the Borders helped me mature a great deal. Janet’s brought me on a lot since I joined and shown me what is expected of me at Scottish level.”
Having moved up through the age-grade system, Emily is following in the footsteps of fellow Souter Robertson, who now has an eye on the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
With participation centres for both boys and girls from P4s to P7s, in Duns, Jedburgh, Hawick, Selkirk, Tweedbank and Earlston, the new Fjordhus Reivers club has a clear pathway for all youngsters to develop through club hockey under the directive of Scottish Hockey.
The club then encourages those that are interested in continuing with club hockey to move straight from their participation centres to the Under-15 club. This age group comes together twice a week to train at Tweedbank.
There is also coaching/training on Thursdays for Under-18 players who have not yet made it into the senior teams, but still have the potential to progress, and with further training time on the pitch will be knocking on the door and asking questions of the regular squad players.
Jack added: “I believe it is always healthy to have competition, pushing the more senior players, and no-one should remain complacent in their senior team position as the talented youngsters push for positions.”
Kelso High School and Hockey Club have also experience success over the last year.
The Tweedside trio of Claire Hill, Gina and Lucy Ramsay have been selected for all Under-16 international matches, with trips to Wales, Germany, Ireland and a home tie against England, managing a few wins along their way, including a 3-2 victory in the latter.
z Borders players who have achieved national recognition for Scotland in the last year are: Sarah Robertson (Senior & Under-21); Kirsty Hill (Under-21); Emily Newlands, Nicola Wealeans (Under-18); Claire Hill, Gina Ramsay, Lucy Ramsay, Morven Cawthorn, Lucy Inglis, Lorna Dagg, Skye Shiel, Joanna Carvolla and Tamara Cook (Under-16).