Bri­tain’s got tal­ent as Bar­ney takes the tiller

The Hockey Paper - - COMMONWEALTH GAMES - By Rod Gil­mour

The wind is in Eng­land Hockey’s sails right now. With one year to go un­til the Com­mon­wealth Games, a raft of new re­cruits across the men’s and women’s na­tional squads have made their debuts al­ready this year. EuroHockey Cham­pi­onships aside, the com­pass is now pointed at the Gold Coast and which of those play­ers might step up to the mark.

These sea-far­ing analo­gies are apt given that for­mer world-class sailor Ed Bar­ney is six months into his role as Eng­land Hockey per­for­mance di­rec­tor, having orig­i­nally been re­cruited as head of tal­ent de­vel­op­ment.

As a funded ath­lete for six years up un­til 2008, he was close to be­ing one of Great Bri­tain’s top crews. He then coached sailors to back-to-back golds at the Youth Olympics be­fore mov­ing to the Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board as a tal­ent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion sci­en­tist.

Dur­ing his time at the ECB, he worked with Si­mon Tim­son, now head of per­for­mance at Bri­tish Ten­nis. Work cen­tred around in­vest­ment into gen­er­at­ing world-class play­ers, while re­search took Bar­ney to the US, where he vis­ited NFL, NBA and MBL teams as part of a “knowl­edge share” ex­er­cise.

Learn­ing from aca­demics, psy­chol­o­gists and world-lead­ing set-ups from the New York Jets to the Cleveland Browns, Bar­ney then moved to Bisham Abbey in 2013.

Four years on, he be­lieves that the scout­ing ele­ment to tal­ent re­cruit­ment could hold the key to suc­cess in hockey, es­pe­cially if the gov­ern­ing body can pro­duce a pool of ten to 15 ath­letes who hold an un­der­stand­ing of the rigours of in­ter­na­tional sport.

Bar­ney says a player like ris­ing Eng­land Test cricket star Haseeb Hameed was “some­one who was ex­celling in the per­for­mance and scout­ing spa­ces,” adding that “pre­dict­ing whether Joe Root was a fu­ture Eng­land cap­tain back then de­pended on many vari­ables and would be hard to pre­dict”.

He says: “In hockey there are some re­ally good exam- ples of play­ers per­form­ing in na­tional league to Un­der 21 tri­als. Ed Hor­ler has a rel­a­tively un­tra­di­tional tra­jec­tory and we need to make sure we need to pick up five or six other Hor­lers.”

Play­ers pick­ing up a stick aged four to six would also be ben­e­fi­cial for per­for­mance chiefs. So too those play­ing mul­ti­ple sports from aged six to 16. On a US theme, Bar­ney points to Tom Brady as an ex­am­ple, the multi-sport play­ing quar­ter-back who guided the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots to the Su­per Bowl’s biggest come­back win in Fe­bru­ary.

“The most suc­cess­ful young play­ers – from the ages of 14 to 16 – stas­ti­cially aren’t the most suc­cess­ful se­nior in­ter­na­tion­als,” he adds. “There are ex­am­ples to counter that such as Alex Dan­son or Barry Mid­dle­ton.

“So there's def­i­nitely some work we need to do in hockey around tal­ent ID, though it has all sorts of hor­ri­ble con­no­ta­tions.

“There is the foot­ball ex­am­ple, where at the age of eight in an academy set­ting, you are putting them through run­ning and ma­tu­rity tests and then mak­ing some sen­si­ble dis­cus­sions about tran­si­tion­ing at a Premier League academy.

“We just have to be care­ful about what we mean about tal­ent ID. But it is a win for us in hockey.”

For Bar­ney, that ‘win’ is in the next cy­cle but also in the 17 to 21-year-old space where the tal­ent pool narrows.

“We have ap­plied more of our per­for­mance sta­tis­tics in the last few years, about the team and un­der­stand­ing of the tra­jec­tory,” he adds. “At the ECB our Un­der 19 pro­gramme equated to around four months of train­ing per year. In hockey, it would be a 35-day pro­gramme.

“That’s where you have to make the de­ci­sions of where you in­vest your money. And there def­i­nitely is a job to do so that we don’t miss tal­ent at that age.”

See­ing stars: Ed Bar­ney, right, says it’s hard to pre­dict the fac­tors which make an Eng­land cap­tain, like crick­eter Joe Root, left

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