Ahrens aims to rejuvenate hockey
Mathias Ahrens, the new Bermuda Hockey Federation head coach, is focused on laying the foundations to help rejuvenate the sport on the island.
Having endured dwindling numbers within its members for a number of years, the federation has turned to the vastly experienced coach, who has been charged with not only enhancing the federation's existing field hockey programmes, but also develop new and exciting initiatives.
Boasting international pedigree as a former Scotland men's team head coach and chief coach of the Indian women's team, Ahrens will lean on past experiences to help implement his blueprint for future growth.
“I've been positively surprised by the technical levels being at a very high level,” said Ahrens, who has arrived in Bermuda from British Columbia.
“A lot of positives are present already and I think it is easy to improve on the other aspects such as fitness and performance.
“It was interesting for me to take on such an opportunity and find what more Bermuda has to offer. My approach, wherever I have been, is to get the best out of people. That is what I did in Scotland and India and that is what I will do here. The levels may be different, but not the goal.
“I have a lot of tools in hand from what I have learnt and the players can benefit from the wide range of skills that I can bring to them.”
One major positive that Ahrens has inherited is a booming youth programme, which has seen initiatives such as the FunStix Junior Hockey programme draw up to 100 children from the ages of 6 to 13 every Saturday afternoon to learn the basics of the game.
However, as seen across a plethora of sports, while youth numbers are high, there is a glaring problem with retaining those participants after college and creating a pathway through to the senior ranks in order to bridge the generational gap.
Ahrens said he is determined to implement a greater focus on bucking that trend in order to bolster both participation numbers and quality within the adult programmes.
“A major problem is, there is a dropout after school and then coming back and not enjoying hockey any more,” Ahrens added.
“We have to raise the bar with young players so that they have that love for the sport and it not just being an occasional thing they do.
“This is majorly important to start with the youth and build from there.
“We can not stop that generational gap, this is how it is. What we can do is work with youth players in a different way so that they see that if we integrate the sport into their lives then they can transition through playing all their life.
“There are not many other sports, apart from hockey, that you see that variety of ages playing. However, this only happens if you can get the young players integrated into the system from the start.”
If that pathway can be successfully implemented, it could result in Bermuda's senior teams becoming a greater presence on the international stage.
That will certainly be another immediate focus for Ahrens, with the island hosting the Central American and Caribbean Games qualifiers next year.
Bermuda's women have not qualified since 2014, and the men since 1993.
“Having a home tournament, there is always a fair chance of doing well,” Ahrens said.
“For the senior players there is a chance to take part in the CAC Games, which has not happened for years.
“We will be preparing for that from now so that we can do well. First, we have to turn up, do well and give ourselves the best opportunity.”