with ….
Belgium Club Gantoise Women’s Coach and assistant Men’s Coach, KEVAN DEMARTINIS

Adele chats to Kevan Demartinis this week. Kevan played his senior hockey for the KZN Raiders Men making his debut for the South African Men’s team in 2009. The following year, he played his first season abroad in Belgium. Having traveled between countries he decided to settle in Belgium. Kevan is currently the Ladies 1st Team Head Coach at Gantoise Hockey Club, having coached them since 2012 and is also the Mens 1st Team Assistant Coach.

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Adele: Who are you currently coaching in Belgium and how successful have they been this year?

Kevan: I’m currently coaching at Gantoise Hockey Club.

  • Head coach of our Ladies 1st team – we were unbeaten and qualified for EHL.
  • Assistant coach of our Men’s 1st team – also unbeaten and qualified for EHL.
  • Head of the Ladies program in the club throughout all ages.

Adele: How many Belgium National Players are in your side? Please name them and tell us what their positions are.

• Pauline De Ryck – GK
• Stephanie Vanden Borre – Central Defender
• Anne-Sophie Vanden Borre – Left Defender
• Barbara Nelen – Midfield
• Alix Gerniers – Midfielder
• Ambre Ballenghien – Striker
• Emilie Sinia – Striker

Adele: You represented the SA Men’s National Hockey team and then went to play hockey and coach hockey in Belgium. How long have you been in Belgium?

Kevan: I have been living here for the past 10 years now. This coming season will be my 8th season as the Ladies head coach .

Adele: What impact did the Covid 19 virus lockdown have on your Belgium league?

Kevan: Unfortunately we couldn’t complete the full season, thus not allowing us to get to the business end of our championship. We are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel though, and have recently been able to get our programs started again with individual training sessions.

Adele: What impact do you think the lockdown and the Covid 19 Virus will have on World Hockey?

Kevan: Next season, the European calendar will be really tight. We have EHL and normal club league running in conjunction, then towards the end of the summer there is the European Cup (World Cup Qualifier) and soon after that the Olympics. So the schedule is and will be about fine tuning and managing players with regard to injury/fatigue, keeping the balance of enjoyment and willingness to play at the highest level. Many of the European clubs and federations will be in the same situation. The biggest impact that I could see from this will be managing to peak at the correct times throughout the season. If any club/national teams get this slightly wrong, we could easily see upsets during the Olympics.

Adele: What has been your career highlight so far?

Kevan: My career highlight would have to be the ongoing success and growth of my ladies program. Over the last 5 years we have played 111 matches, won 95, drew 9 and lost 7. We have gone unbeaten for the past 2 seasons. In the process, helped develop some world class athletes and have been fortunate enough to have worked with Olympic Gold medalists. Lastly, both our Ladies and Men’s team being involved in EHL is an amazing feeling.

Adele: Top sporting hero?

Kevan: Jonty Rhodes

Adele: Finest player that you have coached?

Kevan: Most exciting for me to watch would have to be Alix Gerniers – she can change the momentum of a game at any moment.

Adele: What/Who got you in to hockey?

Kevan: I was brought up with my family being heavily involved in Old Edwardians Hockey, so it would have to be my family.

Adele: Best piece of advice that you can give.

Kevan: I would say, any young aspiring athlete should watch as much international hockey as possible. Grow your knowledge of players throughout the world, mould your game based on the best players at the highest level. You can never stop learning!

Adele: What are the main differences in the style of play between the top European teams and South African men’s hockey currently?

Kevan: Firstly, I think South Africa has developed some truly world class players and they will continue to do so. In current times, I don’t think South Africa has enough players on an internationally sound level. When we can get a group of these ‘technically’ sound players together for a longer period of time, then we will start to see some major improvements. Not having the selection pool as big as it is and purely working with the best for an Olympic cycle.
With regards to the style of play, I would have to say that we are too defensive, i.e. standard back 4 with 2 in the midfield. It would be okay to setup like this but there has to be more manipulation to transition into an attacking game on the ball. Dare to play! Keep defensive principles in mind, but the team who scores the most goals wins.

Adele: What would you say the are the top skills that a player must have to be an international player?

Kevan: Physically you have to be outstanding. You can never perform any of your technical skills or tactical decisions if you are constantly struggling to breathe.
Skills wise, I’d say you have to be able to move with the ball like there is glue on your stick. Always be able to accelerate out of conflict or eliminate a player and get to space (find your tricks, there are many of them).
Being able to pass in movement is vital if you want to bring any rhythm or speed into the game. This helps to continue building pressure on a team and not let them setup their defensive structures.
Lastly the skill to manage chaos and problem solve on the field, not everybody will be a loudly spoken person that shouts orders on the field, but you need to know how to manage your specific zone, be it defensively or offensively.

Adele: Share an unknown fact about yourself.

Kevan: As a player I wish I could have listened to more advice. Only since getting fully into coaching do I realise that there was so much more I could have and should have done in my playing, development and career.

Adele: You coached at Madsen Hockey Academy. Name some of the coaches that you coached with.

Kevan: Some of the best times that stick out for me would be coaching with the likes of, Taine Paton, Tim Drummond, Lloyd Madsen, Sigalicious Ntuli, Kelly Reed and many more interesting and talented coaches.

Adele: As Head coach of Madsen Hockey Academy you headed up the programme for Kearsney Mini Hockey which took place on Friday evenings for U9 – U13. What benefit was this Club hockey on Friday evenings for a) the players b) the parents c) coaches at the time?

Kevan: This was really a great initiative that you setup there, Adele! The bridge between club and school hockey in South Africa is a huge factor that isn’t focused on enough, I don’t think. Please keep doing this!!

A) The players get to play with people outside of their regular school/club teams – they are exposed to more skills and ways of playing. They are able to build relationships with people that they can hopefully continue to grow their game with. Socially it is also good for some kids to get out of their comfort zones and perform in new groups or teams. Your coaching staff was always top quality so the knowledge getting fed to the payers is of a high level.

B) The parents, likewise for them to be able to build relationships and connections with other parents and hopefully keep these relationships healthy throughout the kids upbringing. There are plenty of interesting things to do on a Friday night after a tough week at the office, but showing your child that support to attend these sessions, watch him or her play and make new friends is crucial in their social and sporting development. Well done to all the parents who sacrifice their time to do this.

C) Academy coaching is a way to fast track and improve yourself. The players/parents/organisers have a certain expectation of you and you constantly have to deliver at a high level. It’s also a really good way to start off the weekend being surrounded by colleagues that become friends.

Adele: Do you have a similar Club structure at your club for those age groups and do you have inter-club tournaments as we do?

Kevan: Our club structures are quite different, we don’t have school hockey here. So there are lots of positives and negative to this. I often wonder what the best way forward is in South Africa with regards to this. Obviously finding bridging programs/academies like yours is crucial. If both parties involved, school and club are pulling in different directions, then this will at the end of the day affect the growth of the players (what is important for one might not be important for the other).
We have inter-club tournaments but this is something we could have more of. Here we tend to stick to the normal league structure and only certain teams participate in these tournaments.