The Hosting Hockey guest this week is double South African Indoor and Outdoor Hockey Player, Kara Botes. Kara currently has 53 caps for the SA Outdoor team, having competed at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, the Commonwealth Games in Australia and the World Cup in London – 2018 as well as the FIH Women’s Series Final in Valencia 2019. She also has 76 caps for the SA Indoor team, competing at the 2014, 2015 and 2017 Indoor Africa Cup and the 2015 Indoor Hockey World Cup in Germany. Kara is the second player in South Africa to achieve the 50 cap milestone for both Indoor and Outdoor Hockey teams.
Adele: Where are you based and who are you currently playing for?
Kara: I am based in Johannesburg, currently playing for Crusaders hockey club.
Adele: You are a double South African Women’s Hockey player having represented the SA Outdoor and Indoor Teams. Is there one of these sports that you prefer and that you are concentrating on more than the other or can you manage both sports and how?
Kara: I do not think I can say I prefer one over the other as they are both so different and definitely balance me out. With outdoor there are a lot more tactics involved and it has a higher range of technical skills. Indoor on the other hand is a lot faster and requires you to understand your team mates incredibly well and execute skills our skills with more precision. So, because they are so different, I don’t find it that difficult to change between the two as I just change my focus on certain elements of the game. However, I do find it quite difficult to manage my time because when you are playing for both, you are away a lot more.
Adele: What is your next large international event for Outdoor?
Kara: The next event for outdoor is hopefully the Tokyo Olympics 202One.
Adele: You have been given permission to train again as the National Outdoor Hockey Squad? How are you doing this within taking sufficient Covid-19 precautions?
Kara: Although we have been given the go ahead to play, we are still trying to work out exactly how this is going to be done safely.
Adele: How do you think the Covid 19 Virus has affected World Hockey?
Kara: It’s quite difficult to say, and I think we will only know the full affects until we return to play.
Adele: What has been your career highlight so far?
Kara: I would probably say my biggest career highlight was being called up to go to the Commonwealth Games in 2018. It was just an incredible experience.
Adele: What/Who got you in to hockey?
Kara: My mom actually made me play hockey because she played it as school. I think after I made the U13 Midlands team in Junior school, I started taking it a lot more seriously.
Adele: What is the best piece of advice that you can give to young players?
Kara: I think the biggest thing that holds young players back is fear. Fear that they are going to look bad. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of letting people down (i.e. their parents, coaches etc.). They end up putting so much pressure on themselves that they forget to just play hockey and have fun. So, I guess then my message for young players would be to just enjoy the game and use it to express themselves and to do so without trying to prove anything. If you play for yourself and train to improve yourself then the results will follow.
Adele: What have you seen are the main differences of styles of outdoor hockey play with our South African Team and the top international teams in the world?
Kara: The top international teams definitely all have unique styles of play. With the Dutch you have great technical ability coupled with this intricate team play and passing which is what makes them so deadly. And then you have Argentina who love to go forward and play with exceptional amounts of flair and creativity. I think with us as South Africans, we are quite a tough team who isn’t afraid of contact and putting our bodies on the line. I know for us as the SA Women’s Team we are in a new process now under a new coach, and part of our focus at the moment is redefining our style of play.
Adele: How do you think that we are going to improve our world ranking and get closer to the higher ranked Outdoor international teams?
Kara: I think the major hinderance with us as country compared to other teams is 1) finances and 2) contact time. I think if we just played more hockey together as a team, we could really start surprising a few people and getting some important results.
Adele: Who is one of the finest players that you have played against a) Indoor Hockey b) Outdoor Hockey
Kara: It’s hard to choose a player for indoor because usually it’s such a good team game that it makes it hard for players to stand out. So, I am going to have to choose one of our own local players and say Kelly Reed. I love how Kel is able to read the game (especially my long balls) and her hands are just incredible and she’s an amazing player to watch.
For outdoor, unfortunately I never had the pleasure of playing against Luciana Aymar so I can’t choose her. But what I am going to do is throw a bit of a curveball here and say Maryna Vynohradova from Italy. We played them at our qualifiers in Valencia, Spain, and the way she just played the game was incredible.
Adele: Share an unknown fact about yourself.
Kara: Hmmm, this is a tough one. Not many people know this, but I sustained quite serious nerve-damage in my left-hand in a childhood game gone wrong. I ended up sticking my hand through a glass pane at aftercare. The doctors thought I wouldn’t be able to feel again but luckily, I regained about 90% of my feeling back.
Adele: You run a very successful digital online business company. Describe how hockey has gone online due to the Covid 19 Virus and what you have been involved with in any recent business ventures?
Kara: Many businesses and industries have needed to digitally transform for a while now but haven’t because they have been comfortable doing things the way they have always done them. Unfortunately, what COVID has done, has just accelerated the process and highlighted the need for industries to change and innovate. I am quite glad that hockey has gone digital because now you see a lot more webinars, online coaching, e-commerce offerings and other educational offerings being made a lot more accessible which is exciting. I have been involved in a couple of digital transitions, namely the development of Run the Game which is a free online platform for hockey coaches to signup and get access to resources and webinars from top coaches around the country. And then have also helped set up the RVG Academy (Robin van Ginkel’s brand) which offers training programs, hosts the SAW show and sells training mats online, as well the QuickSticks Academy e-commerce site which is run by Celia Evans (who plays with me in both the indoor and outdoor teams)
Adele: What advice can you give to young players from U13 through to U18 and what they should be doing to keep up their hockey skills and fitness and agility while at home with no school or Club Sport?
Kara: I would suggest finding trick videos and fitness videos on social media platforms. There is a lot of great stuff out there. I know I have done a couple of Trick Videos for the RVG Academy on TikTok and Instagram for kids to try. Celia Evans at QuickSticks has also been putting out tutorials and Dirkie Chamberlain has been doing some cool fitness videos, so maybe check out what the national players are doing. It is a good time to just mess around and have fun trying new things without any pressure to perform.
Adele: You attended the Madsen Hockey Academy as a Coach for our Advanced course that we ran in conjunction with KZN Hockey. What did you enjoy most about the sessions and what was the level of hockey of the players that you took? How do you see the role of a hockey coaching academy in today’s world of hockey?
Kara: I thought It was exciting to see the level of talent coming out of the province. I think academy’s like this are so important in developing young talent and also in building a community around the game. It’s important that kids interact outside their school environments and learn from different coaches with different styles of coaching and meet and play with different people that they wouldn’t normally play with.