This week on Hosting Hockey, Adele chats to Jacqui Benkenstein. Jacqui has 101 caps for South Africa where she competed at a World Cup, 2 African Games, a Commonwealth Games and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She played club hockey in the Netherlands as well as coaching in the Netherlands, the UK and America. Jacqui has also taken 2 U16 girls teams to the Netherlands so they could experience the hockey culture there.
Adele: We first met in the early 90’s when I was assistant National U18 Coach and you were in the team. Then we met up again as I selected many National teams that you made. Describe your career.
Jacqui: Yes you where my SA U18 coach. I played SA u/18 in Grade 11 and 12. I then went on to captain the 1st SA u/21 team to represent South Africa after isolation on a tour to England and Wales (many of the girls ended up in our Olympic team in 2000). I then played 101 games for South Africa; 1 X World Cup, 2 X African Games, a Commonwealth games (Malaysia) and an Olympic Games in 2000. I spent a season in Holland playing hockey at Orange Zward (now Orange Rood ) and coaching at summer camps at Uconn University in America. I broke my finger in a game against China at Randburg in 2001 and that was the end for me. I felt I had done what I wanted to and had got married in December 2000 to Dale. He wanted to play cricket in England in the South African hockey season, this would mean to much time away from each other. I wanted to start a family and at that stage I was ready to follow Dale’s career and give mine up, I did what I set out to do. I always wanted play a 100 games for South Africa and my dream was always to go the Olympics. I got involved in some coaching later when we moved to the UK and got to coach Durham University women team to winning the BRITISH UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES SPORTS LEAGUE, basically we were the number 1 University and college team in the UK that year. We then moved back to South Africa and I then assisted and managed the KZN U/14 Team that won the Winter Sport Games and have taken 2 u/15/16 teams to Holland to play and train. With having 4 Kids and Dale working in cricket and always travelling, it has not been possible for me to take on any full time coaching positions.
Adele: You married Dale (former Proteas cricket player and Proteas Batting Coach) and went to the UK with the children and ended up doing stints both here and there. How do you rate the standard of our high school’s hockey in South Africa?
Jacqui: One of the reasons we have come back home from the UK is schooling in South Africa. Dale had an amazing job in Cricket in the UK and many opportunities. He stayed there for 2 years while I moved back home with the children, we then had our 4th child (Danielle) and Dale felt we needed to be a family again. Gabbi my oldest also had the opportunity to go to a school in the UK last year on exchange and saw 1st hand that the quality of tournaments like top 12 in South Africa is some of the best school girl hockey in the World I totally believe this of all our high school sport at the moment.
Adele: All 3 of your eldest children have shown a strong interest in sport and are excelling. What do you put this down to? (I am sure young Dani will be the same!) Do you see it in the genes as well as being in a sporting environment?
Jacqui: Maybe that they have grown up on the side of the sports field and that they have always been surrounded by sports teams and people all their lives. We also spent a lot of time traveling and our pastime was always playing either tennis, hockey, cricket or some sort of sport as a pastime and fun. I suppose, as a parent you do with your kids what you know best and we have spent our lives in sport. Genes, my take on this is, kids do get born with a genetic potential but that’s all it is, it will be up to them what they then do with it. To be the best at it, I do believe you need the potential, the drive and the environment. We are able to advise and help our kids in this but believe me, we do not encourage our kids to choose sport as a career one day, it’s been our journey, but know that it’s not at all what the magazines make it out to be, it’s a hard life for a family, as you know all too well.
Adele: Gabbi your eldest daughter has made SAU16 and 17 teams at hockey. Do you see there is a career here in SA for her or are you looking overseas?
Jacqui: At the moment, we are looking at overseas universities as the opportunities are amazing and I’m not sure what the future looks like here.
Adele: You have taken a schoolgirls squad of players to Holland, the home of hockey. How valuable is this to go overseas and experience a different style of hockey?
Jacqui: It’s just such an amazing, valuable experience and something I do recommend to anyone that loves hockey. The Dutch just have such a fantastic hockey culture and I do believe it’s the home of Hockey. They are very natural hockey players and it’s wonderful to see how the whole family can play and be part of a club that is about high performance as well as fun and family. Their club system and top leagues are definitely the best in the world and the girls come back so much better having played and trained at such a high level. I also do make sure we play the teams that are of a good standard.
Adele: Are you involved in any hockey coaching locally? What are you doing?
Jacqui: I have done some private coaching and a little bit of coaching at schools (in the week) but because of Dale’s cricket commitments and having 4 kids, I do want to be around to watch them and drive them around, being committed to a team will mean I’m busy with my team while they play and because we have no family here, there will be no one watching them, at this stage that’s more important to me. I run Dale’s Cricket Academy (I don’t coach) and bring out county cricket teams to come and play and get coached at Hilton Collage.
Adele: What advice do you have for young aspiring hockey players?
Jacqui: Be realistic about your dreams. Have a plan on how you’re going to achieve it and then go for it. Remember you have to love the process of becoming great to be successful and that process is not always fun, it’s a road full of sacrifices and hard work.
Adele: How do you see the role of academies like the Madsen Hockey Academy?
Jacqui: I think anyone that can have you on their side mentoring and coaching them will be able to achieve whatever they want in hockey. I know you and your husband, Paddy had a lot to do with me reaching my dream. I also know your son, Lloyd is an amazing coach and mentor as Gabbi has had the privilege to be coached by him. It’s definitely the extra little bit you need to help to make it.
Adele: What stands out today as being far more advanced than when you were playing?
Jacqui: The game has gotten so fast and you need to be incredibly fit and fast to keep up. I also always say to players being fit is an absolute must and there can be no excuse. You need to be able to be good under pressure and still be skilful in this fast, high paced game. The game has gotten so skilful with 3D skills.
Adele: How do you see hockey moving forward as a sport world-wide?
Jacqui: I think hockey is such a “watchable game “ with astro, skills getting better, faster and sport videoing getting better, I think hockey has a very bright future.