with …..
JJ Reed

This week on Hosting Hockey, Adele chats to JJ Reed. JJ is currently the Kearsney College 1st team outdoor coach. He coached the Kearsney Ladies 1st team from 2017 – 2019 where they won the outdoor league 2 years in a row and the indoor league 3 times. JJ has played for the KZN U21 hockey team as well as the KZN Raiders team in 2012. He currently plays for Kearsney Hockey Club.

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Adele: Discuss your playing and coaching career. 

JJ: I spent most of my high school years playing hockey for Midlands (KZN Inland). Then after school I studied in Durban and played club hockey for UKZN as well as represented KZN in both indoor and outdoor. I was extremely fortunate to play for UKZN for a couple reasons. Firstly, we had numerous players who were current national players, so to play and learn from players like Shanyl Balwanth, Wade Paton, Taine Paton, Kevan Demartinis, Matt Botha and Gowan Jones  was an incredible experience and looking back, an incredible honour. The second reason our coach Brendan Carolyn. Who was probably one of the most qualified coaches in the country and has since gone on to coach some of the best teams in Europe. So to be coached by BC as we called him, for 4 years was invaluable to me, and a huge help in my coaching career although I may not have known it at the time.   

My coaching started off as a way to earn some income while studying. I started off coaching at a little primary school in Umhlanga called Atholton. This was when I realised quite quickly that I loved coaching as it didn’t take long before I was coaching every day of the week and every sport they offered. I then started looking for hockey coaching jobs where I could learn from someone and begin developing as a hockey coach. One of my close friends and UKZN team mate Sihle Ntuli told me to come start coaching at Madsen Hockey Academy (MHA) as they were looking for coaches and had a great academy. MHA was exactly what I was looking for, Adele Madsen mentored all the coaches and made sure you were tested and developed all the skills required to become a good coach. They had a hierarchy system, so as you improved and climbed the ladder, so you were given more responsibilities and opportunities. One of my opportunities was to coach the St Mary’s Senior primary 1st team as well as the u14a side. During this period I was also coaching PSI u13 and u16 boys and girls which was a nice challenge, as I hadn’t coached competitive indoor before, it was all outdoor up until that point.

My next coaching challenge was to coach senior club hockey. I was asked by Kearsney Hockey Club to coach the mens 1st team as they had just been promoted from the second division. This was a tough challenge as I had never coached senior mens hockey and to make it tougher I was going to be player coach. I then took on the role of Kearsney 1st ladies club side coach, where we had 3 very successful years. I decided to give up coaching club hockey in 2020 so I could watch and support my wife with my daughter on the sidelines. This would also allow me to focus on my most recent appointment as 1st team coach of Kearsney College.  

Adele: Who got you into hockey?

JJ: Other than my parents encouraging me to play hockey at a young age, I would probably say that Keith Fairweather was probably the person who really got me involved in hockey and believed in me. When I got to high school I was a year young and one of the smaller boys, so my plan was to play hockey in grade 8 and then rugby in grade 9 when I was the correct age. Keith was my u14 hockey coach and really got me to love the game. We had a great u14 season and from the point onwards I only wanted to play hockey. 

Adele: You are the current coach of Kearsney College 1st Team Hockey. How long have you been back training for? Has it been easy to adjust to the Covid protocols?

JJ: We have been training for the past 6 weeks and it certainly has been an adjustment as have many things in 2020. We are allowed a maximum of 12 players on the field at once, with 6 players per half. I have actually enjoyed this time as it has forced us to focus on the players skills set and correcting smaller problems in technique that we usually don’t pick up with larger numbers at training sessions. But it has been amazing getting back onto the turf again.

Adele: How important is it to have at least one specialist Drag Flicker in your team? 

JJ: I have always believed it’s extremely important to have someone in the team focused on their flicking, whether that’s from the top of the circle or the slip flick. A specialist flicker should be scoring you a goal a game on average and is always essential in a tight game where winning a short corner can be the difference between winning the game or coming away with a draw.  

Adele: How do you develop with the step by step training of a Drag Flicker? 

JJ: Probably the first and most important decision for anyone wanting to become a specialist flicker is how much effort and time they are willing to put into flicking. Most people don’t realise that it takes hours and hours of extra training as well as strengthening muscles which are put under strain while flicking that you don’t usually worry about as a normal hockey player. Once you have made your mind up then you can start developing your flicking skills. 

Step one starts about 5m from the goals, kneeling down with your left shoulder facing the goals, place the ball behind your right knee and just short of a sticks length away from your body. Collect the ball from behind you, dragging it across your body and pushing it firmly into the goals along the astro.

Step two repeats the same process only now you can have your left leg stretched out towards the goals allowing you to transfer your weight towards the goals. Your main focus is creating power using your arms and upper body as well as repeating the process over and over until it becomes ingrained in you. 

Step 3 repeats the previous two steps, however now we are no longer on our knees. We start in a squatting position with our right leg and our left leg is still stretched out as per step 2. Here we focus on keeping the same technique with the added power of using our right leg to transfer our body weight with a lot more power towards the goals. We are still focused on flicking the ball low across the astro into the goals. 

Step 4 starts about 8 meters from the goals. We now start walking into the flick. So position the ball in front of your left leg. Step with your right leg in front of the ball. Move into the squatting position as per step 3 and continue with the flicking process. The focus in this step is to create a rhythm and as fluid a movement as possible while at the same time keeping the technique the same. 

Step 5 we introduce the run up. We can now move to the top of the circle and practice the full movement towards the ball, collection and release of the flick all in one fluid motion. The key here is to create a comfortable movement from start to finish. I still recommend only flicking low and focus on your power before attempting to flick high into the net. 

Step 6 – Is all about repetition, the more you flick the more natural it becomes, your power increases and the most important element of flicking is your control. I prefer to focus on control as it’s not all about accuracy, the higher the level of competition the more deception is required. At the very highest level if you can combine power, accuracy and deception then you have the formula to become one of the best in the world. 

Adele: Who would you say is one of the top drag flickers in the world?

JJ: My favourite flicker over the last couple years is Gonzalo Peillat from Argentina. 

Adele: What advice do you have for someone at Primary School who would like to start with Drag Flicking?

JJ:  In my experience people stop flicking too soon because they don’t see the results in a short time period and often it’s because others may feel they are wasting their time. My advice would be to focus on yourself and not worry about what others have to say about your drag flicking. Drag flicking is something developed over many years so if you consistently work hard at it from primary school, you will have a skill others will be very envious of by the time you play first team hockey in high school.  

Adele: Tell us something that we don’t know about you?

JJ: Most people are surprised to hear my first name is Justin and not JJ. I will admit I usually don’t respond when people call me by my first name as everyone calls me JJ. 

Adele: You are married to Kelly who is a current International Indoor Player. How do you manage both of your huge involvements with hockey so that you have some quality family time? 

JJ: Both Kel and I thrive on family time especially now that we have a 1 year old daughter Tyla. So it is our biggest priority and we are always planning everything around family time. We also plan our family holidays pretty early in the year so we know what dates we can’t commit ourselves to work wise. We are also lucky in that, family time can be spent around an astro very easily and we all love it.  

Adele: You were one of our Head Coaches at Madsen Hockey Academy. How long did you coach in the academy and who were some of the coaches that you coached alongside?   

JJ: I coached for Madsen Hockey Academy for 4 consecutive years while I was studying and then was involved with the academy part time for another 2 – 3 years as and when I could coach. During my time I have coached with the following coaches who I feel had the most impact on my coaching career. LLoyd Madsen, Tim Drummond, Kevan Demartinis, Sihle Ntuli and of course the most impactful on my life is Kelly Reed.