Colin "Bacchus" Stewart has returned to Ireland to link up with Graham Shaw’s women’s side until September as the national technical coach for an intense summer featuring a World Cup qualification bid and a return to Europe's top tier.
The highly decorated Tasmania achieved success in Ireland with a number of clubs including Hermes, Corinthian, Pembroke and Glenanne as well as with Surbiton in England before moving to New Zealand.
There, Bacchus is a high-performance coach, heading up regional programmes including the North Harbour men’s academy and the Auckland Hockey Association’s women.
With New Zealand in the midst of the club season, it afforded Stewart the opportunity to link up once again with Ireland, something he did last summer and also in January at World League Round 2 in Malaysia.
As such, he arrived in Ireland last weekend and will be on the trips, starting with the USA next week.
“It’s a bit like last summer, I will work with whichever sessions they have regionally and the national training camps there is,” he told The Hook. “I will also be on all the trips so basically anything to do with the women’s national team until the Europeans.”
Like last year, he will be used for specific purposes.
“Sharpie [Shaw] uses me as the offensive coach with a big emphasis on technical skills, something I do in New Zealand a lot.
“For example, a lot of work gets done on footwork; better footwork leads to better body position for earlier, more effective shots. It’s about smoothing up skillsets all around.”
Honing such technical skills is something he does a lot in his role down under and he is available for hire to players in Dublin through the summer – and coaches – to provide one-on-one sessions.
“I wouldn’t head coach so much anymore – everyone hires me for my technical work, a lot of individual work. Blackstick players will give me a call and say ‘look, I have a problem here or there’. I watch a game of theirs like a golf coach and then see what we can do.
“I’ve just done a series of four seminars on it in New Zealand, coaching coaches. There were a lot of coaches there who said they had never been shown how to do the technical side of all the skills. I’m finding a little niche.
“When I am not involved with the team and travelling, I will be free during the day most of the time. I know some of the [Irish] girls have been lining up to have sessions but I will be down, usually in UCD, whenever people want. That’s the norm in New Zealand where players will call me up and we can arrange something. “
Stewart says that the technical skills side of the game is something that can get neglected by players as they rise up the ranks but is something that can quickly become part of a training routine for a club or regional side.
“I like to encompass it with all warm-up drills before we get into the team structure. We do constant bombardment on individual skill sets.
“You have to spend time early in your first two or three sessions [of a season] going through the skill sets and the programme, the way they will train the side go on the field.
“It’s a routine and it will make life as a coach a hell of a lot easier as a coach so the players know what to look for and can almost coach themselves. That’s what I try and get to.
“I am a practical coach and like demonstrating and showing things. I have done 20 years of PE teaching as well. We just don’t see too much of things like that going around so it’s great for me [to be able to share it].”
As for renewing his links with Ireland and Shaw, Stewart says it is great to be involved once again.
“It’s great to be working with Sharpie again. I used to coach him and play against him all those years ago! I also coached a lot of those girls when they were 16 or 17 like Chloe [Watkins], Nikki [Evans] and Anna [O’Flanagan]. It’s almost fate!
“I’ve only seen the team [in the flesh] over the weekend since watching them in Malaysia. Without being rude to other people, that final was the best match I have seen an Irish women’s hockey team play.
“They are in great shape; fitter than I have ever seen. The skill level is good and it’s up to me to try and improve that which I really enjoy doing.”
** If you would like to hire the services of Colin Stewart to work on a technical skill or are a coach looking to learn about coaching technical skills, he can be contacted on 086 858 1427