Sidmouth hockey coach gets call to lead national team at World Series Open

PUBLISHED: 12:53 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:53 09 November 2018

Gus Mcvey withtwo of his players at the masters tournament. Picture CONTRIBUTED

Gus Mcvey withtwo of his players at the masters tournament. Picture CONTRIBUTED

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Sidmouth resident Gus McVey has been appointed as the head coach of the Zimbabwean women’s national hockey team, writes Stephen Birley.

Gus Mcvey with one of his coaching team. Picture CONTRIBUTEDGus Mcvey with one of his coaching team. Picture CONTRIBUTED

Gus, who originates from South Africa, but has been a resident of Sidmouth for the past 26 years, has been appointed to the post through to the end of December with the possibility of an extension, depending on outcomes, to World Series finals in June 2019 and the All Africa Games in October 2019 in Morocco should the team finish in the top two in the first stage, called the World Series Open, which is taking place from December 7 to December 10, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

The teams involved are Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Egypt.

This is the first ever FIH (Federation of International Hockey) tournament to be held and run by Zimbabwe. The last was run by the African federation.

Gus explains his call-up, one he, at first, could not quite believe! He explained saying: “The first I knew that I had secured the post was on Facebook via a friend who had screenshot the squad list with the caption saying, is this you! It took a bit of time to work out!

Gus Mcvey with one of his coaching team. Picture CONTRIBUTEDGus Mcvey with one of his coaching team. Picture CONTRIBUTED

“I even printed the list off to double check. They had used my full name which is Angus McVey and as I have always been known as Gus McVey here in the UK even I forgot my real name. The next day I received my official letter informing me I had the post and that I had been nominated by a masters player that I had recently coached at the Masters World Cup in Spain in August 2018.”

With regard to the make-up of his squad, Gus says: “The team is made up of a mix of players, the core of the 20 players coming from the home club teams, and the rest being called back from their universities in America, South Africa and England.

“All the players are self-funded and have to fit their training around work, school or university. In recent years Zimbabwe has competed in the U21 world cup in Chile 2016 and also had a youth team at the Youth Olympics last month in Rio. So there is a mix of older and younger players in the squad. The team has an amazing opportunity to put Zimbabwean hockey back on the world map.”

So, how did Gus get to this stage in terms of his sporting life? He explains saying: “Growing up in Africa we had to play all sports at school, hockey was just one of them. I come from a very sporting family with both my parents, aunts and grandparents being internationals for Rhodesia in a variety of different sports.

Gus Mcvey with some of the Masters players he coached at the World Cup back in August. Picture CONTRIBUTEDGus Mcvey with some of the Masters players he coached at the World Cup back in August. Picture CONTRIBUTED

“The hockey bug came about around 10 years ago after a hockey game at Sidmouth College for the Sidmouth men’s mighty third team. The ladies’ team captain at the time mentioned they needed a coach so I took it on. I got qualified as a level two coach and started coaching. The players were very understanding and just accepted my crazy ideas. In the second year of coaching I found out I needed to have both my hips replaced due to wear and tear.

“As soon as I was up, six weeks later, one of the players would pick me up and we would go to the pitch to train or go to games. They made the Devon Cup final that year losing to Plym Valley.”

He continued: “I was then approached by Devon Hockey to coach in the county system and it was being run by a lady called Sue Hutchins and she had a big effect on my coaching style as I was able to express my thoughts and put them into my coaching.

“I took over coordinating the Devon system from her when she stopped running it and was honoured to receive the Rees Trees Rose Bowl award for services to Devon hockey that year. That same year I was approached by Exeter College to run their hockey academy as head coach and now I am in my fifth season with them. I was invited travelled to Egypt last October half-term by the African Hockey Federation to attend the African Cup of Nations to complete a FIH Level Three qualification. From there things have grown as I have run coaching coaches clinics and taken donated used kit with me out to both Kenya and Zimbabwe for youth projects being run out there.”

What next in terms of hockey and Gus? He says: “What next? Wow! This is just the beginning. I have been to two Masters World cups, the first in Rotterdam in 2014 and then in Barcelona in 2018.

“I find every time I watch a game I learn something new. That said, I recognise I still have lots to learn, but then I am also very fortunate that I have amazing behind-the-scenes network of support from friends, family and former players who have all been involved in my journey and sharing it is my way of saying thank you for the support. “

There is one ‘fly in the ointment’ in terms of Gus taking his hockey forward and that is down to finance. He explained saying: “In terms of sponsorship or funding, there is no government funding that is provided to any of the coaching staff or players and so that is something I do need to try and explore. Although this is a fantastic honour and privilege, I am fully responsible for funding myself for flights, accommodation, and transport and so I’d love to be able attract some sponsorship and financial backing.”

Perhaps you are reading this and you can help? One thing is for sure, there’s plenty of profile available by working alongside Gus McVey and anyone who can help him is asked to get in touch via email at gusmcvey@gmail.com

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