Pakistan Olympian on English school hockey


Former Pakistan Olympian Muhammad Irfan joined former GB international David Mathews on the hockey coaching staff at Gordon’s School, Surrey last autumn.

The pair have also been coaching at Richmond HC where Irfan, who competed at London 2012, has played for the 1s.

“I have given a very long service to my country, playing top level for many years”, he said. “The time has come to help future generations”.

Irfan joins an impressive line-up of sports staff at Gordon’s, including former Wales and Chelsea footballer Gareth Hall, former Fiji 7s skills coach Chris Davies, Gary Street, who coached the England women’s rugby team to victory in the World Cup in 2014 and Surrey Storm netballers Nicole Humphrys and Leah Middleton.

THP: What positives have you seen in coaching following the pandemic and changes you have been forced to do which will now be a mainstay?

Muhammad Irfan: I think the pandemic has made everyone more aware and equipped in using different techniques to deliver positive coaching sessions. We have largely seen an increase in remote coaching sessions via video links where we have filmed a training programme to be delivered to students while at home.”

THP: The change to small group coaching is clearly a benefit for junior players to progress. How important is this?

MI: Small group coaching has enabled a more dynamic and much more enclosed, targeted approach to method and delivery and young players benefit from increased attention and support from a coach within a smaller coach to player ratio.”

THP: What challenges remain regarding coaching in the English school system for players to progress?

MI: I think challenges can be broken down into short term and long term. In the short term we are living through isolated uncertainty where combined team activities become difficult to sustain. Over the long term we need to ensure we continue to adapt to modern techniques using up to date technology and hopefully upgrading hockey pitches in schools to international or equivalent standard.”

My 3 tips for school coaches

Focus on the individual strength of your players.

Use modern techniques and technology to keep your players in the best condition possible.

Use online training sessions to boost individual player plans and deliver home coaching schedules.

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