CAPE TOWN - Former Madibaz hockey player Jody Paul would not “in a million years” have envisioned himself as the assistant coach of the Great Britain women’s team.
The 45-year-old former South African star was last month appointed to the position with the national team after spending 15 years as head of the hockey programme at the University of Bath in England.
During that time Paul, who played as a defender for South Africa 38 times and went to the 2004 Olympic Games, also took on various coaching roles with England age-group teams.
He said he saw the national appointment as a step in a different direction.
“Until now I have been involved in the U21 and U18 environment, which is all about developing players to potentially play senior international hockey,” said Paul.
“Now I see my role as one which is about performing on the world stage.”
He said his involvement with the elite development programme in Britain had played a big part in his appointment.
“I have worked more consistently in this programme, which is the final stepping stone for our athletes before transitioning to senior international hockey,” he said.
“This environment has helped me to bridge the gap from being a development coach to a performance coach.”
When Paul, who grew up in Gqeberha (then Port Elizabeth), reflected on his hockey journey he admitted that he had never dreamt it would come to this stage.
His coaching career started with a three-year stint as player-coach at Nelson Mandela University, before moving into the role full-time by taking on the University of Bath post in 2006.
“I loved playing for the university and Eastern Province.
“The experience gained from my playing days under great coaches and with some outstanding players like Clyde Abrahams, Chris Hibbert and Denzil Dolley still stand me in good stead all these years later.”
Paul said he would forever be indebted to the people who gave him the opportunity to play for the varsity.
“The late Dr Sharon Beckham and Brian Hibbert were instrumental in getting me there.
“I have lifelong friends from my playing days. We won loads of titles, but the friendships made over the years will be what I remember most.”
Paul said his specific role in the Great Britain management team was still being defined, but that he would most likely be working on the technical development of the players in the programme.
“I am looking forward to the challenge of working with this group as it consists of multi-medal-winning athletes and a few of the U21 athletes who have transitioned to the next level,” he said.
“All of them have the capability to continue to improve, which is exciting.”