I first met Ricky when playing for my High School against his; it was great for him, not for me as they gave us a thorough hiding! We eventually clashed horns in school coaching too, where it was a bit closer, but once again Ricky showed that he has a hockey brain that is up there with the best in the country.
He started the Clinical Coaching for youngsters in Johannesburg while also improving his own hockey, to break into the national side. He now has 7 caps and was a member of the South African side that cleared the floor in the African Qualifiers in Zimbabwe.
We had a chat to him on the eve of the Champions Challenge
All Things Jabu (ATJ): Hey Ricky, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. How is your preparation going for the Champions Challenge?
Ricky West (RW): Hi Jabu, only a pleasure, thanks for the opportunity. Camp started on Friday the 18th November and from the onset â€˜The LADSâ€™ have been firing on all cylinders. The mood is camp is amazing and there is a real aura around. Personally, I have worked hard in the weeks leading up to camp and am happy with my performance thus far.
ATJ: Being one of the newer faces in the National squad, how have the senior players taken to you?
RW: Right from the very beginning it has been so easy to fit in and become one of â€˜The Ladsâ€™. The senior players have been very welcoming and this allows a new player to get stuck in from the first minute.
ATJ: You have done things quite differently by breaking into the National team at an older age. Do you think this beneficial to you?
RW: I have always dreamt of playing for South Africa. I waited for a long time but to be honest, I feel that I am maturing as a player now more than ever. In the past 8 months, my game has improved tenfold and I continue learning every day from the coaching staff and the players around me. If anything, being older has allowed me to be really honest with myself and I have learned to accept criticism and adapt it into something I can generate a positive outcome from.
ATJ: You also run a coaching clinic in Johannesburg for young hockey players, how is that going?
RW: Clinical Coaching (Go to the Facebook page here) has been going for 2 month already and it has been going exceptionally well. We have invited the very best U/16 to U/18 players and really push them.Â In a few years, I have no doubt that you will see many of the Players attending Clinical Coaching representing South Africa.
ATJ: What would your advice be to them on how to make it in hockey?
RW: My advice to younger players is to keep learning from players around you, train hard, and then train some more, play Premier league hockey as early in your career as possible and if the opportunity presents itself, play overseas and keep learning from those players.
ATJ: Do you have any ambitions on moving overseas to join a host of your National compatriots in the European Leagues?
RW: I really have considered playing overseas. I have recently started a business in Johannesburg so unfortunately my commitments are here. Who knows, in the next few years an opportunity may arise that I am able to take.
ATJ: What are your personal ambitions for the remainder of the year?
RW: Firstly, I would like to make the Champs Challenge final team. This will be announced tomorrow (Thursday the 24th)morning. The main focus at the moment is being the best we can possibly be at Champs Challenge in order to secure our spot in the Olympics.
ATJ: How was the African Qualifier for you as your first national tour?
RW: Being part of the team competing at the African Olympic qualifier was an incredible experience. This was a perfect tour to get used to the team dynamics and tour dynamics. Making my debut was a surreal experience considering how long I have waited to get that opportunity. I canâ€™t wait to play in another African Qualifier in another African Country. We got such wonderful support from the Zimbabwean crowd and all the locals went out of their way to ensure we felt welcome and happy.
ATJ: Who was your hockey role model growing up?
RW: Craig Jackson was an incredible player to watch growing up and I spent many hours watching him train and play. Another player I really looked up to was Steve Goosen, a provincial player that taught me so much when I started playing premier league hockey.
ATJ: Have you got long term coaching ambitions?
RW: At the moment I am just concentrating on coaching the Wanderers Ladies first team (ATJ: They are the current Southern Gauteng league champions and Pietie Coetzee plays here) and the Southern Gauteng U/21 ladies team (ATJ: The current IPT champions). Maybe when my playing days are over I may be available to get more involved as a trainer for various teams.
ATJ: Speaking of coaches, which of your coaches have you learnt the most from?
RW: At Parktown Boys High School I was coached by Ben Welsh. I learnt not only technical skills but also strategic skills for Ben Welsh. Being able to think on the field is a huge factor and Ben Welsh really changed my game. Garreth Ewing coached me for 6 years at University of Johannesburg and moulded me into the player I am today. These 2 coaches played an important role in my hockey career and I am very grateful for their support.
ATJ: What other sport are you a fan of and which teams do you support?
RW: I am a sports fanatic so I play anything I can get my hands on: Cricket, Squash, Golf, Tennis, Volleyball, and Cycling. I support Kaizer Chiefs, Newcastle United, The Cheetahs, The Chevrolet Knights, Mumbai Indians, Tiger Woods (or any South African in the running) and anyone that plays against Man United.
ATJ: A man after my own hear! Ricky thanks very much! Good luck for the Champions Challenge!
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