Developing world class talent key for Hager

Mark Hager 2019 Olympic Qualifiers

For Mark Hager, coaching is more than just about winning trophies and medals.

In addition to this, one of the real satisfactions he gets from the role is helping talented youngsters become world class athletes.

Since he was appointed as the head coach of the GB women’s team in January 2019, the former Australian forward has focused a lot of attention of bringing through youngsters from the GB Elite Development Programme (EDP), with the rewards already clear to see.

Hager has handed debuts to seven players in that time period, four of whom - Esme Burge, Lizzie Neal, Izzy Petter and Charlotte Watson - have transitioned from the EDP into the senior GB squad.

Tess Howard also graduated from the programme shortly before Hager joined and has already won 30 caps for GB, while a total of seven members of the current squad are aged 23 or under.

“I enjoy young athletes coming into the programme,” he explained.

“They add a new excitement; they just want to be there, they show up early, they’re out on the pitch after training, they want to learn. They’re just sponges saying ‘give me more’. Early on that’s what I really enjoy about them when they come in; they just play without any expectation.

“But that’s why they develop so quickly; they’re prepared to spend that little bit of extra time after training or before training or at home honing those skills.

“They add a new dimension to training, to the games and all the ones we have brought in have developed very well and it’s exciting to see them grow.

“That’s the other reason you coach – it’s because you love seeing an athlete at one level and in some small way you’ve developed them to be world class.

“If I can do that for a lot of athletes - not just on the field but off the field as well, to become good people – that’s why I really enjoy being a coach.”

It’s not just these athletes who benefit from the transition though; Hager also believes they have a hugely positive influence on the squad as a whole, something which will drive them forwards as they continue to prepare for the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

He said: “All of a sudden you become a leader.

“We ask those players to give them knowledge, help the young player become better, learn the systems about how we want to play and our values and I think it gives them a new lease of life as well."

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