Heading off to Slovakia for the 13thISBHF World Championships makes me fully understand that we are continuing our legacy and heritage in the historical epi-center of this sport. Time is flying by and it will soon be the championship Saturday before we even know it!
2019 also marks the fourth time this event will be held in Slovakia. In 1996, I was a player in the very first World Championships in Bratislava. In 1999 I was a rookie coach in Zvolen as the Slovaks led by Peter Babak, the late Pavol Demitra and today’s host President Jozef Stumpel beat us in overtime. In 2011, I watched from afar as a fan, when the Slovaks hosted in Bratislava.
Today, the Slovaks take the mantle as the leader in hosting ISBHF World Championships in the city of Kosice. And I will be there in an Executive capacity, working with the Organizing Committee, the Slovak Federation led by President Stumpel, and our ISBHF event team and game staff. Kosice is a fabulous city, it has a growing ball hockey community, and will be great home to the 20 national teams setting their sights on their journey to display their talents, learn about this historic city and vie for gold.
Our ISBHF historical legacy continues to build. And make no mistake – it is you, the players, coaches, referees and volunteers of our ISBHF family that continue to build it with your amazing dedication and desire to challenge yourselves against the best in the world. You know this is the place, and the only place to do so. It has been for every ball hockey player since 1996 to today. You want to be the best. Only at the ISBHF World Championships can you make that statement. That has not changed for 23 years and will not change for the future.
In 1996, we had 7 national teams, of which only 3 had domestic leagues and national championships in our sport, and which only a men’s event. Fast forward to 2019: we have both Men’s and Women’s, and 15 of the 20 teams in our event play domestically on the ground in the nations they represent. This is a great number that continues to grow quickly. And of course, the total above does not include nations of France, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, Falkland Islands, India and many others, who presently have leagues and players playing on the ground in these nations, and are a part of our ever-growing ISBHF Family of nations. The list is growing quickly, and with new members in Africa, this is a fantastic sign for our sport and the ISBHF.
The list must continue to grow for us to reach our goals to get this sport moving even higher in the panorama of world sports. Even the few nations that have not reached that domestic league status must meet ISBHF protocols. But more importantly. as we move forward, the ISBHF will be meeting with all national representatives to ensure we have the essentials in place for the sport, the players, the future.
A constitution, nationally elected board, annual meetings, strategic 3-year plan and audited financial accounts are essential factors that we will ask all of our national organisations to aspire to. This will prepare us to build our stable of national sporting organisations as we move forward to the Olympic elevator. That is the work we are doing and have a vision to complete. The linkage is very important as we attend key GAISF meetings and have communication with the important players as we work, step by step, to attain our ultimate goal.
The work is being driven by your new and youthful ISBHF Board of Directors. This group has a new perspective and is very tightly knit. At the same time, we have also developed key strategic ISBHF committees that have many key leaders from all nations that make their contribution to us hitting the highest of goals. These committees are strategically built to move us forward by building foundations of success and involve about 50 of the most passionate voices of our sport, banding together to work as one. Again, this group of people is working for today and the ISBHF of tomorrow.
We have named the first woman to our ISBHF Board of Directors in Jenny Hehir of Great Britain, and we are more than proud that she comes from our ever-growing U.K. family. We have created our first ISBHF Women’s Outreach Committee, which is predominantly represented by national team athletes. Combined with our GAISF, International Development, Coaching, Marketing, Technical and 3 on 3 Committees, this is simply called building a model of good governance. At our ISBHF Semi-Annual Meeting on June 22nd, we will ask if anyone else from our ISBHF family would like to join in our committees and add to the talent and skill that is the good ship of ISBHF, to help build the framework of our sport as we head into the next phase of our history.
Only in the ISBHF, we say with confidence, “The authority of the great game” and this type of vision and good governance practice is happening. And we are just getting stronger, as we strive for the higher ground of that Olympic elevator we want to reach for the players of today and tomorrow.
See you in Kosice for the 13th World Championships.
International Street & Ball Hockey Federation