Training with a purpose

Inline hockey stars on the go

09 February 2021 | Sports

The Namibian National Ice and Inline Hockey (NIIHA) teams got back to work last weekend in preparation for the World Championships, which will be held in Colombia late August/early September. Namibia will be sending a Junior Men's team and a Junior Ladies team to Colombia in 2021.
With the renewed assurance from the governing body for World Skate that the championships would happen, the teams arrived at The Dome in Swakopmund ready to get to work.
The weekend’s training was geared around fitness, skill work and team bonding. Throughout the weekend, the players remained in good spirits and stayed motivated by the challenges the camp was offering.
Head coach of the Namibian National and Development Programs, Brian Sobel, had the following to say about the return to action: “I am excited about seeing everyone again. There is a lot of work to do before we go, but this is a capable group and we believe that Namibia will once again shock the world of inline hockey.”
Coach Sobel was referring to the Junior National Men's team that in 2019 became the first male team from Africa to achieve a top 8 placement at the tournament. Eventually finishing 6th in the world, the top 8 is usually dominated by North America and European teams.

The Junior Men have four returning veterans in Christian Coetzee, Sean Liechti, Pablo Laporte and Henrik Diekmann. The "vets" have been a real source of leadership and motivation to the younger players that have joined the team. Hopes are high that this team will find its feet and pick up where the last team left off.
Not to be forgotten is the Junior Ladies team – first time players at World level. However, there are 8 players that have played in multiple international tournaments in America and Spain, often coming home with medals.
The team is anchored by goalie Michelle Wirtz and players Christine Röttcher and Corinna Weimann, who two years ago played in America and took home individual awards while playing with and against the boys of their age divisions.
In a tournament called State Wars, the three Junior Ladies took home awards for top defence and top goalie in a tournament with over 350 teams representing 11 countries. Five more of their Junior Ladies teammates were with them and helped this group bring home two gold medals and a silver medal from America.

Under Coach Sobel, the Namibian National Inline Hockey Program has seen their national ranking, for Junior Men, rise from 18th to 6th in the last six years. The program has featured a Senior Ladies team place in the top 8 for three consecutive years.
A youth development program has been established and has seven teams overseas two years ago, bringing back seven medals. Two years before that, five teams went overseas and brought back three medals.
“There are good, hard-working players everywhere. A bit of belief and direction can go a long way. The players work hard and over the years I have seen they are capable of playing against the big countries. One does not measure a program by numbers; it’ measured with heart. The Namibian players are all heart and not afraid to do the work,” Sobel said.
Sobel is a two time, back to back, coach of the year in the American Pro Leagues (AIHL) and has countless American National Championships under his belt in his coaching career.

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