US Mens National Team Athlete Grows Game in California
Taking full advantage of growing up in Moorpark, Cali, Kevin Barber had the unique opportunity to view, play and absorb international hockey competition from an early age. At the age of six, Barber picked up a stick for the first time and was hooked on the sport shortly thereafter. He participated in his first Cal Cup in the U9 Division, stunned to be competing against teams from throughout the world. From his earliest hockey days to making the National Team at the age of 17, Barber’s love for field hockey has continually grown and developed over the years.
At 22, Barber is now one of the more experienced athletes on the team and has taken his love for the sport to the youth of Chula Vista. In an effort to introduce the sport to younger athletes, he created Chula Vista Field Hockey, an elementary school program for boys and girls, in 2012. The program provides introductory field hockey lessons, progressive training and competitive opportunities.
USA Field Hockey: What inspired you to begin the Chula Vista Field Hockey program?
KB: Ben Maruquin created a similar program in Ventura County called the Red Devils. Ben was my coach when I was younger, and as I got older, he allowed me go to elementary and middle schools to coach. Ben has built a strong community in that area and brought in a lot of new, strong players. He really mentored me into spreading the sport and growing the game. Eventually, I went to play abroad and would coach for my club in the evenings. It was the first time I was exposed to such a huge pool of talented young hockey players. I want to create something similar here. Sports can have an irreplaceable influence on a kid and I want to show them that field hockey is a real option too.
USA Field Hockey: How does the program work?
KB: Three schools participate: Olympic View Elementary, Eastlake Elementary, and Discovery Charter Elementary. I basically begin by conducting a Physical Education class, where I take one or two classes out onto the blacktop each day to learn the fundamentals of field hockey. We play little games like Sharks and Minnows to keep it fun, but I also share the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, diet, hydration, and nutrition. It is a very positive program for the kids. They have the opportunity to sign up for the school team and continue to practice after school.
USA Field Hockey: How many athletes participate and is there any sort of culminating event?
KB: Last year, I introduced the sport to about 1,000 kids. At the end of the program, there will be a youth tournament held at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center on December 6, so that they have something to aspire toward. Each school will have four teams, two U10 teams and two U12 teams for boys and girls. At the tournament they can register with our club and begin more focused development.
USA Field Hockey: How has coaching kids helped you as a player?
KB: Watching kids who are trying something completely new and difficult, who get better over the course of an hour, and by the end they have a huge smile, are laughing and challenging themselves is really refreshing. Sometimes, with training every day, you can get bogged down or in a rut, but with the kids, you can see the excitement of them falling in love with the sport.
USA Field Hockey: Has anyone helped you out along the way to make the program a success?
KB: Absolutely, there is no way I would have been able to do this on my own. Liz Tchou, Sport Development Senior Manager for USA Field Hockey, provided me with equipment and a grant to get off the ground through FUNdamental Field Hockey and the Grow the Game campaign. The staff, faculty and principals have been really amazing and supportive of allowing me to reach out to the kids. The staff at the Olympic Training Center has been very gracious about granting me field time. Finally, Chris Clements and Ben Maruquin have been totally supportive of me throughout the process and have helped out in a variety of ways.
For more information or ways to get involved, check out www.ChulaVistaFieldHockey.com.