Field Hockey Canada > School Hockey Week: Growing the sport from the ground up in Brandon, Manitoba

Former Jamaican national hockey player Oshane Haseley working to bring school and club programming to town

Oshane Haseley never thought that field hockey would take him this far in life. He stumbled upon the sport purely by accident during phys-ed class when he was at Munro College, a boarding school in his home country of Jamaica.

He went on to play for the Jamaican National Team attending events like the Central American and Caribbean Games and FIH World League. Now, residing in Brandon, Manitoba with his wife, Haseley is building the province’s hockey program from the ground up — ​​with school hockey as his priority.

While field hockey is taught in some of Manitoba’s PE programs, it serves primarily as community engagement with a slim chance of athletes transitioning into collegiate hockey or Field Hockey Canada programming.

“There’s that gap for skills development and for the sport to be active in this area,” Haseley said. “So I have been engaging different stakeholders in the City of Brandon, along with the Brandon school division, and athletes who I think would benefit from this program.”

Oshane Haseley played with Munro College and on the national team in home country of Jamaica. Photos/Provided.

Starting a new hockey program was never going to be an easy task for Haseley. On top of many conversations with school divisions and dealing with administrative responsibilities such as insurance and equipment suppliers, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly put a wrench in his plans. With restrictions around pitch access and little buy-in from external partners, he’s faced more setbacks in recent months.

“We’re still going ahead with our plans for when everything eases up,” he said. “The biggest challenge so far is making sure that we have a [turf-based] pitch as opposed to grass. Once we get that confirmed, I’ll organize a team to do some marketing and engage past and new players. We’re looking to have sticks and balls for people who’ve never played and getting interest from the community.”

Haseley has been relying on the same model he once used in Jamaica when it comes to growing the sport. At this point, it’s like second nature to him despite some glaring differences.

“In terms of funding, the processes are somewhat similar. You have to have many negotiations to get what you want. But it’s easier in Jamaica where we have 1.5 million people in a concentrated area,” Haseley added. “To form a club and get a program going, it’s easier with all the tools, resources and people so close by.”

With a population of just under 50,000 in Brandon, Haseley uses it to motivate him as he thinks back to his former hockey coaches who used hockey for a greater good. One of them in particular, Michelle Thompson, used the sport to get kids out of volatile communities riddled with poverty and high crime rates and built a club around the idea of safety.

He said, “If you look at those adults now, you would never think that they came from anywhere else, so I see hockey as a tool for kids to be involved in a form of major sport. I really supported this agenda and it paid dividends for years as some went on to represent the national team and became role models for other kids.

“I see the bigger picture here, In Brandon, for example…I can see the status quo changing. And I see avenues, especially for ladies to be involved in schools playing in the NCAA programs. I’m thinking along that line and that’s what that’s what really fueled my effort — to know that this can impact people in a similar way, and change people’s lives for the better.”

When asked what his end goal is, Haseley reflected on what made him fall in love with field hockey when he first started at his boarding school. It all came back to the sense of community for him.

“I want hockey to be a safe haven for people to participate in, regardless of race, sex, age and any other factors. I want people here to pick up a stick on a Friday or Saturday night and say ‘oh, let’s go play hockey’ and, you know, it’s that easy.”

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