The move to feature hockey5s at the Youth Olympics was successful in Nanjing and we are hoping for EVEN more excitement, speed and skill in Buenos Aires.

Europe’s representatives Austria and Poland come off great success at the EuroHockey Youth Championships held last year, with the Polish Boys and the Austrian girls taking the European crown in Walcz and Wattignies respectively.

This is both countries’ first appearance at the Youth Olympics and as each delegation may only bring one team sport PER GENDER, this is a great success not only for the European Champions but for hockey as a whole. Even more remarkably, both Poland and Austria will compete in both the boys and girls competitions.

EHF President Marijke Fleuren said: “The European Hockey Federation is very proud to support the Austrian and Polish teams as they represent Europe in the 3rd edition of the Youth Olympic Games. Hockey5s has proven to be a great vehicle for our young players and both countries have done fantastic work with their youth squads. The fact that both nations chose hockey as their one team sport and have sent both male and female teams speaks volumes about hockey’s commitment to gender equality. We cannot wait to see them on the Youth Olympic stage for the very first time and know the young players will cherish this experience for the rest of their lives.”

We asked both teams to share a little with us about their debut at the Youth Olympics, the hockey5 format and their commitment to gender parity and support. Peter Monghy, Sports Manager for Austrian Hockey and Mateusz Grochal, Head Coach of YOG Boys Team were kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the upcoming Games.

Austria and Poland in the Youth Olympics – how does it feel?

Austria: We are feeling really fantastic about participating in the YOG, as it is the first time Austria is qualified for this event.

Poland: Excited! For our sport, this will be the first Olympic experience since Sydney 2000.  There is a certain sublimity as well as a feeling of great honor and distinction.

Both Poland and Austria are remarkably sending the girls (as reigning European Champions) and the boys – how do you feel about this wonderful achievement by your youth squads?

Austria: We feel very proud sending both teams Girls and boys. This remarkable success shows the very hard and good work, which is done for young Hockey Players in Austria – both in teams and federation.

Poland: It is a great achievement for both of our squads. As a federation, we sort of “invested” into the idea of hockey5s and this qualification shows that thanks to proper planning it paid off.  We are very happy with the qualification to YOG, but at the same time, there is an extreme focus on delivering an even better performance in Argentina. Each of the teams that we are going to face in Buenos Aires presents a different hockey culture then what we are used to, so for our players this will be a precious experience.

The Youth Olympics will once again feature the hockey5 format. How is this format attractive to your nation and hockey in general?

Austria: The Hockey5 format as a quite young format brings an interesting new attraction to the Hockey Sport in general. Austria will push Hockey5 in future as an additional league in a tournament format. Walter Kapounek, President of Austrian Hockey and EHF Vice-President added to the sentiments expressed by Peter, saying “For Austrian Hockey it is extremely important to be an active part of the Olympic family. We do see Hockey5 at the YOG as a perfect opportunity for a smaller hockey nation. The Youth Olympic Games will be an unforgettable event or our boys and girls.”

Poland: You see that many sports, like rugby, try to make their product more exciting for the viewers. Hockey 5s is going in this direction as well.  My belief is that countries with a rich indoor hockey background find it quite easy to convert into the new format. Poland and Austria are great examples of that. For many European nations, hockey5s seems to be more accessible, with fewer players needed and different pitch requirements. It has the potential to be an attractive and exciting showcase of skills but we need to keep in mind that safety comes first. This is what we implement with our players. Fitness plays a big role with a lot of 1v1, short distance intervals and closed backlines. Goalies don’t have it easy here! I think that hockey 5s can become a great training tool for 11 aside version, especially useful for quick decision making, fitness, and scoring.

Make sure to support #TeamEurope in October!

The 12 women’s teams that will be playing in Buenos Aires are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, China, India, Mexico, Namibia, Poland, South Africa, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe. The men’s teams will be Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Vanuatu and Zambia. Follow all the action from the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires here.