Hockey: Carl's dream trip
Belfast Harlequins Youth Development Officer Carl Allen has landed a dream trip to Canada as a reward for his sterling efforts at the club.
He has been hand-picked by the Irish Hockey Association to represent the governing body at the 2008 World Hockey Youth Promoters' Festival, which is taking place in Victoria from April 27-May 3, alongside the women's Olympic qualifying tournament.
The Youth Hockey Development programme at Harlequins Men's Hockey Club, started by Carl in August 2006, is now building up with U15 and U12 teams and a thriving mini-hockey programme.
Work had been done in the past but since the south Belfast club's ground redevelopment at Deramore things had slipped away.
Carl (pictured) certainly likes to get his hands dirty from updating the club's website, taking charge of the 4th XI, running around the clubhouse with a tool box to umpiring as many matches as he can get his hands on, while coaching girls and boys of all ages since he got his Level 1 coaching badge.
"Hockey means a lot to me, I have many friends of all ages in the club. While keeping fit and learning a lot about myself and others, sometimes the craic off the pitch is more memorable than the game itself. " he explained.
"We have such great facilities, in partnership with Methodist College, Belfast, but when I looked around at the club I could see an aging playing membership. But I want the club to grow and to challenge for more league and cup competitions.
"While reaching out to the school and welcoming members of any playing ability and age with open arms I have looked at the example set by our ladies section.
"Many other clubs have mini hockey sections at capacity and then, in years to come, have teams that are a blend of youth and the experience we have so much of.
"In turn I see that introducing hockey to the children locally, at as early an age as possible will benefit the school.
"I also want the players to challenge for trophies rather than go the traditional route that a hockey stick is foreign to the first years as they begin school each September and go down the rugby route.
"We have built up such a good team at the club, especially with the likes of Philip Duke, Nigel Harrison and coach Julian Stevenson that the future is looking bright.
"This season is our 40th anniversary and I hope to still be involved in another 40 years time.
Naturally, Carl can't wait for that trip to Canada in the New Year.
"After being nominated by the club for a youth coaching award from the IHA the World Hockey Youth Promoters' Festival is held every four years in a different location across the hockey playing countries of the world." he added.
"I just can't wait to be part of something so big, and to be able to share it with everyone back at the club when I get home."
There will be two Irish representatives, Carl plus Amy Young (Naas HC) who were both nominated by their clubs and chosen to attend the festival by an independent judging panel.
In Canada, they will join the representatives of all of the national associations from all over the world, and present a promotional project to the eyes of the world and strive for the title Global Youth Hockey Promoter 2008.
In addition to presentations, there will be youth leadership workshops in the areas of coaching, umpiring, event management, communication and marketing.
The Festival is organised in conjunction with the women's Olympic Qualifying tournament, at which Carl and Amy will be spectators during much of the day.
"We will be staying with Canadian host families and really soaking up the atmosphere in this experience of a lifetime," Carl enthused.
"I couldn't have imagined that all the hard work would lead to such a rewarding trip. "