FEATURE: The future of hockey through the ‘lens’ of Dean Kuhl, an author and commentator

Dean Kuhl

In backing the reasons for advancing the sport of field hockey and informing the hockey community of how this will happen, FIH funded research into a series of studies looking at the characteristics of hockey and how it should be branded. The more we understand what hockey is all about, the better we can cater for the needs of particularly newcomers to the sport. The findings are of great importance to there being a better future for hockey. Author and commentator Dean Kuhl shares some of his views about the findings of the FIH sponsored study.


About Dean Kuhl

Dean Kuhl is renowned in South Australia for his love of hockey. Each year Hockey Supporters SA holds an Annual Dinner. These commenced in 1991 after the re-formation of the Club. The purpose of the dinner is to provide an opportunity for members, friends and old team members to have a meal together and maintain friendships made through hockey. It is also the occasion when Hockey Supporters SA has the opportunity to recognize, encourage and provide support to young potentially elite hockey players and umpires, and in the future young administrators &/or coaches. In 2016 Hockey Supporters received funds for a Perpetual Award to be named The Kuhl Family Scholarship. This award provides  a professional development opportunity in Hockey Coaching for a chosen benefactor. Dean presented this year’s award.

Dean’s commentary


[Extract from “Paper 2, July, 2018 by Dean Kuhl – “The Hockey Revolution – Purpose, implementation and benefits – Part 2, A plan of action to visit & inform”. Sourced from speeches made by Raewyn Topp & Richard Pattershaw at the Nov 2016, FIH Congress held in Dubai.]


Fanatics, enthusiasts and fans

The research team identified three types of hockey followers – ‘Hockey Fanatics’ (under 24, 50:50 men and women, play at least 3 times a week, social media important to them  particularly Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, seen as trend setters), ‘Hockey Enthusiasts’ (as a group older than the fanatics, age 24-44, consist of parents, coaches, administrators and veterans, over 70% still play, over 40% have children who play, favour YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter but not Instagram), and ‘General Sports Fans’ (older than the fanatics, 20-50 years average age, actively watch sport, 40% open to hockey, however they don’t know the star players).

Likeability factors

The three main factors that determine the likeability of hockey as a sport have been found to be:

  • Skill,
  • Speed, and
  • Excitement – the adrenalin boost generates a sense of ‘belonging’.

Hockey owns these qualities more than any other sport. Enthusiasts are particularly attracted by the skill and speed components of the game. Given that people are in general predisposed to loving a sport, there is the likelihood that quality hockey such as evident at international level will be watched by families, not just only or predominantly by individuals.

Fans are attracted by the excitement of hockey, notably by the way the ball moves at such a high pace.

Hockey has great potential for advancement as a global team sport.

The idea is to make those new to the game more familiar with hockey. They will come to love it once they work out the basics of the sport and progressively experience the skill, speed and adrenalin aspects. As time passes, the first feelings of belonging will emerge and from there will progressively become more strongly entrenched.


Problems that were identified

Hockey has lacked a profile – we have missed bringing hockey to life by, for example, not sufficiently lauding spectacular play and making star players famous.

There has been little media sponsored talk about hockey, so the game has had little or no social currency. This quality is of prime importance when it comes to attracting fans in large numbers. The solution is to provide people with ways to ‘come in’ and learn all the interesting facts about hockey, such as who the stars of the game are and why they are famous.

Young players tend to be left out of the loop and work needs to be done to provide more attractive opportunities than say merely providing training on cold winter’s evenings. Alternatives such those mentioned in Paper 3 come to mind.

More recent simplification of the rules has made hockey easier to understand. These changes have under-scored skill, speed and adrenalin as features of the sport. All these  adjustments have begun to pay dividends in the form of increased likeability and support.

The research team found that for Australia, hockey was more inclusive. It was seen to be family focussed but nevertheless a second tier sport.

Also hockey was seen to be one of the more complex sports. This is where more recent simplification of the rules has borne fruit.

The Hockey brand

The hockey brand needs to be defined in such a way that the description of it is without question seen to be undeniably true.

Use words that vividly describe the sport, such as: skill, speed, high-energy, spectacular game, excitement, adrenaline inducing, exhilarating and enjoyable.

Furthermore, deliver these ideas by magnifying the message into something that presents as ‘big, bold and loud’.

A revolution is not a quiet activity when it comes to marketing. And let this happen with one united voice.

Further comment

We can say that many team sports such as soccer, cricket and rugby along with numbers of other sports are only now coming to grips with gender equality. Hockey has long since achieved that goal, and done so, not just only at the playing level – the FIH Board now has a 50:50 male and female balance. Hockey Australia is even better.

Hockey has the potential to really stand out amongst all the other world team sports.

Your views

What are your views about hockey’s  future (‘Hockey Revolution’)?

Source: Extract from “Paper 2, July, 2018 by Dean Kuhl – “The Hockey Revolution – Purpose, implementation and benefits – Part 2, A plan of action to visit & inform”. Sourced from speeches made by Raewyn Topp & Richard Pattershaw at the Nov 2016, FIH Congress held in Dubai.

One thought on “FEATURE: The future of hockey through the ‘lens’ of Dean Kuhl, an author and commentator

  1. I don’t understand the remarks about the recent simplification of the Rules and find it hard to identify any simplification let alone one that has “borne fruit”. The Rules surrounding the free ball (called a Free Hit) for example are a complicated mess that clogs up the game particularly in the 23m area. We don’t have application of either the dangerously played ball or obstruction because the Rules are not clear enough about what either of these things are.

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