Havant performance director Raj Laly: ‘My new role is providing more structure and professionalism’
Performance director Raj Laly believes Havant Hockey Club have seen the benefits both from a 'structural and professionalism' perspective since he took on the role.
The club's former first team captain and head coach assumed the off-field position as his job as a GP took precedence during the pandemic.
Still keen to stay involved at Havant in some capacity, Laly, 37, became the club's first performance director at the start of the 2020/21 season.
Largely overseeing both men's and women's first XIs, he has taken on responsibility of trying to provide the best possible platform for on-field success.
Laly is hoping a new partnership with the University of Portsmouth can further help them flourish when competitive league action returns from September.
He said: 'I’ve always sort of signed players, even if it’s overseas, with things like how to get them into the country and made sure they’ve got accommodation.
'There are also other aspects of sport are really important such as performance analysis and looking at nutrition and strength and conditioning.
‘We’ve partnered up with the University of Portsmouth to try to get some post grad students who are studying MSD degrees in those type of fields.
‘Even if we need our game videoed and we put some of our highlights on our social media and website.
‘I’ve just got involved with a lot of that and it’s good for me with the men’s and women’s and to plan for next season.
'It’s obviously been a tricky role in Covid because no-one really knew, but hopefully now there’s a bit more clarity.
‘It does help with that (allowing coaches to focus on playing matters).
'Things such as player signings or even if it’s player welfare or organising something like the software for video material - rather than that being a coach thing, which can be difficult if they’re dealing with all of that, it makes it easier if I’m the person dealing with that stuff.
‘It more or less was a newly created role so I’ve done that the season gone.
‘It’s good for our ladies, especially, because it’s providing more structure and more professionalism.
‘It just gives good planning to ensure our squads have got the best way to do well in the league and hopefully achieve success.'
Havant might have been without any match action since November because of the pandemic, but it's been a busy period off the pitch.
Warren Gilmour has left his role as first team head coach after two seasons while Steve Lawson has also departed as manager following more than 30 years' association with the club.
A new-look management team of James Morris, Craig Duffy and Alex Leach have been appointed to take charge of first team matters.
And they can look forward to a playing return this summer with the first XI part of the 'elite summer league' set up by Brighton.
Fareham, Guildford and Chichester are the other clubs who will make up the five-team competition designed to provide players with some match action until July, before focus then turns to pre-season.
Havant play the first of their eight fixtures at Fareham on Thursday, May 13.
Laly added: 'There always is a summer league but normally it’s a summer league where you can have mixed ability and those are good as well.
‘But what some of the clubs around the region felt - Brighton, Fareham, Chichester, Guildford - was if we could create more of an elite summer league where you’re having first XI sort of National League standard hockey played in the summer, bearing in mind a lot of these players haven’t played competitive hockey for a good few months.
‘It is really good because it allows a good, competitive element, with a mini-league that we’ve created for the summer of good quality. At least the players have got something to look forward to, a good few weeks of some form of competitive hockey.'
Havant's ladies are also back in training with a view to arranging some summer friendlies.
It's a massive season ahead for the ladies first team who, as part of a restructure, will compete just one division down from the National Conference in the newly-formed South Central Premier Division 1 in 2021/22.