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Departing director Smith has plenty of Hampstead & Westminster highlights

PUBLISHED: 16:00 21 May 2020

Richard Wijtenburg-Smith celebrates a goal for Hampstead & Westminster in the EHL (pic Mark Clews)

Richard Wijtenburg-Smith celebrates a goal for Hampstead & Westminster in the EHL (pic Mark Clews)

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Hampstead & Westminster Hockey Club bid a fond farewell to director of hockey Richard Smith recently as the former Olympian departed these shores to set up a new home in the Netherlands.

Hampstead & Westminster celebrate being crowned champions of England in 2019 (pic Mark Clews)Hampstead & Westminster celebrate being crowned champions of England in 2019 (pic Mark Clews)

The 32-year-old Smith, who played for Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics after helping England win European Championship gold three years earlier, had overseen a tremendous period of success in Hampstead’s recent history.

And he admitted there were plenty of highlights from this time at the Paddington Rec club in an exclusive chat with the Ham & High.

How does it feel to be leaving for a new home?

Richard Wijtenburg-Smith in action for Hampstead & Westminster (pic Mark Clews)Richard Wijtenburg-Smith in action for Hampstead & Westminster (pic Mark Clews)

Overall it is exciting. I have had a fantastic seven years living in London, living near and being with Hampstead & Westminster, and now Den Haag in The Netherlands is a beautiful place to be moving to and where we will base ourselves as a family for, at least, the next few years.

What are your highlights?

They come in the form of a combination of things achieved whilst playing, coaching or as director of hockey:

Richard Wijtenburg-Smith with his family (pic Mark Clews)Richard Wijtenburg-Smith with his family (pic Mark Clews)

*Winning the club’s first ever national title with the men’s first team (playing and DOH).

*Taking the club to Europe to compete in the Euro Hockey League (EHL) for the first time with the men’s first team (playing and DOH).

*Seeing the women’s first team win the East Conference twice and gain promotion to the Premier League on their second attempt at the promotion play-offs (coaching /DOH).

Richard Wijtenburg-Smith in action for Hampstead & Westminster (pic Mark Clews)Richard Wijtenburg-Smith in action for Hampstead & Westminster (pic Mark Clews)

What are you most proud of?

Some of the fantastic coaches, players and people that have joined the club over the past six years. They believed in where the club could go, as well as promoted, contributed to and lived the culture that we want to hold.

What can be achieved in future?

Richard Wijtenburg-Smith celebrates a goal against Surbiton for Hampstead & Westminster (pic Mark Clews)Richard Wijtenburg-Smith celebrates a goal against Surbiton for Hampstead & Westminster (pic Mark Clews)

Hampstead & Westminster can become one of the largest and most progressive clubs for the development of performance hockey in the UK, a performance club located across North West London while at the same time maintain its integrity as a central London hockey club, with teams spanning all ages and abilities and a strong social scene!

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With regards to the top end of the club the first teams can compete at the top of the Premier League for the years to come with many more trips to Europe, supporting the efforts of England/GB to compete at the very top of the European domestic game.

Richard Wijtenburg-Smith coaching Hampstead & Westminster youngsters (pic Mark Clews)Richard Wijtenburg-Smith coaching Hampstead & Westminster youngsters (pic Mark Clews)

What needs to happen to meet targets?

As with all things – more time and money.

The time to make sure the club is going about things in the right way and explore new avenues, and the money to support the correct strategy and ensure a sustainable club structure is set up for the medium to long term.

Unfortunately, as well we need to continue to get the input from a lot more volunteers, their time and execution of ideas, as well as the good will of club members old and current to continue to push the club on.

How do you view the strength of hockey in GB these days?

Pretty good! It is laden with potential and the success of the women in Rio and the work done by the governing bodies has led to plenty of participation and the development of plenty of talent.

It is a great social sport with a lot of good hockey clubs across the country. However from a performance perspective, the talent is too spread around the country (schools, clubs, universities, representative development pathways).

The next steps are to ensure the talent pathways are set up to ensure the players are developed that can compete with the very best in the world – no easy task!

What will you miss the most about Hampstead & Westminster?

The people. The vast array of interesting and sociable people, as well as the culture – we want to win on the pitch but we are relaxed, caring and sociable off the pitch.

Is there anyone in particular you would like to thank?

I need to thank the club for standing by me when I had my major knee injury just before joining in the summer of 2013, and for trusting me to put my energy and ideas into the development of the club.

Since then a whole roster of people who I have played with, met, coached with and worked with at the club.

Richard Sykes, Osman Rankin and Jonathan Witt head up the club, so my thanks certainly need to go to them. I will certainly be supporting and continuing to try and help however I can from here!


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