It’s been six months since Barry Cawte was appointed as Chief Executive of Scottish Hockey and with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on the horizon he is already looking forward to what will no doubt be an exciting new chapter for the sport.
Barry started his new role in October last year having previously worked with the Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA), which represents and supports professional rugby players in Wales. Barry transformed the WRPA’s influence and reputation across the Welsh rugby landscape before moving to Scottish Hockey.
Barry is serving a second term as chair of the Tennis Wales board, and previously worked for Greenwich Leisure Limited, which operates more than 350 public sport and leisure centres, including the London Aquatics Centre and Copper Box Arena opened for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
He led a charitable social enterprise that saved Swansea Tennis Centre from permanent closure and instead transformed it into one of the best facilities of its kind in Wales. Barry also worked as a consultant to the Tennis Foundation and Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to turn the fortunes of several other tennis facilities around across the UK.
But now his focus is on transforming what he calls a ‘sleeping giant’ in the shape of Scottish Hockey.
How big a part was sport in your life growing up?
Sport was a way of life for me. I lived in a small village and sport was one of the few options available. It completely occupied my time outside of school. Football was my primary focus, but I also enjoyed the traditional Irish sport of hurling. There was a significant part of the 90s in which I lived on roller blades, playing roller hockey on the roads in my local neighbourhood. Every now and then I look to pull out the rollerblades and surprise family and friends with a few tricks. I still cling on to my youth when I can. Later in life, I also represented Wales in Australian Rules Football; an Irishman living in Wales, playing Aussie rules football. I will pretty much give anything a go!
When did you first realise that you wanted to have a career in sport and can you tell us about your career journey before arriving in Scotland?
I first realised I wanted to pursue a career in sport when I was studying in university in the west of Ireland with ambitions of becoming an architect. However, I didn’t enjoy the course as I expected to, and spent most of my time taking part in the university’s sports clubs. I loved sport so much that it naturally led me to the conclusion that I wanted a career in it. I was determined to help others enjoy the benefits of sport in the same way I did growing up. At the age of 18 I left Ireland and decided that the UK was the best place for me to forge a career in the industry. I now have over 20 years in the sports and leisure industry and I have loved every minute of it despite the challenges.
What attracted you to the role with Scottish Hockey and how have you found your first few months as CEO?
I think Scottish Hockey is a sleeping giant. It has untapped potential. There is so much that can be realised yet for the sport. The opportunity to grow the game at all levels excites me. I love a challenge and I am naturally competitive, so I want Scottish Hockey to be the very best it can be. I enjoy seeing organisations evolve and innovate, and I think Scottish Hockey moving into a new era, has a unique opportunity to do that. The current board and Chair match my own ambitions for the organisation and this was a significant factor in deciding to take up the role.
My first six months have been incredible. The Scottish Hockey community have been so welcoming. I have been all over the country hearing what people at the coal face have to say about our sport. I have been stunned by the passion and enthusiasm of the Scottish Hockey community. It is not like anything I have seen before. There is such a family feel to the game, with anyone of any age and background able to pick up a stick and play.
What are your initial priorities for the sport and how will you be taking that forward?
We are going through what we are calling a “Reset” period for Scottish Hockey. We are implementing recommendations from a member engagement project that we conducted last year, and we are reviewing and redesigning all aspects of our business. We want to do the basics better, but vitally we want to put in solid foundations now, that will allow us to build into the future, allowing us to excel for years to come.
What do you hope to achieve in the long term?
In the long term I want Scottish Hockey to be commercially sustainable, professionally run, and inclusive. I want it to realise it’s significant potential, both on and off the pitch. I want to do this as one team, working in collaboration with all members of the hockey community: from volunteers to officials, clubs, districts, sportscotland and all our key partners. We want to be a modern, forward thinking, and innovative governing body that is seen as a trail blazer for how a governing body should function.
Who are your role models both sporting and non-sporting?
My sporting role model is former Arsenal and England footballer Ian Wright. He always seemed to play with a smile on his face but he had a ruthless determination that drove him to be a world-class striker, despite many challenges he faced in his youth. Non-sporting would be my dad. He had an incredible work ethic and like me, set off to work and live in a different country when he was very young. That always gave me confidence to be brave and follow my own path.
If you could give your younger self some advice now about a career in sport what would it be?
To spend more time reflecting on how fortunate we are to work in sport. We are very lucky that sport is such an important part of our culture and loved by millions. It is an honour, that through sport, we can have such a positive impact on many. I don’t think I have spent enough time digesting that over the years.
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