Steve Paxton the Seaford College hockey coach represented his country South Africa for several years before turning to coaching hockey internationally for the SA ladies squad. He joined Seaford in 2011 to continue to nurture progress in their run of success on the pitch and has enjoyed a career of 22 years in the game playing and coaching. Steve is housemaster to 40 pupils at Seaford and has very useful links to hockey foundations internationally. Like so many gifted sportsman, Steve had a choice in which sport to pursue as a child. He was school buddies with Jonty Rhodes the SA cricket batsman and possibly the best fielder the game has seen. In a chat aged 18, Jonty confirmed that he would be staying with cricket whilst Steve suggested hockey was for him.
Have you always enjoyed sport?
Football was my life growing up in Africa as my dad played professionally for Huddersfield when he was younger. At the same time I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to ride a champion showjumping horse. It was ever so easy riding such a great horse, all I had to do was guide him through the right combinations and he would do the rest. During that period I was so busy representing my country at football and riding that my school work never really peaked!
Did you always know that hockey would be your sport?
Football was what I dreamt of playing professionally and it nearly came to fruition but we then moved further south in Africa and my chance was gone. I changed my outlook and decided to take on the challenge of hockey and cricket, and within three years I was representing my country in hockey and county at cricket. My best memory of when I had to choose between hockey and cricket was when I spoke to my team-mate Jonty Rhodes and he said he was going to stick with cricket. I said “no thanks, five days in the sun over and over again; not for me” – look at what he achieved in his career! At school I was so busy with sport – scratch golfer, number one at tennis, cricket captain, hockey captain, basketball team, swimming team . . . I nearly forgot that education was more important than the sporting achievements I was striving for!
Has anyone inspired you in your sporting career?
At the early stages of my hockey career I was always interested in coaching and my mentor Brian Edwards was, I believe, one of the best tactical coaches in the world. At 18 I started coaching various teams and very soon was coaching and playing for the provincial side and coaching the ladies provincial squad, then being chosen to coach the ladies national team. I did Civil Engineering after school but was still more interested in sport than anything else. I eventually retired from playing competitively and concentrated only on coaching.
How did you get to coach at Seaford College?
After two World Cups as head coach and an international career (playing and coaching) spanning 22 years, my family and I were very lucky to be offered a teaching position in the UK at a school in East Sussex, and to coach university and club teams. We spent three years there and the school won every age group county title for boys in the same year (both my sons were members of the teams that year – made me very proud). I then moved to Seaford College and we implemented my five-year plan in 2011-12. This year has been a record-breaking one for hockey at Seaford. Our plan has the community at heart and we can see that by the free master class sessions for prep schools held every year, and the links with USA universities for all local pupils to have the option to receive a scholarship from the university and have that university as an option when they leave school. This is just a small part of the overall plan. My wife Angie and I are also house parents to 40 plus boys at Seaford College and love every minute of our job.
What is the best memory of your career?
During my career I have coached in North America and consulted to Barbados and Gibraltar Hockey, and come across some amazing athletes. My best memory was when I was coaching at a World Cup in Germany. After a day’s play I was sitting with the German ladies coach and asked him “why do you have so many video technicians at your games?”. I will never forget his reply: “Do you want to win this game or not? It’s too late to analyse why you lost after the game. I have my staff analyse the opposition while the game is progressing; they see their habits and plays and report back to me, which I then tell the players who can then counter them and go on to win this game – not the next.” This put my coaching methods on a totally different track.