As a father to a nearly three-year-old boy my life has been opened to many different stories of three. The three blind mice, the three little pigs, Goldilocks and the three bears and the three billy goats immediately spring to mind. However, in my time as a hockey scribe for Pro Series Indoor (Ironically three years now), I have been presented a wonderful story of three to tell now. The story of the three visionaries.
All our main cast stories have a beginning. The legend of TK began out of a personal passion for Hockey, a passion held from a very young age by Thomas Kille. His early enthusiasm proved itself with his competing in 60 games for the German Junior National team, followed by the Under 21 German Team captaincy, which ultimately led him to play for the National League.
Thomas Kille recognized an opportunity during the 1970’s to improve the traditional hockey sticks available at that time. While studying Business Economics the young entrepreneur began experimenting with new glass fibre and polyester materials, reinforcing blank sticks in the basement of his home and selling them to players he knew, pioneering early technological advances that would shape the hockey sticks of the future. These early sticks ended up in the hands of some high-quality players. Soon demand increased as word of the sticks unique quality and performance spread among the clubs.
Following the success of his innovative sticks, the time was now right for Thomas to take the next step and launch the first sticks branded with TK. These revolutionary sticks went on sale in January 1985, distributed by the company Kille & Bal, a partnership between Thomas Kille and Ranbir Bal. The hockey world would soon be introduced to something that would grip the imagination of players everywhere the combination of the TK logo with the two signatory elephants with crossed trunks, playfully shaped like hockey sticks.
The addition of the brightly coloured elephant graphic allowed TK to attract more players through both design and technology, form and function. TK’s winning combination was born from the company’s inception, TK Hockey soon became a leading player in markets across the world. The visibility of the brand in the international arena set a precedent at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, just seven years after TK officially began trading, 10 male and female players who won either gold or silver medals did so using a TK stick. TK is now regarded as one of the world’s leading independent global hockey brands with its original founder and creative force, Thomas Kille firmly at the helm.
Simon Martin represented South Africa as a goalkeeper in field hockey, but his legendary story goes further back. When Simon went through the school hockey system he felt that there was something missing from the game. However, the one thing that stood out for him was a one-day indoor tournament at UCT that took place at the end of the hockey season. This was the most enjoyable event of the season that Simon had experienced.
It was always a well-run event that brought the entire hockey community together in a social but competitive environment. Unfortunately, it was only a one-day event and it was not enough to grow the game of indoor. In his matric year the tournament organiser relocated, and the tournament never took place. This was a real disappointing way for Simon’s school hockey career to end.
When he left school, he felt that this was the spark to ignite indoor hockey and allow kids to play the game on a more ongoing basis. Indoor hockey was a limited schools sport especially for boys and with the introduction of PSI, it allowed all young enthusiastic hockey players the opportunity to take part in a new and exciting concept. This was back in 2005 and since that Psi has grown into six different countries.
My own journey with John goes back a bit further and has very little to do with hockey. This hero’s tale was introduced to me through red socks and through the Unogwaja Challenge. In a very simple summary you don’t meet John you experience him. Its through Macky that I was introduced to Simon Martin and Pro Series Indoor, but this is not a story about me.
Born in South Africa, John spent most of his childhood in England before returning to complete his schooling in Cape Town.
He played hockey for South Africa. He was awarded the “Ideas for the Future” scholarship by the University College of Dublin’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, in recognition of his dream to connect people all over the world by wearing red socks. He has a BCom from the University of Cape Town and an MBA from University College Dublin in Ireland. He attended the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, as an MBA exchange student.
Whilst living in Dublin, the red socks (known as the shoOops!) came to life in 2007 when a very close friend staying with him decided to return to work in SA. Inspired by a pact made between South African World War 2 soldiers after being captured at the Battle of Tobruk that anybody making it back would wear redsocks to remember each other, they have worn red socks on Fridays ever since.
His message is simple, when you follow your heart there is no such thing as failure, and after hearing John share his story you might just believe that your own dreams can come true.
The Three Visionaries
Its safe to say that the word that comes to mind when finding a common thread between Thomas, Simon and John is visionary. All three were looking at ways of changing the game. But how do they overlap? John had been playing with TK since he was 13 years old, Thomas has known him for over 20 years. John had many chats with TK over the years about Psi. Simon himself was sponsored by TK when playing for South Africa and in fact TK had been on board with Psi in the early years.
As an MC and creative force alongside Simon for Psi John set about getting a conversation going with PSI and TK again. As John himself describes both men as visionaries and excitement was sure to follow any discussion between the two. And kids around the world should be excited that something special is happening.
The Elephants are Back
TK and Psi have agreed a global partnership for all Pro Series Indoor tournaments around the world. With Psi currently operating in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ireland and England it truly is developing into a global brand and that’s the perfect description of TK itself. Its not just a beautiful agreement it’s a perfect synergy.
With this tale of visionaries reaching its conclusion on paper, you may expect a happy ending. Well those expectations would fall short, this is the happy beginning. If we can dream it, we can do it.