Central Otago’s future hockey players got a taste of the game last week, taking part in a hockey development programme from the Netherlands.

Sixty-five children piled on to the Pioneer Park turf in Alexandra last Thursday to take part in ‘‘funkey hockey’’, a sixweek programme run by the Central Otago Hockey Association (COHA).

COHA community manager Berber Swart said funkey hockey was an opportunity for new players to learn hockey through play.

‘‘Funkey hockey is a new hockey programme.

‘‘We’re trying to get kids into hockey.’’

The goal was to introduce children tohockey and get them excited about playing in the future.

‘‘They learn hockey through playing [fun] games.’’

The focus was on getting the basic skills of the game right. ‘‘How to hold a stick, how to work together but also how to stop the ball, how to push the ball forward.’’

More than 380 children in years 1-8 registered for the sessions — also held in Wa ¯naka, Cromwell and Queenstown — a number Ms Swart described as ‘‘really exciting’’.

The programme came from the Netherlands, where she grew up.

The Royal Dutch Hockey Association (KNHB) offered a funkey hockey programme for 4-to-5-year-old children, which encouraged learning to move in a fun way.

It was well established in the Netherlands and had its own mascot.

Ms Swart thought it would be a good programme to use in New Zealand and was given permission by the KNHB to implement the programme in Central Otago.

‘‘We’re trying to get it started.’’