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Interview with coach Benjamin Donnet

Hi Benjamin, first of all, can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background?


Hi!

I joined the Jets in 2016 after many years of ice time in Switzerland where I was involved in the junior movement and a lot of lower league teams.

After a few seasons where I was the captain of the Jets, I was offered to take over the coaching job in summer 2019 which I accepted. Since then I have been covering all things sports and performance related at the Jets.


Can you briefly present the teams and competitions in which the Jets are participating this season?


We play in the Pre-National championship in France, which is the 5th division.

The French championship is the Jets' historic competition. The club started at the bottom of the ladder and then won promotion to the top of its group in N3. Finally, due to administrative issues, we decided to drop down to the Pre-National this season. It's still an interesting league, with a good level and a fairly easy modus operandi. We always travel less than 3 hours away and we have 2 games in the same day. It also allows us to keep continuity because it's the only competition we play in that runs from September to June.


We also play in the Swiss Cup, from the end of October to the end of January. We play a sort of mini-championship in pools of 6 teams divided by level. Then, once the ranking is established, we play knockout matches. It's a really nice tournament and it allows us to compete against very high level teams. The infrastructure in Kaltbrünn, where most of the matches are held, is absolutely incredible. We have always been very well received. In short, I love this competition. Moreover, we were lucky enough to host 4 group matches in Geneva, which is a great gift from IHS because all the teams come from the other side of Switzerland.


Finally, we organise and play the Geneva Cup. This is the Swiss Roller Inline Hockey Championship. What's cool is that the games are played at the Queue d'Arve on our field and the atmosphere is quite calm with teams from our region. In general, we play more for fun without really looking for performance.


The Swiss Cup has just ended for our team, what is your assessment of the team's performance?


Ah, the Swiss Cup! It was quite an epic this year! You should know that the Jets had already participated in the past. I wasn't there, but obviously it wasn't taken very seriously and they came back with losses and a lot of fatigue. Anyway, this season we wanted to do it right. First of all because we had been weaned on competition for two years and then we wanted to see what our real level was. So, frankly, what can we say when it's time to take stock? To make it short: Until yesterday we had never been beaten in regulation time out of the 11 games played. The guys were exemplary. I'm really proud of them!

It's a 4-hour drive away, so it takes a lot of personal commitment! Well, I wasn't disappointed. Really, it was probably the most successful competition since I joined this club. Finishing in the last eight, nobody thought it would happen. You have to understand that we were up against 18 year old internationals, teams that play in the 1st and 2nd division in Switzerland...in short, it was a tough game. The pitch is great in Kaltbrünn but it's almost the size of an ice hockey rink, 1/3 bigger than ours in Geneva. It was also a challenge to adapt our game to it.

Overall, it was perfect and we felt that the whole team was at one with the guys there. Also, the club committee made sure that the travel was royal and tried to make sure that it wasn't a financial burden on the players either.

Then when you go through the knockout rounds, it's still quite a thrill! Especially against teams who play in higher categories. Well, yesterday the step was too high, we understood that we still have a long way to go before reaching the level of the best teams in the country. But it was a great experience to play against a team from the NLA.


The Jets are currently leading their group in the French N4 championship and are guaranteed to finish in this position with two games to go in the regular season. What are the objectives for the finals?


The N4 or Prénationale is something very different. As I was saying, it's spread out over the whole season and you only play...12 games over 6 rounds! It's quite complicated to stay in it and you can't miss the 6 days you play.

In that respect, the Cup allowed us to keep the rhythm and to stay focused. I think that's the main reason why we came first. Of course we played generally well and we have the best goalkeeper in the league, that helps too. But in concrete terms, I think it's mainly the confidence gained in the Swiss Cup and the rhythm that allows us to perform so well. If we want to win the finals, we'll have to work and not believe that it will happen by itself. We kind of forgot that in our last game when we suffered our first defeat of the season. It's a good reminder. Nothing can be taken for granted.


Several players have joined the Jets squad this season, how do you feel about their integration?


We've had a few new players this season. It's great news for the club, it means we're attracting people. Secondly, it's always good to have some new faces to bring in a bit of fresh air and their opinions. It allows me as a coach to question myself too. All this is really positive. Then, their integration was perfectly successful. Our dressing room is really our strength and I think that all those who join us agree, the atmosphere is excellent. We have a total of 35 players, and no one complains about the newcomers, even though this inevitably creates competition. Everyone is aware that the club must progress and that this also involves recruitment. Afterwards, we don't do anything at this level either. As I am the one who does the recruiting, I will systematically favour the human aspect over the CV. I have no desire to have a starlet who comes and breaks my dressing room. For the moment, there have been no casting errors, we've only recruited top players and they seem to have been with the club forever.


What are the keys to your success this season?


The keys this season are really confidence and serenity. In the past, we were often a turbulent team, quickly in panic and we lost games on a few minutes where we made mistakes. This is no longer the case, the lads trust each other and know that their neighbour will hold up. In this sense, we have really gained in cohesion. We are also more attentive to the small details that can put us in dangerous situations. We have also acquired tactical rigour. In short, all these little things have enabled us to progress. We still have a long way to go but it's night and day with the past seasons. If you add the incredible atmosphere that prevails at home, I think we have the recipe for success this season.


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