Experience and skill

Sport’s a big part of today’s society, with hockey featuring highly. This is mainly due to the popularity of the sport within secondary schools and the national curriculum. With about 1150 hockey clubs in England, a National Governing Body (NGB) essentially organises the country’s hockey. England Hockey replaced the England Hockey Association (2002). It coordinates involvement and development with nationally run competitions and leagues. Much work’s also pumped into developing the foundations for future hockey: the young players of today. With high profile names involved in local schemes such as ‘Slazenger Stick Skills’, youngsters are encouraged to participate with rewards e.g. badges and certificates.

The National Lottery helps develop all levels of hockey with funding via Sport England. It’s also in conjunction with the Youth Sports Trust and the Central Council for Physical Recreation. Through funding, Regional schemes such as Active Sports Talent Camps exist to develop the regions county and talented players. Lucazade often get involved with these local to territorial ‘stepping stones’. Locally, clubs such as Bradford and Halifax Hockey Club also exist and have junior teams to involve younger, future players. Local area teams like Calderdale compete against others, such as Wakefield, in developmental tournaments such as the Millennium Youth Games. This type of basic introductory competition promotes basic principals of hockey: fun whilst gaining experience and skill.

Clubs receive private sponsors to fund kit, but main funding comes from the players i.e. hiring the pitch is paid for by subs. Some clubs may organise fund raising events such as ‘bag-packs’ at supermarkets. Sponsorship at national level is more serious with England Hockey leading the way in developing its image with investors such as Harrods and high status associations such as Great Britain Olympic Hockey and World Class Hockey.

Hockey’s usually introduced at secondary school as part of the National PE Curriculum, but younger players may be introduced to junior sections of clubs through siblings etc. As a traditional sport that’s stereotyped for females (especially school level) private schools emphasise its’ importance by being in conjunction with local clubs to provide pathways for progression e.g. Bradford Girls Grammar School and Bradford Hockey Club. By regular club training and competition, a player may develop and be entered for local schemes/trials e.g. representing Kirklees in the West Yorkshire Youth Games. This can lead to scouting for county trials.

Through higher standards of training and competition, development may continue and progression to a territorial level e.g. North England. Opportunities through trials and training weekends are provided and thus, following the pattern, international trials and competition. As seen by the diagram the different stages become more demanding with less players meeting the higher standards and progressing upwards.

There’s ranging competition at all levels e.g. school- u12, to u18 and clubs varying from u11 up to numerous open age teams. Currently in England hockey is not a professional and therefore technically paid sport as it is in various other countries such as Holland. There is no provision for this level but with an increase of water based pitches and the senior men’s and women’s English hockey Leagues’ continuously improving standards of competition, the international scene is well established and provided for. By playing in the Senior National League a player has reached the top level of competition before international level, and thus it often leads to opportunities to trials for these highly developed players. There are however both male and female international competitions via club tournaments, and representative events for the England teams such as the Olympics, World and European Championships.

Aside from the other agencies mentioned in connection with England Hockey the school link programme PESSCL partner the NGB to re-enforce participation in the education zone. They work together to implement it within secondary schools, but as yet there is no such scheme for primary schools such as ‘High 5 Netball’.

This information is generally based on female participants but many clubs have male teams that are involved in national, regional and sub divisions. E.g. Sheffield has long standing, devoted men’s teams. Equality exists with popular, yet more social as most players are initially committed to gender specific teams. However colleges such as Greenhead provide for mixed team players and participate in regular competition. Although more profiled as a ‘female sport’ the National Men’s league has a higher status through more media and sponsorship coverage than the women’s league with early sponsors like Stretcher and much more consistent media coverage from Sky Sports.’

Although sparse, Zone Hockey is a full flowing scheme that provides access to hockey for the disabled. It can be played on an equal level with able bodied players and is simply and adapted version of the original. It was developed between Nottingham Trent University, the Youth Sport Trust and England Hockey. It’s widely supported by associations such as the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation. A 5-a-side game that is fully adaptable to different playing surfaces and wheelchairs, that provides all boys and girls with a high scoring, fast moving, fun game. However there is no involvement at an elite level such as at the Paralympics due to its sparse global popularity and no record of an international English representative side

Evaluating the situation of Hockey within England, it’s fair to say there’s a solid structure that can still be built on. Equality exists within the sport to the extent of mixed teams, of which most major sports in England do not provide for at senior level e.g. soccer. Also disabled access exists and is strong in many parts of the country but not to the extent of international competition. However, without professionalism, Hockey lacks funding that marketing, TV coverage rights, ticket sales etc. could provide. Fantastic facilities become ever more prominent (e.g. water based pitches), there is surely a gap waiting to be filled that would provide more access and opportunity locally and nationally including disabled athletes. This is certainly an aspect to consider for improvement and standard of the sport for all.

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