We all have memories of when we picked a hockey stick up for the first time. For some, it may have been when we were older, perhaps we were dragged along by a colleague or a friend to a new club or after watching your own child or family member play and you just thought: “Why the hell not?”
But for a lot of people, that first memory of field hockey comes from P.E. (physical education) lessons at school.
For many primary and secondary schools, it is mainly girls that play field hockey in P.E. lessons, continuing the sport in Games lessons until their A Levels or they leave for college, unless they choose physical education as a further education option. It would be expected that there would be some better memories this way, being able to take part in the sport with all your friends at school. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
A lot of first experiences can only be associated with bruised shin, sore feet, and sticks being swung about dangerously about shoulder height – a big no-no in the world of hockey. Not to mention the cold weather in which hockey, as a winter sport, is played. Unless there is snow, it is understandable that no child – or person for that matter – is keen to stand about in a bitter, biting wind while participating in a sport they may not find enjoyable.
Arguably, many P.E. teachers only have the basic information when it comes to field hockey: the ball is not allowed to hit feet, must be inside the circle (‘D’) before shooting, not allowed to use the back of your stick, and so on. And if any students in those lessons play the sport outside of school, they will already know these rules and be above the basic, beginners level. The drills and skills shown in those lessons would be of no interest to those who already know the basics as they watch their classmates struggle with an ‘Indian dribble.’
From these lacklustre experiences, it must be considered how Wales can engage the younger generation into the game. With the National team beginning to see better results from the youth to senior sections, it is important to continue drawing in young players who have the potential to fill future national squad spots.
To combat these issues, Hockey Wales released a new programme, Hooked on Hoci. Only a few weeks old, it has already been integrated into numerous schools across Wales. Hooked on Hoci offers schools the opportunity to become more confident in delivering training sessions to their students and will support them in making links with local clubs. It also offers schools the chance to have their students taught by a qualified coach from Hockey Wales for 6 weeks, alongside a leadership qualification for one teacher at the school.
It will allow those students that show promise, talent, and a will to learn and improve with the opportunity to go that extra bit further. Links made between school and club, with the help of Hooked on Hoci, will only provide young players with better chances of continuing their hockey education. The programme will encourage young players to develop, and potentially provide Wales’ regional and national pathways with plenty of future stars.
Hockey may not ever be as big as rugby is as our national sport, but hockey is certainly showing a popularity growth as numbers continue to develop at local clubs. Our Welsh internationals are knocking on the doors of the Great Britain squads, or have already secured their places.
Development and nurturing will be key to ensuring the continued popularity, growth, and success. Hooked on Hoci provides the right pathway to that success and will provide future young players with the right pathway to Playing for the Dragon.
Written by Stevie-Marie Jones
For more information, head to: Hockey Wales | Hooked on Hoci