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Developing Hockey Across The Globe

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In every issue of Planet Hockey we highlight some of the great work that is being carried out by individuals, clubs and nations in using hockey for good. Here are three great projects that are taking place in Europe right now.

Pitch perfect

A helping hand up the development ladder is always welcome but when it involves donating an entire pitch, then the altruistic nature of the hockey family really comes to the fore.

Under the European Hockey Federation’s (EHF) Give and Get programme, clubs are encouraged to give their old carpets to national federations who are unable to afford a new pitch but have a strong demand for hockey.

In the past six years, eight carpets have been taken up and delivered to a new home, with three of them already providing a surface for international competition.

EHF Education and development Manager Norman Hughes explains how the programme works: “We work with the richer, more developed national federations of England, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany to identify pitches which are being replaced but have at least five years of life left in them.

“Developing nations send us their requests and we priorities those nations that we think will benefit most.”

There is no set criteria for a successful application but Hughes says that the decision will fall in favour of the poorest nations and the number of players the pitch could introduce to the game. He also explained how historical hockey participation can play a part.

“If a nation used to have a strong hockey heritage but when the pitches changed from grass to artificial turf they got left behind, then we will look carefully at helping those nations,” he says, pointing to the examples of many eastern European nations.

In the latest example of the Give and Get programme, EHF vice-president Carola Meyer joined Norman Hughes in Berlin to discuss with club officials from Club fur Leibesubungen, Berlin the possible donation of a pitch to the Belarus Hockey Federation. EHF Partner Polytan was also on hand to assist, with Matthias Dittman helping assess the carpet and its possibilities. The initial talks were sparked by a meeting between EHF’s partners Polytan and Carola Meyer at the German Indoor Club Finals.

A contractor from Belarus, Vladimir Strok, helped in coordinating the donation. The pitch will be gifted to a new hockey city in the east of Belarus, Mogilev, which very recently hosted the National Indoor Finals.

Quoted on the EHF website, Norman Hughes says: “Thanks to wonderful networking and co-operation between our partners Polytan who met with EHF Vice President Carola Meyer at the Germany Indoor Finals, EHF was able to procure this hockey carpet. EHF wishes to thank Polytan and the Hockey Club for their kind offer and support.”

The cost of lifting and moving the pitch is met through a joint financial effort between the EHF and the receiving national federation. EHF assists with the lifting costs while the national federation pays for the trucks to transport the carpet. Hughes says this can cost upwards of €15,000, so it is not a light undertaking.

For Hughes, the programme is essential for developing nations. He explains that creating the surface for a pitch is one of the first steps up the ladder. Once the carpet is laid, the onus is then on the club, the town, the state or the federation to grow the game.

So far, three of the eight pitches – in Croatia, Lithuania and Slovenia – have hosted internationals - for the development manager, this is a huge success and one he hopes will inspire others to Give and Get.

The Rockets ready for take-off

Siobhan Madeley is well-known among European hockey clubs and national associations as the communications manager for the European Hockey Federation. At her home club, Three Rock Rovers in Dublin, Ireland, she takes on a very different role.

“I suppose I am programme coordinator” she says in an interview with RTE, Ireland’s national radio station. The programme she has been coordinating is an ambitious and inspiring one – to start a team for children with intellectual disabilities. Just a few months down the line and not only is a team in place but they are just a few months away from competing in the Euro ParaHockey Championships in Amsterdam in August.

The range of intellectual disabilities among the squad members includes Downs Syndrome and Autism, but for Siobhan and her team of volunteer coaches, everyone is aiming for the same goal – to give as many people as possible the chance to play hockey.

The squad was formed in November 2016 and soon grew from four to 14. “I guess we were both excited and nervous,” says Siobhan. “None of us had really worked with children with disabilities before. We work with our juniors so we know about coaching children and its pretty much the same thing to be honest.”

From September, Three Rock Rovers is offering coaching for children with intellectual disabilities from the age of eight, where they are coached with mainstream children and, then at the age of 14 the coaches and parents will decide if the players will stay in mainstream hockey or join the Rockets team.

During the interview, which took place pitch side during a lively training session, it was evident that the players had quickly built a great team spirit and developed a love for the game.

“Its a good sport, its a sport where you can make good friends and it is good fun,” said one of the team members, while another player added that it gave her the chance to develop her self-confidence as she learnt new skills.

“It’s helping with the team work aspect,” says one parent. “He is a only child and he isn't able to just hang out on the street with his peers, that is something he will never be able to do, so this is a chance for him to socialise.”

“Every Tuesday after work I am absolutely buzzing,” says team manager Hannah O’Byrne. “I can’t put into words how much I adore the coaching. Around this area there is nothing else provided for kids with disabilities so this is a chance for the kids to run around for an hour and the parents can have a cup of coffee and a chat on the side-line. I can’t think of anywhere I would rather be.”

For Siobhan, the next step is all about organic growth of the sport. “What we need now is for other clubs in the country to start similar teams so we can play against other clubs. We believe that is the future, it should be organic.”

When it comes to coaching, the Rockets are split for quality. Besides Siobhan, the head coach is Niall Denham, TRRHC Men’s First Coach and Irish Under 16 coach, who is in his final year of EHF Top Coaches Programme; and international umpire Alison Keogh. Other members of the men’s and women’s teams also pitch in.

The Rockets and their coaches and supporters are currently busy fundraising to raise the money necessary to send the Rockets on their way to Amsterdam. Euro ParaHockey takes place 20-23 August 2017.

Hockey for Heroes take on next challenge

“These guys are really something, we know we sacrifice a lot to be hockey players, so we understand a little of what they go through, but they are truly inspirational." George Pinner, the Great Britain goalkeeper shakes his head in admiration as he talks about his role as ambassador to the Hockey for Heroes movement.

Hockey for Heroes came into existence in 2012, when a squad was formed comprising a number of military and ex-military personnel who all rally for the cause. The movement is an off-shoot of charity Help for Heroes who raise money to help injured and fallen military personnel. The funds raised help run a series of country-wide recovery centres, all focused heavily on the role sport can play.

The Hockey for Heroes team uses hockey-based challenges to raise funds for Help for Heroes. In 2013, the squad took on an inaugural tour, which encompassed 26 matches in seven days; in 2014 they took part in a tough mudder adventure race, then ran up Mount Snowdon before playing two hockey matches; and their most recent challenge saw them play 33 matches in 10 days, while completing the three peaks challenge [climbing the three highest peaks in the UK, Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike].

In 2017, the ambition is even greater – a 200 mile hike between the national stadium in Wales to the National Hockey Centre in London, playing 30 hockey matches along the way, all while carrying a man on a stretcher. The hike, entitled #opstretcher starts on Friday May 26, leaving the Sport Wales National Centre before arriving in London at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on 4 June.

Great Britain and England Hockey’s involvement with Hockey for Heroes was instigated by team manager Andy Halliday, a longtime supporter of the charity. "I was a member of the police force for 15 years," explains Halliday. "I have an affinity with and a huge admiration for these guys who give their all to serve their country.”

Gary Ryder, Managing Director of Hockey for Heroes, added: “We hope the link between hockey for heroes and the GB hockey team is a long one. Our aim is to support our charity but it's also to promote hockey as a sport.”

Hockey clubs across the UK are getting on board with the Hockey for Heroes charity. Just a few weeks ago, Marlow Men’s 1st team played a friendly match against a GB women’s team. The men beat the GB side, which contained several Olympians, 4-2 in front of a sizeable crowd.

After GB star goalkeeper Maddie Hinch saved a shot from a penalty corner, the visitors showed their class to take a 2-0 lead into half-time, but Marlow came back in the second half, however, and won the game with goals from Tom Sheldon, Noah Sharples, Joe Chomet and Cameron Beazley-Clarke.

The event raised £230 for 'Hockey for Heroes’ and, importantly, raised the profile of the charity and its work with wounded service personnel.

 

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