Reader response: provision on hockey in public schools
During our coverage of hockey in public schools and the need to increase supply, we were inundated with responses via email and social media. Here is a selection
Acting on the problems of public schools is the most difficult of all
Izzy Gardiner caused a stir about the lack of hockey fields in public schools. This is not a Covid problem however, but a much larger problem for the sport.
I grew up in the area where Izzy lives and played hockey regularly at my (public) school and played games against many other local public schools. It was in the 1970s, however, and hockey was played on grass and schools had large sports fields. As hockey shifted to astroturf, this was always going to be a big deal for the sport that schools and clubs would struggle to fund.
There are three public schools locally with synthetic turf pitches suitable for playing hockey (although others have all-weather pitches suitable for football). Unfortunately, only one, to my knowledge, regularly plays hockey. This school is closely associated with Izzy’s own club (Broxbourne).
So this is the first question to think about and answer. Why don’t schools with facilities offer hockey as part of the basic physical education program or as an after-school club? Is this because the staff have other sporting interests, kids don’t want to play hockey as opposed to soccer, even for girls (maybe Izzy’s take on be considered elitist) or that schools do not have the resources of coaches?
The Coaching Resource may be something that local clubs can help with, but let’s remember that club coaches are mostly unpaid volunteers at the local level who all have day jobs to do as well.
Can clubs offer more? Maybe, but it is very limited by resources. In the Izzy area, the Broxbourne and Hertford hockey clubs have excellent facilities for youth starting at 7 or 8 and continuing through under 18 and senior hockey. Demand is high and what is offered is of good quality, but expansion is constrained by supportive resources and suitable playing fields.
This comes to the second question of why? The answer is simple, it’s all about the money. Money to build new fields, money to maintain them and a sinking fund to pass the mat and money to finance the coaches.
None of this will be new to your readers or to England Hockey or rather I would like to say Great Britain Hockey because the situation is no better in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Now the biggest question of all. What can we, do we do about it? This is of course also the most difficult to answer but Hockey paper should have this in the foreground of its cover because it is the most important. How can the newspaper work with sports governing bodies to pressure government and MPs, local councils and the likes of the National Lottery Fund to provide the right funding? even more difficult with the costs of the pandemic to cover?
As a starting point, how do we make sure that the new developed fields are all suitable for playing hockey and not just for the benefit of our richest football cousins? At least it should be simple after all, you can play soccer on most communal hockey pitches, but you can’t play hockey on soccer field. Soccer is a better game on turf (in my opinion) anyway and only on astro because of the lights, so how do you turn on lights around existing soccer fields so that they don’t need to steal resources from? hockey field?
The problems are well known, but the answers are harder to find and acting on them is even more difficult.
We need to do more for public schools
My daughter won the National Under 13 Championships with her school in 2019 and now they don’t do school hockey at all for her age group and there is very little provision for girls in all ages. They have old astro on site, but my daughter was denied access for practicing despite my request as she had a phase 2 NAGS assessment and had no access to land since the lockdown began. I definitely support the campaign for more hockey supporters in public schools!
Change will require huge momentum and promotion
I am a hockey enthusiast and a physical education teacher in a public school. We hardly do hockey anymore because we are a competitive hockey school. What stopped us …. so few schools playing, the cost of equipment and facilities.
We cannot pay to travel miles.
We can’t afford the GK kit.
We cannot afford astro rental.
The final new rule of face masks for penalty wedges totally excluded us from all casual matches.
The sport needs a new version that public schools can access.
Hopefully things will change, but it’s going to take a huge amount of effort and promotion.
Not in favor of the public school tournament
I played hockey when I was 20 – I went to a public school, my husband still plays hockey and he went to a public school that didn’t play hockey. My son plays hockey – he went to an independent school, but started playing before going to independent school, he played in a local club. He’s a really good player, and yes, he played at a school with good facilities, but a lot of hard work including fitness, as well as hockey skills, and time was spent in the sport.
However, organizing a public school tournament is, in my opinion, a bad idea. Why don’t you encourage students who want to play hockey to join a local club where the state and independent kids can play and be coached in unison. Why are you trying to separate the children? Public schools should be actively encouraged to forge links and relationships with their local hockey clubs. All local hockey clubs are calling for ways to increase their membership. They offer coaching opportunities for all age groups including primary and secondary ages. They can provide opportunities for play and training. I think we all want kids to play hockey even in their schools, but the local clubs are very well organized and could help improve their skill levels and confidence in the sport, especially at school games.
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