In our latest club file series, Jaime Cox, club chair and umpire, and Barry Coe, club vice chair discuss how Kettering, EH club of the year in 2018, is surviving and the picture ahead

Barry: When lockdown was imposed, with one game remainingit didn’t have too much of an affect although unfortunately one of our teams did get relegated with a game to play that could have saved them. At the moment we are planning our season as normal. We felt it was easier to plan and amend rather than start from scratch.

How is Kettering operated, is it a sole entity as part of the sports club?

Jaime: Kettering HC is one section of a wider sports club which includes cricket, tennis, junior football, archery and rifle shooting. As we were hitting our off season, we have not been seriously affected financially at present as a section, unlike cricket, but the whole club, Kettering Town Sports Club, was lucky enough to receive a grant from the Borough Council to help them keep going in this tough time so that has definitely helped. However, we are unsure as to when the things may restart on the hockey pitch, or sport at the wider club in general, so we are looking into how we can keep both the section and club afloat, if for example we have a sustained period of inactivity (18 months). Our grant from the council will only cover our basic running costs for 12 months.

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The club recently heard some negative news over the aim to grow the club. How did this come about?

Jaime: We currently use one pitch at Bishop Stopford School, after our old council pitch became unplayable. We are planning on running 10 Senior Teams next season, 5 mens and 5 ladies and as only one team can play at once, usually five are at home at any one time, we are seriously starting to run out of space and time for our club to grow. We already have to take up three nights a week so the whole club can train. We were pleased to hear about and hoped that the nearby Hanwood Park development would give us at least one other pitch so that we can continue to expand but also increase the social side of the club by having two teams back at the clubhouse at once. England Hockey have been working hard with the council to try and make this happen, so it was very disappointing to hear that it is not going to now, and that the EH Club of the Year 2018 is unable to grow how we would like.

How disappointing is the current status and do you hope to rectify it? Is the stymying of women’s sport development is also key here?

Jaime: We are hugely disappointed with the current status and that it looks like there won’t be an extra pitch coming to Kettering, and even more so that England Hockey weren’t informed, despite them working closely with the council on this. We are doing our best to rectify this and hope that the council will reconsider. We were looking to increase our ladies teams to five this year and grow the development of the sport amongst our female community but this could stop it from growing further. This would be a real shame given the current women’s sport rise.

Are there any long-term dangers following the pandemic?

Barry: Although we have a good understanding of our membership we never know the full picture. It may be that we have plans in place for furloughed members when we restart. Our members are generally great at volunteering so we look like having a full committee in place for next year following an eAGM. We have already created balance sheets for no hockey, some hockey and a regular season. This will help us inform our decisions going forward. What will happen to annual subs if there is no hockey? Will we, and I guess other clubs, rely on the continued goodwill of members to make sure there is a club for them to return to? Our biggest issue post lockdown will be the regulations on training numbers. We have limited pitch capacity and lots of people who train. We may have to slightly tinker with our training programme to offer the best fit for everyone.

How has the club rallied its members during lockdown?

Barry: At the moment, bar trying to keep members fit, we’ve taken a view that it’s the close season and we wouldn’t be asking too much of our membership. Obviously no hockey in the summer means we have lost mixed matches, men’s summer team, Ladies 7-a-side and also hosting the National o75S/80s tournament and a JDC will negatively impact our balance sheet.

Jaime: We are very much a forward-thinking club and are looking to grow and expand after our success as club of the year in 2018. We have changed leagues on the men’s side and this has had a positive effect with growing teams, we plan to create a new ladies team this season to help player development. We have a thriving junior section and it would be a shame not to be able to give these people a facility that they can show their potential on and take KHC to the next level.

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