Thursday, June 20, 2024

Club Hockey File: St Neots go from Saints to Scholars – but at a cost

The Cambridgeshire club on being one of the cheapest to join in the South East, why new members are guaranteed pitch time and its bursary scheme

St Neots Hockey Club have lost several of their key first team players to university, leaving some serious astros to fill, especially on the ladies’ side.

The women were part of a highly successful group (many of whom started at age five in the club’s 100-strong Junior Academy) that helped the Ladies’ 2s  win three successive promotions (to reach 2NW), and the Ladies’ 1s to achieve the club’s highest ever league placement (Div 1 North, East League).

And the men have much to be proud of, too, having grown their membership and scored some impressive wins during the pandemic.

Yet what can a club that sits between the region’s giants offer a new member?

“Development, pitch time and affordability,” explains vice chair Nik Payne.

As Covid struck, the club was thriving. It had just signed a four-year kit deal with Adidas and bought a Veo sports camera to help with player analysis.

St Neots is going for the much-coveted Club Mark and continues to develop its coaching team.

The Ladies 1s in their new strips PIC: Tim Bettsworth

“We already have an Ireland international level 4 coach for the men’s 1s and 2s, a level 3 coach for the Ladies’ 1s, plus a pool of level 1 and 2 coaches, and will be joining England Hockey’s new bespoke coaching programme next season,” says Helen Sargeant, St Neots’ club chair.

St Neots is also at the heart of an England Hockey campaign to recruit and train dozens of new umpires nationwide (it helps when your chair is a national league umpire) and runs both introductory and elite goal-keeping courses.

As for new players? “They would be guaranteed pitch time,” says men’s club captain, Ben Seaber. “We design our squads around player availability for the season. Everyone gets a game.”

Besides this, St Neots is one of the cheapest clubs in the South East, with a membership fee of just £80 (thanks to a mixture of sponsorship and efficiency).

Moreover, the club intends to set up a player bursary for those struggling to afford hockey.  

“We want as many people playing hockey as possible,” says Helen Rowland, ladies’ club captain.

Men’s 1s out of lockdown and back in action PIC: Tim Bettsworth

“And whilst we’ve got some great players coming through the club, we are very keen to hear from new players, especially to try out for our first teams!”

More information on joining St Neots HC is here or find St Neots Hockey Club on Facebook

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