Friday, June 14, 2024

Facilities, coaches and mindset before money: How state school hockey can flourish

Hat’s off to Izzy Gardiner and getting hockey talking about inclusion. However, as someone involved in delivering club and state school hockey, the barriers to creating this are as much cultural as well as financial. 

There are a number of nuanced intertwined issues.

Before we get to the crux, it is important not to make this into a private vs state school egalitarian class war. Let’s recognise that private schools such as Repton, Whitgift et al offer a world-class sporting education and the culture they create in terms of committing to excellence. This cultural expectation is something that clubs and state schools should be looking to emulate.

The three main barriers are facilities, coaches and mindset.

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Richard Temple is Bishop’s Stortford HC club captain and women’s coach

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  1. The UK is exceptional in expecting state schools to provide sports resources. In other much more consistently successful neighbouring countries – Germany, Holland, Belgium etc – sports are learned/practised almost exclusively in clubs where the right sort of facilities, dedicated coaching and the necessary supportive culture are available.

    Maybe the UK should learn from them and switch the focus to helping/encouraging clubs to provide the necessary environment for young people? Expecting schools with limited budgets and resources to promote a minority sport seems a forlorn hope.

  2. It’s a very interesting point. We should look at other countries and cultures.
    Your point on minority sport is bleak yet true. Perhaps a model we could use is similar to schools who specialise in Maths or Languages? Could this work in sport where schools become specialist schools in hockey, tennis, handball etc?

    • An increasing number of public schools have invested in ‘sports academies’ in recent years, which probably accounts for the relatively high proportion of privately-educated players in England teams, not just hockey (many of these, such as Joe Root, seem to have been on sports scholarships). My own former school in Sussex, run by a dynamic headmaster who came from a business background without any particular interest in sport when he arrived, now has three top-quality astro hockey pitches and recently opened twelve artificial-surface cricket nets – there are now three former pupils in the Sussex county cricket team.

      I don’t know whether the same model is transferable to the state system: the politics would probably be too complicated. Sports academies at post-GCSE level would be a nice idea but would they be dominated by football? Could they be limited to a certain number of ‘minority’ sports and if so how would they be chosen?

  3. Many years ago I taught PE. I along with my team realised that for most ‘Main Stream Sports’ did not enthuse the kids. We introduced many varied activities including hockey (On tarmac) and UniHoc. One of the key issues regarding ‘what next’ was that there was nowhere to go. Local clubs either didn’t exist or were not ready for young people. Schools are being asked to produce ‘stars’ in every sport, which clearly cannot be done.
    On a related not I was asked to start up a Junior Rugby section at a local club. School sport was football and only football. Tradition! We went into the schools and found 40 players in no time at all. It was going into the school and making the club attractive to the youngsters, that brought the players across and got them into Rugby. I now play hockey and look at the make up of players. The vast majority are Private or Grammar School. Has anyone ever been into the state school? Only at Primary level. Where do they go next? Links have to be made permanent and the club has to part of the community and the community part of the club.

    • We have had volunteers go in to primary schools here. However this is on and off because the main barrier is that volunteers tend to have 9 to 5 jobs so this limits the pool of willing volunteers. This year at BSHC we are funding an outreach person to cover more schools.


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