Thursday, June 20, 2024

We need to simplify hockey, not add layers of participation

Continuing his exclusive series, leading coach JON ROYCE says that we need to bring independent schools under the umbrella of clubs to stem burnout and player dissatisfaction

Back in the 1970s, many former grammar school pupils moved into the independent sector in newly formed independent day schools.  Changes in the participation profile of hockey saw children playing in clubs as well as schools. 

In many places, the driver was to allow players to play an entire season, rather than for a term, as excellence is difficult to achieve in a 10-week term. In many cases the grammar school team walked up the road to the club. 

Continue reading...

Unlock our ad-free, premium content and get use of our subscriber-only app. Use coupon 3FOR1 to get 3 months for only £1!

Already a subscriber to our website? Login

Have your say below or email us with your thoughts

Subscribe AD FREE to our premium coverage
Don’t miss our coverage on 3G threats
READ our unrivalled Masters coverage here
Stay in the know with our Safety in Hockey

Total Hockey


Most Popular


  1. I would agree with a lot of the article but junior leagues don’t necessarily work for smaller clubs and where schools don’t teach hockey – a club structure and early introduction to adult hockey is the only way that juniors can play regularly. At our club we have a development team where juniors start at 13 and usually stay for a couple of seasons- the team is 9 or so juniors and 4 to 5 adults – mostly ex first team players to coach and mentor the juniors. When the juniors move up we send them up as a group to higher teams sometimes leaping 2 or 3 teams to an appropriate level. This has proved very successful for the juniors and the club

    • The social side is so important for children perhaps even more so than adults. This is why school hockey in my opinion must remain. Keeping girls in sport during teenage years is so very difficult (see tennis!). Building team spirit at school is easy… building it at club level without the social element catered for is so much harder. Clubs and parents need to work harder to provide the social bonding that will keep the kids wanting to play and be together, especially for clubs without a clubhouse atmosphere and where junior and adult hockey is not as integrated.

  2. I’m sure the firs part of this article makes sense in areas with lots of private schools who play hockey but for much of the country it must sound as odd as it does to me. We do have a small number of junior players who also have weekend commitments to play for their private school, but not enough to make a difference – most of our juniors are in state schools. In any case the private schools in question are not close enough to make a conversation about them joining our club being remotely sensible. In fact it would harm us if our juniors in private schools ended up playing for clubs close to those schools.

    The section about the social side makes a lot more sense, playing on the grass pitch outside the clubhouse meant everyone ended up in the bar afterwards. What we have worked on is making our teas top notch- usually two courses with a choice of 2 or 3 mains and this is appreciated by home and away players alike.

  3. I find myself in broad agreement with Jon Royce on this. A balanced and sensible article at just the right time as the point about losing young players to other sports, which offer “more for your money,” is a good one.

    I know hockey is trying hard to create an environment which attracts youth of all abilities but is reliant on many dynamic clubs and schools to deliver. Some are obviously more dynamic than others so the goal should be to bring them all up to a level which young people find attractive. This needs to include a range of “add-ons” on the social side. Covid hasn’t helped this situation of course but has provided a breathing space which could be used as planning time. Clubs could then hit the ground running as we come out of Covid for the start of Season 2022-2023

    Looking back to my own early days, St. Albans Hockey Club, at Clarence Park, provided pretty much my entire sporting AND social life! Club parties, discos and even Dinner Dances were the order of the day as well as an (un)healthy amount of beer consumption! Added to this, the ability to watch and learn about life from those older than me greatly aided my development on and off the pitch.

    Times have moved on of course and the young people of today have different social needs. Let’s harness these and provide an all round (hockey) environment which makes the club a hub of their lives. Think on….

  4. Interesting article. A lot I will probably never ever get as a European looking in. But from my perspective…

    – Hockey starts with clubs
    – Clubs are a social entity, the hub of the lives of their members as someone else mentioned. It’s the “village” we need to raise our children…
    – Clubs rely on two important factors: infrastructure and its members. It all starts with infrastructure. It needs an infrastructure setup that allows for a social family club where members from all ages come together and share sports and life. That means clubhouse and pitches together. It would also need members who understand they are members of a club, not customers. Members step up and make it work for their club.
    – Being from a different culture I never understood the choice to rely that much on schools for the upbringing (instead of just education) of your children. Love the fact schools have so much time for sport (we sit too much in our schools). I would however prefer to see the role of schools limited to introducing multiple sports to their pupils and makings sure all understand the value of a fit body next to a sound mind. I do not understand the need for a league for school teams. I would prefer schools working a specific sport for a certain time with maybe at the end some kind of short 1-2 day tournament before moving on to another sport. That way the people who make the choice for hockey as their preferred sport can focus on their clubs for this.

    I acknowledge I’m from a different culture (and changing or understanding a different culture is a tough one) but if you feel the need to simplify your sport…. eliminate the competitive part of school sports and allow for the focus of any sport to be on their clubs. Make it so your clubs invite players from 6 to 66 (or 99 if your body allows for it) and create an environment that becomes an important part of the entire social life for their members, all of them. Your next challenge then becomes the marriage between recreational and competitive hockey within your clubs. But at least you would not be bothered by the competition of schools overstepping their mark.

  5. Hi Ernst,
    I agree with many of your points. On one point I differ. As far as youngsters are concerned they don’t care whether their hockey is based in school or at a club. It is important in England to respect schools and their historical role in initiating and developing organised sport in the nineteenth century. Having said that, such schools should not stop sport developing for children of all backgrounds. The development of Football on professional lines removed class distinction from the game: in hockey in the UK it’s amateur status has meant that the best are not not necessarily recruited or developed and their are often insurmountable barriers for youngsters to progress. The New Way Forward, does nothing to dismantle barriers. If you don’t live near a ‘chosen club’ or if you don ‘t have the financial muscle you are lost to the upper echelons of the game. We need organised local leagues encompassing schools and clubs which by their nature are inclusive and meritocratic. In the proposed EH system they will justify their approach by selecting almost exclusively from a small number of chosen clubs.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More from Author

How Newport, formed in 2017, won England Hockey emerging club of the year award

Seven short years on from being formed, Newport Hockey Club were...

‘This will be my last Olympic Games – I’ll appreciate every moment’

Team GB women's hockey captain Hollie Pearne-Webb will once again wear...

Paris Olympics Hockey: Belgium and rivals unveil squads

All the latest news as nations unveil their squads for the...

Olympics Hockey: We feel pain of omitted players, says GB coach Revington

Men's coach Paul Revington emphasised that ‘balance’ was uppermost in his...

- A word from our sponsors -