Sunday, June 16, 2024

State of the Game: How does hockey solve the participation game?

Does England Hockey have to present more initiatives to encourage players into the sport? Rupert Barker reports

As we entered the Covid world, hockey managed to keep many of us sane as a legal form of exercise and indeed socializing due to its al fresco nature. While golf skyrocketed in popularity, hockey players were going to training and enjoying playing team sport, whilst getting much needed exercise, and socialising with friends.

As full lockdowns came into force and the pandemic seemed to protract, did time away from the pitch become more appealing for some?

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  1. A really good article

    My club has seen this phenomenon, when we were able to offer lockdown hockey there was enormous enthusiasm for both training and friendly matches from a significant proportion of the players

    However, when league hockey started again, we quickly found we had to drop one men’s side because we didn’t have as many regular players as before. This is not existential for us as a large club, but I do worry for the many smaller clubs for whom loss of a team can be a death spiral

    Hopefully the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will be a great showcase for our sport and give us all the opportunity to encourage both new players (of all ages) to give hockey a try and lapsed players to dust off their sticks. Promoting our amazing sport is on all of us, from England Hockey to the clubs, to every player who can encourage their friends to give it a try

    • I used to view major sporting events – like the Commonwealth Games – in the same way: a chance for a sport (any participating sport, really) to make its mark, to capture the imagination.

      Outside of a small number of sports (cycling being the main one), I am not sure there is any notable spike in interest or participation though? Let’s not forget, GB Women won gold at the 2016 Olympics, which was sandwiched between two Bronze medals; but has there been a rise in interest off the back of this?

      BT Sport shows ProLeague games, the coverage is solid, but the promotion by BT is poor IMHO; this doesn’t help the cause.

      Equally, a lack of hockey in state schools hurts – as it does with other sports (see cricket, which is going through similar quandaries).

      I’m aware this is a slightly pessimistic post, but it feels like hockey is playing the same tune as several other sports, but no-one has managed to find a way to change things up, yet.

  2. Did the restructure of the leagues, which added many miles to some team’s journeys, combine with the effect of the pandemic to put off those who had lost fitness and had no interest in travelling 4 hours for 4th or 5th team game of hockey?

    England Hockey have not helped the situation by making major changes to senior leagues and the junior pathway just at the point where people wanted to get back to what they knew before the pandemic.

    The lack of hockey shown on non-subscription TV, or even reported on by major channels is a constant problem, and it may simply be hockey has lost the older generation and has to focus on regrowing numbers from younger age groups. It is difficult to see how the new junior set up is going to do this, so we just have to hope this combination hasn’t been a critical blow to hockey in this country.

  3. Don’t think the whole mess that was GMS has helped either. Our 3s still don’t know whether they won their league or came second. They don’t know whether they have been promoted or will stay in the same league. How can that happen when we are nearly in to July?


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