Monday, April 15, 2024

My life in Hockey: Being able to afford to participate shouldn’t be a barrier to playing

England Masters goalkeeper Jon Chappell on the camaraderie and life in age-group hockey

When did you start playing hockey and tell us about your career since…

I am the son of a hockey player where my Dad played for Chesterfield, so naturally I followed him. I was encouraged to play in goal from about 10 years old and went up through the teams to the 1st XI there and through all the county age groups with Derbyshire until my late 20s when a change in work meant I moved away. I had a break from hockey for a few years until I was living in York. A chance encounter there led me to coming back to it. I ended up as City Of York 1st XI GK and in my mid 30s when I had my first experience of Masters Hockey. 

We moved back to the Midlands, I joined Cannock, where I played 2s & 3s when they were still National League and ultimately ended up in the 1s as they dropped down the leagues. This is where my love for Masters really took off. One of the umpires in a pre-season tournament approached me and asked if I had considered England Masters, at that point I had no idea it even existed, so I went along to the trials and made the squad for the 2019 Home Nations & Europeans at over 45s.

I’ve been in every squad since. I’ve just had a season with Streetly HC in their 1s, but am relocating to the South West this year. My job is sales director at Principled Offsite Logistics, a storage and logistics company. They are brilliant with me, they’ve contributed a bit to the fund I have set up for the Masters World Cup and they allow me the flexibility to work around hockey when I need to. 

What does playing masters mean to you?

I love playing Masters, probably more so than league hockey at times, I play for Belper in the club competitions, Midlands in the regionals and of course England. It takes up a lot of time and money, fortunately I have a very patient wife and kids! A big part of why I do it is to make them proud and hopefully inspire my children into playing sport. The opportunity to play with and against so many great players, many of whom I’ve crossed paths with on pitches over the last nearly 40 years is just amazing, the standard of hockey is outstanding, especially at international level. I’ve made some really good friends, both in the England set up and amongst the international sides. 

Masters hockey in terms of selection is not an easy path these days, is it?

You don’t just turn up! It’s not! There were somewhere in the region of 13 keepers who trialled for England O45s this year and there were one or two others who could have but didn’t for various reasons, I consider myself extremely lucky to have been selected. 

What is the camaraderie like in the 45s?

It is excellent, the squad this year is superb and we stand a real chance of coming home with a medal at the Masters World Cup. Many of us have been together for the last few years and the new guys this year are class. The camaraderie generally in Masters is great, no quarter given on the pitch, but fantastic in the bar afterwards, all teams chatting and enjoying each other’s company.  

How many players like you were fundraising for the World Cup?

As far as I’m aware none but I know from previous squads we have attempted to raise funds as a whole via raffles etc which goes some way to covering some costs, but in the bulk we are still all self funded, so is off-putting to many, especially in a World Cup year when there is a big overseas trip involved.

The three main costs are travel, accommodation and kit, a set of official Adidas England kit, playing shirts, shorts, socks etc can run into hundreds of pounds alone, add into that a set of GK kit and it’s a lot. I’m extremely fortunate to be superbly well looked after by Mercian Hockey in that respect so that does help. I’m fundraising because, as I’ve previously mentioned we are relocating down south this year, so all funds have gone into that.

Do you feel like the Masters scene is only at the start and will grow exponentially?

Yes, absolutely. Now with all the age groups, men and women O35s and upwards, the club cup competitions and regionals, it’s growing every year. This can only be a good thing, good for hockey and good for general health and well-being. Being able to afford to participate however should not be a barrier to playing and representing at regional & international level. If anyone is considering getting into masters at any level, I would absolutely urge them to do so, it’s a fantastic experience.

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  1. Sums up joy of Masters Hockey really well. Makes good points though re finance. Lack of funds for individuals should not be barrier to representing your country. We need to look at ways of bringing more financial and other support to maximise equity and to help keep the exponential growth of Masters hockey on track.


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