Saturday, March 2, 2024

‘There’s an opportunity for hockey to blossom alongside women’s football rise’

The Hockey Paper and our readers pose questions to England Hockey CEO Nick Pink on its new strategy, which promises to make the sport more visible, relevant and accessible over a five-year period

Given the rise of other women’s sports, specifically football, how do you see the strategy addressing the possibility of less girls and young women taking up the sport at grass roots level? I played hockey for nearly 40 years to a relatively high standard and came from a ‘working class’ background. Not sure the opportunity would be there for me now

Jackie Edwards

Nick Pink: Participation numbers have held up really well pre and post Covid. And that was one of the reasons we’ve put the timing for this new strategy in place. So the numbers are holding up in the strategy, part of our focus is that 7 to 13 age group. So that has to be critical. 

One of the points Jackie makes is obviously the growth of other women’s sports, particularly football. 

Is that a threat? It might be, but I don’t think it needs to be, I actually think there’s an opportunity, there’s a bigger issue at play here, which is the participation of girls and women in sport more broadly. 

And the benefits of that, what if we get it right? There is a women’s equality group that I attended as a witness in the Houses of Parliament, specifically talking about this challenge and this issue. And actually, hockey has a part to play, because unlike some of those other sports that with them, and particularly football, cricket, rugby, the participation numbers are very different.

When I was working in golf previously before I came into hockey, it was sort of 85-86% male to 14% female.

We’re quite uniquely placed in the context of giving a positive opportunity for girls and women to participate in the sport, but also the environments that clubs provide. And they are pretty unique. 

At my club, whether it’s the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 1st team, men’s and women’s were pretty much rolling from nine o’clock in the morning, all the way through till six o’clock in the evening. Those are pretty unique environments for women and girls to start to come and participate in. 

And actually, if we’ve got more girls participating in sport more broadly, I have no doubt hockey is well placed to make sure that we have that offer. And if we provide the right experiences, the right environment, that is fun and positive, I don’t think it’s a crisis for us. I think it’s a real opportunity for us. And we’ve got to get on the front foot of that.

That’s absolutely what we’re talking about in the strategy here. And what I would have been encouraging clubs at local level is to build those relations, not just with schools, but with other sports with other communities as well to seek those opportunities where they get them.

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