Posted in Field Hockey, Fixtures, Hockey, Role model, sport, Women in Sport

Fixture’s Frenzy

Sat here watching the Eurohockey at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, reading all the tweets of support from various hockey clubs up and down the country, made me ponder how many people are actually involved in the running of their hockey clubs?

A very wise person once told me that there are many ways of being involved in sport, not just by playing the game. Each as important as being that player on the pitch. And without ‘those’ people, then it wouldn’t be possible to play that sport. A club needs people to run and maintain it. A whole bunch of dedicated, hard working enthusiastic people.

By looking at some roles within a hockey club that help to make it function effectively and efficiently, I hope to encourage more people to put back into their own clubs, to help their club life continue to flourish and grow. Without the tireless work of volunteers, your club “simply would not function”. No matches to play, no pitch to play on, no players to play, no money to spend. I could go on!

This ‘Women’s Wednesday’ post goes over to the fixtures secretary of Stevenage Hockey Club, Hertfordshire – Emma Houlihan. Although the threat of snow sends her into a frenzy, there’s nothing this lady does not know how to deal with regards to fixtures, a vital member and an asset to her club.


Who are you and where you from? 
Emma Houlihan, Stevenage Hockey Club and I have always lived locally in and around Stevenage.

What job do you do and how did you get there?

I work for The IET (The Institution of Engineering & Technology). No I’m not an engineer but my role means I work with and for a lot of them. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, for the most part I help engineering organisations recruit some of The IET’s 151,000 members. I also play a part in promoting Engineering as a career of choice to females and recognising and rewarding those ladies that do well in the industry. It’s shocking that only about 7% of all the UK’s engineers are female.

What clubs you played for? 

I’ve only ever played for Stevenage Hockey Club.

How long have you played there? 

I joined in December 2008 (I had to check my Facebook photo albums to work that out) so this season will be my 8th season, although it feels a lot longer.
What is your role within the club?

I am the Fixtures Secretary for SHC and have been for 4/5 years now, but I generally do a fair selection of other bits and bobs the club needs doing throughout the year. I also am a qualified hockey coach and have in previous years been the clubs Membership Secretary and I’ve been a captain twice.

Why did you choose to do that role?

I wanted to help and support my club somehow. I was at a club social, it was late in the evening and it was suggested to me and I agreed to take on the role (apparently), so I can’t say that I choose the role. But ultimately, I love my club and the people in it and want to give something back.

Why is that role important in a club?

Simply – It’s a vital role for any club. Without it you would not have an opposition or a pitch booking – and therefore no match.

The role is mostly about communication – making sure pitches, teas and umpires are booked and making sure oppositions, captains and players know where they are supposed to be and when.

As with lots of club roles, without it’s members giving some of their time, hockey clubs simply wouldn’t function.

How many emails (club related) do you get a week?

It varies dependant on the time of year. Most of the time it’s actually quite minimal, maybe up to 5 emails per week. The busier times during pre-season in July and August when you are getting the times and venues sorted and arranging friendlies there are more emails and things to do, probably a few hours week.  

Then of course you have times when the weather decides to ruin everything and your standing looking at a white pitch with several inches of snow at 8am on a Saturday morning, I won’t lie it is a lot of emails, messages and phone calls when that happens. Luckily (and hopefully) this only happens a couple of times per season and other fixtures secretaries are in the same boat so we all work together to make it as painless as possible.

What’s the hardest part of the role?

I wouldn’t say any of the role of a fixtures sec is “hard” – I’ve been a captain that had to make tough choices and decisions, that’s hard, but also extremely rewarding too.

Of course when the weather turns and you do have a snow or frost covered pitch, those type of Saturday mornings do need a little patience and composure.

What’s the best part? 

It’s an important role and partly because of the effort and time I put in – 6 men’s teams and 5 ladies teams play every week, there is huge satisfaction in that.

You also get to make some great relationships with other local clubs with their fixtures secretaries, you end up chatting and working with the same person for a few years, we all work together and help each other out, it’s quite nice.

Any advice for people wishing to take on the role? 

It’s a great role if you are quite organised but don’t want the face-to-face interaction and people management that some other club roles have, like a captain, club captain, coach or umpire.

You are quietly working in the background. It isn’t complicated or particularly difficult – and it is a role that can be shared too.

A little bit about the hockey itself…

What stick do you play with?

I used to be a TK person, but I have been using a Princess stick over the last few months and quite like it. I think I’m a bit old fashioned as I like a pretty straight stick, no bow with even weight distribution, which is actually quite hard to find.

What shoes do you play in?

I struggle with Astro’s. I’ve tried lots of makes and models and never felt comfortable. I know it’s bad but I prefer trainers or trail shoes (I have a selection). Yes my feet get totally battered, bruised and sometimes a bit broken, but my legs and back prefer that I wear trainers.

Vital piece of kit you wouldn’t be without?

I hate playing without a bandana and I couldn’t be without my gloves (I wear both left and right).  

Ice packs are up there on the list as I am a tad accident prone, but it’s actually the 3 minute dip in a cold bath when you get home, as awful as it sounds (and it is truly a horrid experience every single time you get in) but it does work for me, it does stop me hurting so much in the days following and helps you recover quicker.

What is your ambition this season?

I’ve been lucky enough to play for all of the Stevenage teams at some point over the last 8 years (although in fairness the few occasions I played in the first team they were super desperate and I was just helping out) and I have enjoyed playing for them all. I really do not mind which team I play for, all the girls in all the teams at SHC are fantastic, they all work hard for each other but I will always want to try to play in the highest team my ability will allow.

This seasons aim – currently I have the fitness of a slug, so I suspect that should be the first thing on the list to work on. Also with the new rules about playing the ball in the air, getting some more 3D skills training would probably be good shout too. 

[Seen and noted 😉]

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Hockey: Simply still playing for one of our lovely teams.  

Work: I am lucky, I love my job. It’s challenging and every day is different, so wouldn’t want to change it too much.

Personally: We are just about to buy our first home (in the next year) so having my own home is probably the main aim for me at the moment


Stevenage HC clubhouse is located at Ditchmore Lane, Stevenage, SG1 3LJ. They play and train primarily at Nobel School, Mobbsbury Way, Stevenage, SG2 0HS. They currently have six men’s teams and five ladies teams, a mixed team, and family sessions run at Nobel school on a Sunday. If you fancy picking a stick up and joining in, log onto the website to see training times and dates.(SHC Website)

Posted in Coaching, Field Hockey, Fitness, Hockey, Pre-season, sport, Uncategorized, Women in Sport

Pre-Season Fitness: Keep Moving…

Most of us will be well into pre-season fitness and hockey training by now, but if you are not, it’s still not too late! Mental preparation is almost as important as the physical preparation leading into the season. And getting your body in shape for the season can help focus the mind on the tasks in hand.

I have spoken about the ‘building’ phase in a previous blog post Pre-Season starts here…. Working with both St Ives HC and Stevenage HC, we are well underway into the ‘strength’ phase of our pre-season fitness, soon to move into the ‘power & explosive’ phase.

Strength phase:
This is the phase I use to build and strengthen targeted muscles. Core muscles are essential for hockey, as well as building strength in the legs. My personal favourite is Tabata interval training – four minutes of high intensity training. Alternating between 20 seconds of exercise and 10 seconds of rest for eight cycles.

An example of Tabata training: 
(Alternate between exercises during 8 cycles – 4 mins 20s on/10s rest)

Warm up/stretch

Mountain Climbers/Squats (4mins)

Star jumps/Warrior Lunges (4mins)

Mountain Climbers/Tuck Jump (4mins)

2 Mins Rest

Shuttles/Crunches (4mins)

Spotty Dogs/Reverse Crunches (4mins)

Shuttles/V-Sits (4mins)

2 Mins Rest

Burpees/Press-Ups (4mins)

Box Jumps/Tri-cep Dips (4mins)

Burpees/Push Plank (4mins)

Warm down/stretch

Power & Explosive phase:

This is the phase I use to build up speed and agility, in relation to game play. Speed is essential for all positions on the pitch. Midfield players require short, sharp bursts and attackers and defenders are required to be fast over both short and long distances. I want to look at sharp acceleration over the first 2-3 steps between 5-15m, distances replicated in game conditions. Speed and agility will allow you to get your stick to the ball first, before your opposition.

An example session:

Fitness sessions are still running at the following locations.

Mondays – 8pm – 9pm

St Nicholas Park, Pilgrims Way, Stevenage until 7th September. £2

Martins Wood School, Stevenage from 7th September throughout the season. £2

Wednesdays – 7.30pm – 8.30pm
St Ives Outdoor Centre AstroTurf, St Ives £3 – Last session 9th September