The Olympic values; adopted by the FRE Flyers, a sporting group of youngsters from Newham and Tower Hamlets.
As the Rio Olympics draw closer, reminiscing back to London 2012, can we say that sport had an impact on the local community? For one legacy group frequently practicing on the Olympic Park, years later, hockey, to them, has become more than just a game.
Throughout this week, I’ll be featuring this group, the FRE Flyers, on the blog. I want to help you get to know this amazing project a little better, who we are, what we do, the principles, origins, founders, funders and successes of the FRE Flyers. I’ll introduce you to some inspiring and creative people, including the kids, coaches and creators. Speaking to some of the original members of the group I’ll find out why hockey is important to them and how the FRE Flyers has helped them and will continue to help others along their journey.
This is what the FRE Flyers means to me….
…shouted one of my kids as I’m flying past the Velodrome on my nephew’s scooter, freewheeling my way along the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park heading to the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre for another FRE Flyers training session. The scooter had been subject to ridicule from a majority of my work colleagues, and I had expected ridicule from East London, but for the grand total of £1, it was a real bargain timesaver, and by the sounds of it, a bit of a surprising hit with my kids. The scooter, like the Flyers, represented a freedom; an expression of whatever I wanted to be, of whoever I wanted to be, in a place and an environment that was perfect to do that.
It didn’t take me long to realise what an amazing bunch of ‘kids’ the FRE Flyers were. I remember that feeling at the first training session with them and I’ve had that feeling ever since. It was the 10thApril 2015, playing on the Olympic hockey pitch at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, and there were people everywhere, crowd funders, founders, coaches, guests and Flyers. I felt a little scared at first but this was very short lived as the Flyers took me straight under their wing. I found myself in the thick of it, playing on the blue team, captained by Mike, and alongside two of the Beeston GB quintet Ollie Willars and Tim Whiteman, who were present at training that evening. I don’t even remember if we won or lost, but somehow the result didn’t matter. The feeling was like being caught in a slow motion playback – senses heightened, everyone smiling, working hard for the ball, for each other, their team, enjoying the raw qualities of a Friday night push around with a couple of mates down the local park. It just happened that this was the Olympic park, and it was theirs to own.
They collectively never cease to surprise me. For one reason alone that as a teenager, on a Friday night, I had a million places I’d rather be. But these kids turn out week in week out to train, to pick up a stick and run around for two hours, with friends and family. And they love it. You can tell they are a close group, with a lot of love and respect for each other, they look out for each other, defend each other, push and encourage each other and have a distinct desire to learn and get better whilst having fun. There are kids that battle with physical, mental and emotional challenges but are involved every week. To overcome such personal challenges to stand up in front of a group of their peers and coach the game you’ve been taught is a testament to how far these kids have come. And they are amazing!
Mama Jo (Melchior) – organiser of all the flyers, sums it up nicely, saying something along these lines.
“You don’t have to be amazing at sport to enjoy it, there are so many other ways to be involved in sport than playing it. That’s what we do at the FRE Flyers, we encourage kids to be involved in any way they can”
supporting each other through good times and bad. Through this group I’ve found the real meaning of the #HockeyFamily.
Tomorrow we speak to Chris Grant, founder of the FRE Flyers and his story into the origins of this remarkable project.
For more information about the FRE Flyers: