Posted in captain, Coaching, eurohockey, Field Hockey, Hockey, Role model, sport, Women in Sport

Farewell not bye? 

It’s no secret that I like hockey. In fact, I shout it out from the rooftops at every opportunity because I have always believed in hockey as a sport. I started playing at the age of 11 as hockey wasn’t a sport that was accessible to me before (Lacrosse was the school sport of choice). And from the moment I picked up a stick, I loved it. Through playing and now coaching, I continue to love it, to watch it grow and develop and I will tell anyone and everyone who is interested (or not!!) about our sport.

It does slightly annoy me when our sport has been dismissed. For example; During a recent discussion with my former work colleagues pre-Olympics about which sports were going to win medals. The obvious sports were mentioned, Swimming, Athletics, Gymnastics, but when I put out there that the Hockey girls were going to win a medal, if not the Gold, I was shot down in flames; “No-one cares about hockey!” was the snipe, before continuing their conversation.

Well – we certainly showed them!

Photo credit: @Getty Images – Gold medals

It was four years ago, I first had the pleasure of meeting the current GB squad pre London 2012. Running around the country as part of the 35 strong Olympic Torch security team for 70 days, the minutes spent at Bisham Abbey were definitely ones to remember.

Day 53: Bisham abbey – GB Squad 2012 + Torch Security Team

It was the 10th July, 2012. We had no idea where the torch would take us today, or who any of the torchbearers would be, just specific timings, locations and numbers of torchbearers in each location. By day 53, the day’s were pretty routine – up, out and run. We barely had time to work out where we were, just where we needed to be in terms of on the road with our torchbearers. Today we were the running team. There were four main rotations of duties on the relay – running, support (the guys and girls on the pedal bikes), driving or rest.

Our coach was heading into the driveway of Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre and fellow hockey player Gunny [Claire Gunn] shouts, “OMG it’s Crista Cullen, that’s Kate Walsh, wait, is that all the hockey girls?” Scrambling to look out the side of the bus, we could see a lot of Team GB had lined up to see the arrival of the flame, taking a break from their preparations for London 2012.

I was so excited. We had already been the running team with Georgie Twigg on the 24th May, down Henleaze Road, Bristol and we were the support team on the 4th July for Captain Kate [Richardson] Walsh as she ran through Norwich. So to see the national squad of the sport I loved prior to a home Olympic Games was incredible.

I jumped off the bus, probably when it was still moving, I was so excited to see them and wanted to have the opportunity to have a selfie with the squad. Catching up with Annie Panter as she was walking back to resume training, I asked (probably begged if I’m honest!) if I could have a photo with her and the squad.

But at that moment I had a revelation. I had the Olympic flame! Surely they would want a photo with us? Ok, well at least with the Flame? And with that temptation the next thing we knew, Gunny, Neil and I were surrounded by the GB hockey squad holding both the Olympic torch and the Olympic Flame.

A few of the girls asked if they could hold the actual flame, or the lantern at least, including my absolute hero Helen Richardson [Walsh]. I remember giving her strict instructions to hold both the top handle and secure the bottom of the lantern as previously when I had given it to Ben Fogle at the Eden Project, he was waving it around and we were unsure how stable the flame was at the time. So sorry Helen for being so strict!! I didn’t want that flame to go out on my watch, and only a privileged few got to hold the actual Olympic lantern.

I have been lucky to continue to meet the hockey girls along their journey. And they are girls that will help anyone who is passionate about their sport. When I was at a particularly rough crossroads with hockey, Helen Richardson-Walsh provided these wise words. “If it wasn’t for people like you, who give their time, energy and passion to our sport, players like me would never have the opportunities to achieve success” that statement stays with me and will always inspire me to continue to be the best I can be. It picked me up from a dark place and saved me from somewhere I didn’t want to venture. The kindness of a stranger can be an immense gift, a re-motivation and a huge inspiration. A gift I shall always try to pay forward and pass on to everyone I coach and play with.

Supporting each match has become easier with a large number of tournaments being broadcast to watch, however the real buzz is being present, live, living the games, feeling the atmosphere and celebrating or consoling with other fans of our sport. I was there for the Bronze medal match in London, I was at the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships for the highs. I was also at the Hockey Champions trophy and watching the World cup for the lows. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn!

 The ultimate gift of Gold in the Rio Olympics 2016 was the reward for pain, devastation, hard work, blood, sweat and tears. The road wasn’t always easy, the road often had many pathways, but in the end, you create your own path.

It will be sad to see Kate leave the squad (I’m still keeping fingers crossed Helen will still play!) – When I was captain at Stevenage HC, having taken over the role with seven games to go, in a particularly turbulent season, deep in the relegation zone of the league, I reached out to Kate, Helen and Alex on Twitter to ask if they had any advise on how to avoid relegation. Kate’s response was simple, and is now engraved on the back of my end of season gift from the team that was saved that year.

Play each game like it’s your first, and each second like it’s your last.” And what a last second to for you to play!


Thank you for all you have done. We love you and wish you all the best for your future, may it be coaching with me! Haha! 


Posted in Coaching, Field Hockey, Hockey, Role model, sport

FRE Flyers Coaching Quartet

Claire Wibberley-Young, Andy Halliday, Chris Gladman, Roger Lillystone

Last but not least, we catch up with the FRE Flyers coaches. The FRE Flyers have had the benefit of some of the best hockey coaching since 2011. The continued involvement and support from past and present Olympic hockey players has increased their ability and confidence and the strong bond with this original team is still very evident. 

Training is held every Friday on the Olympic Pitches at Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre. Amongst the plethora of guests, the Flyers have a regular coaching team (shown above),  including Mama Jo, who not only work to improve their hockey, but to also provide that extra support network.


Who are you? Andy Halliday

Whats’s your day job?  Team Manager Great Britain Mens Hockey, Head Coach, England Indoor. St Albans HC. consultant, speaker, dog walker / runner and extreme hockey dribbler.

How did you get involved with the Flyers?  Have been involved from the outset in 2011 when the Flyers were born. Member of the GB Mens 2012 staff, keen to see true Olympic legacy in the making and have been involved ever since.

Any tough times?  There have been two periods of angst. Firstly, post 2012, uncertainty around the future and we all wondered whether the project would continue. 

Secondly, late 2014, funding desperately needed. Everybody rallied and a major thank you to the Crowdfunder scheme and all who donated. It was make or break………

Best time?  Hearing the Flyers cheering louder than everyone else in the hockey arena whilst supporting us at the London Olympics.

Why are you still involved?  I continue to be enthused to see what hockey does for this group of very special youngsters from Newham. Seeing how the Flyers have matured and developed, not just as hockey players, but as young people growing up in one of London’s toughest boroughs.

What do you love about the Flyers?  All inclusive, hockey for all, no barriers. Also, Knowing that if you’ve had a bad day, it is soon forgotten when you are in the company of the FRE Flyers.

Do you have a good story?  We [Great Britain men’s hockey team, London 2012] had just been beaten (hammered) by Holland in the Olympic Semi Final 2012. We were due to play Australia for Bronze, the group were very low after the semi final. We were struggling to get the group back on track for the play off. We received an email from the FRE Flyers telling us how much we (and the Flyers project) had changed lives for the good for this group of youngsters. The email was used in the team talk for that game, a great motivator for the group. On a personal note, it was reality and a light that was shining brightly through the doom of that Semi final. It was a light that has shone ever since. We never won that Bronze medal, but FRE Flyers legacy lives on………..4 years later. Some of the FRE Flyers are full time employed at our Olympic legacy hockey venue, some have moved on, many still play hockey. All are better people thanks to the FRE Flyers project.

How cool are these kids?  As an uncool 54 year old has been, I am learning a new language, “Newham parlance” The FRE Flyers are a sic bunch….lush.


He’s a very modest and unassuming chap but really relates to the kids and their stories. Chris Gladman joined the flyers around three years ago after being invited by Andy Halliday to join the coaching team. He felt he could relate to the kids as he describes that he came from a similar background. At the age of 12 he was taken off the streets of Hackney by a hockey coach and developed into quite a player and coach. 

Chris describes himself as a sports coach, working mainly at Chigwell School in Essex coaching hockey and football. He has played at international level at U16 and U21 indoor and outdoor. Chris, after some prying, discloses, “one highlight was playing in a World Cup in Vancouver, Canada in 1985. I was also in training squads for senior teams before the World Cup in 1986 and trained with GB squad that won Gold medal at the 1988 Olympics.”

He holds qualifications in hockey and football and has a phenomenal mind for coaching. He states, “I am a level 3 coach and have coached at National league level and also worked at National age group levels for England U16 and U18. I now work for myself coaching for numerous people and coaching from children to adults. Also from school, club, County and Regional level.”

He has a knack of getting to know his group within ten minutes of a session and can tailor the level to pitch the session at from that initial time. He is creative, innovative and can keep the kids motivated through any session. And they love him for it. 

When asked about coaching the FRE Flyers, Chris says, “The best thing is that I can relate to the FRE Flyers in the respect that I can encourage them to participate in hockey as I know that it is very rewarding. The FRE Flyers have great attitudes most of the time and are very committed.”  

Who are you? Roger [The Moustache!] Lilleystone 

Whats’s your day job? Retired police officer, now freelance hockey coach, specialising in disability hockey.

How did you get involved with the Flyers?
I had retired from the Metropolitan Police Service in 2012 and had kept in touch with my friend of many years Andy Halliday who asked me if I wanted to be involved with this project. 

Any challenges?
When individuals within the group have had personal difficulties and I feel that we act as more than coaches as they place a certain degree of trust in us.

The good times?
I have been to see them coming together playing as an 11-a-side team and winning!! Also to see some of them acting as Ball Patrol at the European Championships proudly representing the FRE Flyers.

Why are you still involved? Easy, the project is one that I firmly believe in and I feel that I am travelling on the journey with the youngsters. My aim is to be able teach the youngsters hockey and teamwork but also try and speak to them about getting work, how to present themselves. Also the pleasure of placing some of them with a local club (East London) and seeing them play regularly in League Hockey, and winning praise from club coaches and awards from their fellow players in their first season.
What do you love about the Flyers? The unpredictability, you never know what is going to happen next!! 

Your best moment with the Flyers? The day they won their first eleven-a-side match. The elation and the realisation that they could win.


Flyers supporting GB hockey at the European Championships

Who are you?
Claire Wibberley-Young

Whats’s your day job? I have just resigned from the Metropolitan police after 14 years to re-train as a secondary school Biology teacher.

How did you get involved with the Flyers? I was coaching at Stevenage HC setting up their Flyerz section and had met Andy Halliday a few times via various channels. I found myself stuck at a bit of a crossroads with hockey and Andy (and the FRE Flyers) helped to guide me back in the right direction. 

What’s been the biggest challenge? My first session I had to coach alone as all the other coaches were away. I was terrified, but the kids were so supportive and enthusiastic that I didn’t need to worry. The challenge was to kerb their recent increase in swearing during the sessions and we achieved it by working together. (And press-ups! They decided on that part themselves!) It was a massive boost that the kids asked if they could do some of the session again in later weeks!

What good times have you had?
Too many, but two that mainly stick in my mind. One was taking a team to Birmingham to play against Old Sihillians and a ‘Back to Hockey’ team at Orlton & West Warwick. My dad had been quite seriously ill and I hadn’t made training for about 6 weeks. When I saw the kids, they greeted me with massive hugs, and were so supportive! They played so well as a team that day too. It was the best I had seen them play together and they were so pleased, Mama Jo and I were so proud! 
Secondly, the training session and match against the Metropolitan Police ladies team in their training for the Police hockey finals tournament. A number of the flyers were a bit sceptical about playing a bunch of coppers, but after some solid defending denying Flyers goal scorer Jordan G from scoring and some tough game play, a small barrier was broken down in Newham that evening. And the Met girls went on to win their final! 

Why are you still involved?
I couldn’t imagine not volunteering to be involved. This project is so important to the local community and sport has shown to have a real influence. I have personally witnessed the Flyers grow, not only as players, but as people. Taking life by the horns, finding a new direction. Like Roger and the other coaches, I see this project as a journey of life, meaning and changing the future of the younger generation. 

What one thing do you love about the Flyers? That they can rock up in jeans and still pull of the most masterful moves on pitch. 

For more information about the FRE Flyers: 

Website :
Twitter: @FREFlyers 

Facebook: FRE Flyers Club

Virgin Money Giving: FRE Flyers Fundraising

Posted in Field Hockey, Fitness, Fixtures, FRE Flyers, Hockey, Inclusive sport, Role model, sport, Women in Sport

Mama Jo…

Following on from yesterday’s post from Chris Grant, one of the founders of the FRE Flyers, I caught up with Jo Melchior to find out more about her and her role with the FRE Flyers. 

“I think back to the 6th of August 2012 and smile to myself, as that was the first day I took up the role of Club Development Manager for the FRE Flyers. I have never really been sure of that title, as someone who isn’t impressed with the name on the badge, but rather is a woman whose opinion is formed through the actions of an individual,” Jo explains. 

It’s hard to define a single role for Jo, as she seems to be there for everything, from organising pitches, kit and satellite clubs to social media, crisis management and morale. She commands respect without demand and provides the support the club needs.

“I suppose my remit is to ensure the smooth running of the project, the provision of training, the management of relationships and partnerships, day to day logistics and inevitably the pursuit of funding.

I come from a background in Sport, first as a competitor and subsequently as a teacher / coach / team manager. I have managed large leisure facilities in challenging environments and spent time working in the legal system specialising in child protection. I suppose some of this has prepared me for my most privileged role yet, that of ‘Mama Jo’ to the FRE Flyers a name bestowed on me by the kids themselves.

This entails, providing support of every kind imaginable, sourcing opportunities for training & qualifications, routes to employment, all the regular stuff, but mostly a listening ear, an honest opinion, hopefully some sound advice and sometimes a shoulder to cry on.” 

And that support is not just exclusive to the Flyers themselves, many a time has Jo extended that support. A lynch pin in the network of coaches, a link between the realms. So why does she continue to do her role?  

“Its 4 years on and I am still here, yes its part time in respect of employment, which works for me and the finances of the project, but it’s a full time commitment that I am happy to make, because the personal pride and satisfaction from being around the kids, the coaches and the supporters is immense. I never tire of telling people about what I do for a living and without exception people always react in the same way “wow, that sounds like an amazing job” ….and it is.

Young people often get a ‘bad press’ and sometimes that is the reality of the tiny minority that deserve it. However FRE Flyers has shown me that when given focus and purpose and most of all consistency, even those who might have been at risk of making bad choices in life, make a string of good choices. Our young people have become healthier, happier, smarter, more ambitious and determined and in short are a credit to themselves and their families.”

What’s so good about working with the FRE Flyers? 

“I am lucky to work alongside a terrific team of coaches who all bring a unique flavour to training. They have embraced my philosophy of “challenging, challenging kids”. We expect the core values of FRIENDSHIP, RESPECT & EXCELLENCE to underpin everything we do and have taken what was essentially a ‘vision’ based on Olympic values and created a healthy, vibrant and safe place for those who choose to come along on the journey.”

What should people know about the FRE Flyers? Why does this group continue? 

“We have inevitably lost some along the journey, life and family issues have got in the way, education and work have taken a priority over sport (not the worst thing to happen) and a few have fallen out of love with FRE Flyers, but that’s teenagers for you. The one thing that always remains is that the door never closes, the ‘family ties’ created by the young people may stretch but NEVER break. Once a FRE Flyer, ALWAYS a FRE Flyer.”

Tomorrow we shall be speaking to a couple of the FRE Flyers themselves, so they can tell you why they love hockey and what the FRE Flyers means to them. 

For more information about the FRE Flyers: 

Website :
Twitter: @FREFlyers 
Facebook: FRE Flyers Club
Virgin Money Giving: FRE Flyers Fundraising

Posted in Coaching, Field Hockey, FRE Flyers, Hockey, Hockey for Heroes, Inclusive sport, Role model, sport, Women in Sport


The Olympic values; adopted by the FRE Flyers, a sporting group of youngsters from Newham and Tower Hamlets.

FRE Flyers and Hockey for Heroes join forces – June 2016

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…. 

‘Sic wheels Bruv’…

…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!

Just another training session with the Flyers 

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”

From flying solo coaching the kids alone, to taking a team up to Birmingham playing two really tough games against
 Old Sihillians HC,  Orlton & West Warwick

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: 

Website :

: @FREFlyers 

Facebook: FRE Flyers Club

Virgin Money Giving
FRE Flyers fundraising

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

Winners are Grinners!

I wanted to write a very very quick post to congratulate the England Hockey Ladies on winning the coveted award for the Vitality Team of the Year Award at the 2015 Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards. #SWOTY2015

This is a team that have come back from the depths of despair, after finishing 11th in the World Cup 2014 At The Hague, beating Belgium in a penalty shootouts to avoid last place in the tournament.  As a devoted supporter of this team, I was as disappointed as everyone else. Seeing a team I believed in struggle to secure any results was heart breaking. Knowing players that I have watched and supported for years were excluded from the squad and others not playing to their full potential was frustrating. This squad seemed to be missing some of the flair I had witnessed at the London 2012 Olympic Games and tournaments thereafter.

The Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Valencia, June 2015, brought about a change in the squad, new management, new players and it was like witnessing a completely different side. Their endless training, mental and physical preparation, guts and determination secured them the top spot, beating China 2-0 in the final. On top form, England entered the Euro-league championship in August with one dream in mind.

I was lucky enough to attend most of this tournament, held at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, to watch a number of the girls games and I saw a fire and momentum I hadn’t seen in this team for a long time. It was exhilarating, they were exciting to watch, inspiring generations to pick up a stick and go play their beloved sport. They had the whole hockey family behind them and they were not going to let any single one of them down.  Even after exhausting matches, the girls gave their time to remain at the pitch to meet their fans, speaking to every single person, thanking them for their support, signing sticks and paraphernalia.

In a tense and exciting final game, the England hockey ladies showed their salt. This was their opportunity to shine. They were 2-0 down with about ten minutes to go and they made the most dramatic comeback , playing World and Olympic champions the Netherlands, to equalise forcing the game into an agonising penalty shoot out.

I unfortunately was at work and not pitch side for the final game, but managed to steal the TV from a room full of boys watching Top Gear. At first the boys showed little interest in the game, but by the shoot out, they were addicted! Eyes intently glued on the final plays. Shouting at the TV for the girls to win.

The girls showed such character, such a calm nature, one more job to do, and Maddie Hinch, GK for England, had nerves of steal, securing victory for England. Victors for the first time since 1991. #smashedit

Amongst the shortlist with the prestigious winners were, Chelsea Ladies, England Football, and Rowing – Helen Glover & Heather Stanning.

The Chelsea ladies nominated for winning the league and cup double.The England Ladies football team nominated for their performance at the World Cup, sealing them a Bronze medal. Glover & Stanning for retaining their world title after an unbeaten run of 28 races. Each team worthy opponents for the award, however  I was thrilled to see the girls win the award.
On receiving the award, Alex Danson paid tribute to the England Ladies football team, spotting them as inspiration, after watching their performance in the World Cup. The support amongst the international women in sport is phenomenal, and truely inspirational not only to the international superstars, but to us, everyday people, who enjoy the world of sport and aspire to improve every day.

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 captain, Coaching, Field Hockey, Hockey, Role model, sport, Women in Sport

A Captains (B)Log…

Welcome to the ‘Friends Friday’ blog, where I hope to cover some player/coaching profiles. Giving you an idea of various roles within a club level environment. The first profile I wanted to cover was the role of a captain, for the top ladies team within a club.

The honour is given to close friend and player/coaching mentor Helen “Clarkey” Clarke of St Ives Hockey Club (no, not Cornwall!) in Cambridgeshire.

Who are you?

Clarkey. I will be taking on the role of Ladies 1st team captain this season at St Ives Hockey Club. 

What job do you do?
I’m a regional tennis participation manager in the East for the Lawn Tennis Association. Which basically means I work with local priority areas to increase participation in tennis, focusing on community environments, e.g. parks rather than clubs. 

What is your hockey experience?
Player : I’ve played since I was at school, so for about 15 years at St Ives Hockey club. I arrived at the club as a junior, but started playing more frequently as a senior. My dad played at the club so it was a natural progression to join St Ives. I had a game in the threes, aged 14, then I played in the twos for the rest of the season. I then kept the bench warm for the ones until finally making the starting lineup on the pitch aged 15. I have been playing for the ones ever since. 

Coach : My boss at the time, at Living Sport (Living Sport), suggested I do my level 1 in hockey coaching. As a coach himself, he recognized something in my commitment to the club and promoted the opportunity. Professionally I was working with a lot of sports coaches and thought it would be a good idea to know what it felt like to coach. I did my level 1 in 2009 and carried on to do my level 2 in 2011. 

Who have you coached? 
Since taking up coaching I have coached at St Ives Hockey all age ranges from U7 to the senior men, including the men’s first team. I have coached in primary schools, delivering Quick-sticks and in the single system at JDC and JAC with Cambridgeshire, U13 – U16 girls. 

What stick do you use and why?

I am currently playing with a MAZON, but I’ve never bought a stick, sticks don’t really matter to me. My dad works for a sports equipment distributor so I have always had the sticks he has given me. I don’t mind what stick I play with, you just play, don’t you!

What shoes do you wear and why?
I don’t get on with Adidas, so probably Asics, are my shoe of choice, generally whichever the pretty ones are on offer!

What’s your top skill? 
Natural goal scorer – that sounds arrogant, I don’t mean it to be, just a lot of girls are not natural goal scorers. Having coached many young girls, a natural eye for goal is not very common. 

And how do you do it?
A lot of practice. I am a confidence player, so when I’m scoring I feel like I’ve had a good game. If I don’t score I feel responsible, my job is to score, especially if we’ve lost. 


Why did you take the role of Captain?

I’ve been avoiding it for years, then we got relegated last season, which wasn’t a real surprise. I recognised within the club, the reason that we got relegated wasn’t purely down to the first team, but more a build up of the wrong sort of philosophy in the club. I want to use my tenure to change the current philosophy and ensure there is a real opportunity for young players and old players alike to develop individually and progress through the club, providing a much longer term future for all of the teams competing in leagues. I want people to know they are not playing for the first team, they are playing for St Ives Hockey Club.

What does the role of Ladies 1st team captain entail?

Management. A group of girls are notoriously difficult to maintain. You can’t please everyone, all of the time. I can only try to be open, honest and fair and do the right thing for the club. 

There should be an element of tactical understanding and implementing tactics. I think that’s vitally important, so much so, that I am mentoring a manager (retired player and all round hockey guru) who will attend games and training to take pressure of me whilst I am playing, to give me another set of eyes and support me so I can continue my role on the pitch as a player. 

I have chosen to delegate my administration within the team to enable them to feel part of the team. This is part of the long term plan to develop the next captain in line, to give players an understanding of what it takes to be a captain. 

What is your aim this season?

Promotion this year or next. I am not going to sacrifice the long term philosophy in the club to push for promotion this year if its not an option. Although it would be great to bounce straight back up into the league we have spent 11 seasons in. 

I am planning on bringing players into the team that are not necessarily the best players in the club, but players that have the right attitude, work ethic and on pitch contribution.

Why do you think this is a good approach?

To reward effort, encourage other players to give 100% commitment, both in training and during games, and to plan for the future. 
Will you set individual objectives for individual players as well as team objectives?

Yes, we have a level 3 coach that we’ve engaged, who coached us last year. This is a long term vision to support our long-term club development. I hope to work with him to identify areas of weakness within individuals that we can develop, support and build. This is particularly important as some of the players that will be playing in the first team won’t have experienced that pace, aggression and intensity. 

What league are you playing in next season?

East region, division 2NW

What do you think people expect from a captain?

Commitment, honesty, motivation, role model, lead by example. I don’t think you have to be the best hockey player in the team to be captain. 


What qualities do you have as a leader?

I  think it helps that I know and understand hockey and have played at a reasonable standard. I have the respect of the players that I have worked hard to earn over the last 11 seasons and the wider club, due to the work I am prepared to put into running the club. I have been very focused on direction and goal outcome for the season and have been very passionate about what I want to achieve with rebuilding the team hoping the players will follow me. I can be motivational at the right moments to ensure fire and passion passes through all players. I have the support of some of the senior members of the team who are not afraid to keep me grounded and tell it to me straight. 

What do you expect from your team members?

To reciprocate what I give them, a symbiotic relationship…..

How are you preparing for the season?

Personally I have put more emphasis on my own fitness so that I can lead by example. 

When is your training?

We have an hour and a half on the pitch on a Tuesday night from 8-9.30pm at the outdoor St Ives leisure centre, with a half hour whiteboard session at 7.30pm prior to pitch time. This is hockey specific, so I do expect people to look after their general fitness during the week and maintain match fitness in their own time.  

How will you carry out your team selection?

The three ladies teams captains and club captain meet weekly to discuss availability of players. I will get my pick, being first team captain and it will be based on qualities such as commitment, attitude, hunger etc….

What do you think the hardest part of being a captain?

Not taking it personally. So if we get beaten, its not necessarily because I haven’t played well. There may be several contributing factors. If we lose, then I have to look at why we lost, which is different to being beaten. 

And the best part? 

Leading the whole team in the same direction and achieving a mutual goal. 

How would you develop potential players that are striving to be in your team?

Build a channel of communication with them. Avoid the ‘clicky’ nature of teams. I would like for people to feel they are able to approach me and will try to do this by integrating myself into wider groups at training. I want to try to inspire players to want to play higher and better themselves. I am also going to set up a buddy system so more senior players take a less experienced player under their wing, to forge a relationship and bounce off each other. 

There will be players in the team that you just want to push a bit harder. For all players, including players that have been playing for a long time. 

Who is your hockey hero?
My dad – no one can stand on the back post like he did. He’s my inspiration to play. 

Favourite GB player? 

Hannah Macleod – I taught her everything she knew. (Said with a massive smile! They did go to school together!)

What are your plans for the future?

I don’t want to have to umpire! We need to recruit more umpires though. 

I will get back into coaching, once my objectives as captain have been completed. I want to focus on building the club for the future. Then I’m just going to play hockey until my hip or knees give out… (Hopefully a few more years yet!!)

Do you have an inspirational quote?

 “the interesting thing about coaching is trouble the comfortable and comfort the troubled.”  Ric Charlesworth. 

St Ives HC is located at the One Leisure St Ives Outdoor Centre, California Road, St Ives, PE27 6SJ. They currently have five men’s teams and three ladies teams, mixed teams and junior hockey, providing opportunities for all members of the family to play hockey. If you fancy picking a stick up and joining in, log onto the website to see times and dates.(St Ives HC website)