Who needs keep­ers to move for­ward?

The Hockey Paper - - FEATURE / OPINION -

WHEN an ad­min­is­tra­tor in any sport is asked a ques­tion on par­tic­i­pa­tion num­bers, monotony in­vari­ably takes over. Sift through the busi­ness ter­mi­nol­ogy, un­ravel the pos­i­tive num­bers’ speak and you might be left with some­thing re­sem­bling an ini­tia­tive.

When an Olympic gold medal­list, who has just re­ceived an MBE at Buckingham Palace, is asked for their opin­ion, you take note.

“There is a lot of good work be­ing done,” Han­nah Ma­cleod told THP. “But the ju­nior in­ter­na­tional pro­gramme has al­ways been a chal­lenge for us to com­pete at that level, sim­ply be­cause we don’t pick up a stick early enough.”

On the day that Ma­cleod and her two team-mates were re­ceiv­ing their hon­ours, a new un­der-13 com­pe­ti­tion was be­ing launched on the con­ti­nent for young Dutch and Bel­gian play­ers.

The ABN AMRO 3v3 Cup will see boys and girls’ teams com­pete on a 23x23m pitch with­out keep­ers. Pre­lim­i­nary rounds will take place in var­i­ous re­gions and it’s open to any team or school.

Mean­while, back in the UK, the Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board were last week launch­ing All Stars Cricket, an ini­tia­tive to at­tract more chil­dren to the sport.

The ECB hopes to get more than 50,000 young­sters play­ing be­tween the ages of five and eight, through eight-week sum­mer schemes put on by lo­cal cricket clubs and sup­ported by the na­tional gov­ern­ing body’s fund­ing boost from Sport Eng­land.

Hockey (£9m) also re­ceived a hefty slice in De­cem­ber’s an­nounce­ment from the gov­ern­ment quango, but what should the sport be do­ing to get sticks in hands at an ear­lier age?

“There’s so much hap­pen­ing here that it’s al­most about con­sol­i­dat­ing,” states Ma­cleod. “At St Al­bans we are hav­ing to put the adults on ro­ta­tion so we can play all the kids at the week­end. We have too many play­ers for the pitch slots we’ve got.

“We are in this amaz­ing pe­riod of growth and we have to make sure that within the club set-up we have the right in­fra­struc­ture and sup- port, so we are pro­vid­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties for those kids who have taken the sport up.” Ini­tia­tives or in­fra­struc­ture? One for our sports ad­min­is­tra­tors to pon­der.

*** LAST week, The Hockey Pa­per was the only source of ref­er­ence to de­tail Glenn Kirkham’s fi­nal top flight game. The re­sponse on so­cial me­dia clearly marked Kirkham out – as East Grin­stead de­scribed him – as a “once in a life­time player”.

Could we one day see him in a top club or na­tional coach­ing role? Time will tell but judg­ing by the last few days since re­tire­ment, he would be an in­tel­li­gent and pop­u­lar choice wher­ever he went.

ROD GIL­MOUR

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