Nick Irvine

The Hockey Paper - - NEWS -

Our man tries out the in­creas­ingly-pop­u­lar walk­ing hockey

AN­OTHER year and an­other res­o­lu­tion to get fit­ter. Last Jan­uary saw the pur­chase of a top-level re­cum­bent ex­er­cise bike. By March this had be­come a largely re­dun­dant non- ex­er­cise bike with its main func­tion be­ing to house the pile of mag­a­zines in tran­sit from the cof­fee ta­ble to the re­cy­cling bin and as an emer­gency coat hanger!

Hope springs eternal in the Irvine breast how­ever and a new form of ex­er­cise has caught my at­ten­tion and given me a vi­sion of how any­one could get back into hockey, even from a low fit­ness base.

“Walk­ing hockey” was launched at Broms­grove Hockey Club this week and I couldn’t re­sist go­ing along to see what it was all about. Broms­grove don’t claim to have in­vented this ac­tiv­ity but are one of the first clubs to give it a go as hockey looks to grow its mem­ber­ship and get our na­tion off the sofa.

The man be­hind this ini­tia­tive is the en­er­getic Alan Gorm­ley, Broms­grove HC’s de­vel­op­ment coach, who is quick to stress that the rules of en­gage­ment are still evolv­ing. Ini­tially based on a fu­sion of Quick­sticks and Rush hockey, the Broms­grove model is played four or five-a-side on a small pitch with small goals and no goal­keep­ers.

Goals can be scored from any­where. Other rules and codes will no doubt emerge through con­sen­sus and ex­pe­ri­ence but, judg­ing by the suc­cess of walk­ing foot­ball, this could be a win­ner for hockey.

Alan was re­al­is­tic in fore­cast­ing num­bers in his first week and didn’t over­sell it to me. In the event, over 30 turned up on a cold winter’s evening which is a fan­tas­tic re­sult and num­bers will surely grow.

Mar­ket­ing sup­port has come from lo­cal school sports or­gan­is­ers, the Dis­trict Sports Coun­cil and County Sports Part­ner­ship (CSP).

“I’ve been wor­ried about num­bers all day but this turnout is be­yond my wildest dreams,” Alan said.

“The group in­cludes ex-play­ers such as my­self who can't play hockey any more, mums and dads from the com­mu­nity and of our ju­niors, some more back-to play­ers and a lady from Age UK! In ad­di­tion to this, I've even got some cur­rent play- ers in­ter­ested so that they can prac­tice their pass­ing ac­cu­racy!”

Alan’s en­thu­si­asm for his new baby is in­fec­tious and he sees op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pand. “My dis­cus­sions with the CSP have spun an­other idea too, walk­ing hockey for peo­ple with in­di­vid­ual needs,” he said.

“We have two schools lo­cally for chil­dren with is­sues that make main­stream school­ing dif­fi­cult. “We also have sev­eral schools with Autism bases. We are work­ing to­gether to try to put a pro­gramme of walk­ing hockey to­gether for them af­ter Easter.”

With of­fi­cials look­ing to sup­port sim­i­lar laud­able schemes such as GHockey, this new “No Rush” for­mat is right on mes­sage and right on time as hockey co­zies up to the old mantra of Sport for All.

The ses­sion was well paced and al­lowed for the range of play­ers who had ar­rived at Broms­grove’s splen­did new fa­cil­ity. From gen­tle stretch­ing, to stick-and-ball walk­ing, through static and then mo­bile passes, it wasn’t long be­fore the group was split up into small sides and a num­ber of games played out.

Those who re­tain the com­pet­i­tive edge were eas­ily spot­ted and many had to be re­minded not to run – it’s ac­tu­ally harder than it sounds!

The hour passed too quickly and we were re­placed on the pitch by Alan’s next group, the Back to Hockey club. Look­ing at them, I’ll leave it a week or so be­fore I join in! Far too en­er­getic.

The evening was a huge suc­cess, full of laugh­ter and ex­er­cise. I spoke to a cou­ple of par­tic­i­pants at the end to get their thoughts. Liz Mor­ris can take credit for the ses­sion. “I loved hockey when I was younger and played at school and then for Birm­ing­ham Mu­nic­i­pal, play­ing un­til I was about 30 – then it all stopped.

“Af­ter a gap of 20-some­thing years I tried Back to Hockey but needed some­thing a lit­tle slower so I sug­gested to Alan that he start a walk­ing hockey club. It’s been great tonight with so many like-minded peo­ple and I have made some new friends – re­ally en­joy­able.”

Anne Tur­ton had a per­sonal rea­son for giv­ing the ses­sion a whirl. “I played a lot of hockey as a young­ster and it was my pas­sion. I played a cou­ple of sea­sons with Broms­grove Ladies but then I stopped and I wasn’t very ac­tive,” she said.

“In Au­gust 2015 I was di­ag­nosed with a myeloma – bone mar­row can­cer. I have come through some pretty hefty chemo ses­sions and this is part of my re­cov­ery pe­riod, to build up stamina and to get as fit as I can. I wanted to get out and meet peo­ple rather than sit­ting at home feel­ing sorry for my­self.”

All will have their rea­sons for giv­ing walk­ing hockey a go but few will have been on such a jour­ney as Anne. If Alan was in any doubt about the ben­e­fits of this project he only needs to re­fer to her tes­ti­mony.

Good luck in the weeks ahead – may you all “walk on, walk on, with hockey in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone.”

The evening was a huge suc­cess, full of laugh­ter and ex­er­cise

Fun and fit­ness: Walk­ing Hockey is a way for ex­play­ers to re­dis­cover their love for the sport and get health­ier

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