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