By Daniel Swales
Harrogate Hockey Club have praised the success of England Hockey’s Back to Hockey scheme since its introduction at the club in 2015.
The club has seen a total of 31 new members as a result of the initiative, 13 having joined the club over the past year.
Since the introduction of the scheme in 2011 by England Hockey, approximately 20,000 people have participated nationwide, with 85% choosing to continue playing hockey in some capacity after attending a session.
The structure of the sessions has contributed to the scheme’s success, with attendees split across two different groups of differing ability, allowing players to develop their game at their own pace.
Harrogate Back to Hockey coach Sarah Parker-Walton said: “For us at Harrogate, it was about promoting either people having a go at the sport for the first time or coming back after many years and building their confidence, but also social and fitness.”
Participants have been similarly pleased with the ways the scheme has helped them, with players describing the scheme as “really informal, relaxed and fun”.
They also praised the welcoming social environment as a major factor in their enjoyment.
The nationwide reception of the scheme has been similarly positive, as England Hockey participation programmes project officer Jason O’Callaghan explained.
“[Back to Hockey] is probably our most successful programme that we deliver,” he said. “We believe it’s easy for clubs to get their heads around, it’s been going for a number of years now so people get it.
“I think any time you launch something new it does take time to embed it and clubs think ‘why should we do this?’ or ‘who’s this for?’ but what we really stress is that this is for the people who just want to play hockey at a time that suits them with their commitments.”
Since partnering with insurance company Vitality, England Hockey is eager to expand the reach of the Back to Hockey scheme in order to promote the health benefits of the initiative.
“What we’re not looking to do over the next couple of years is to dramatically alter stuff, we believe it works,” Jason explained.
“What we really want to do is work with Vitality to reach all these new people that we couldn’t have reached before, so that’s the big thing that we’re doing now.”