Back2Hockey by Kirstie McCrum
Hockey for girls seems to be something that characterises their
schooldays. My sister was captain of the B Team and it brought high
social status at our school. Conversely, I spent my days hiding
behind the bike sheds during Games and, as such, was something of
What a lovely opportunity then, is afforded by Back2Hockey.
The scheme, currently being promoted by Hockey Wales, is a
chance for women to get back into the sport that they loved in
their youth - or even start from scratch, if, like me, you don't
know your stick from your… err… ball.
Anyway, heading to the Cwmbran stadium, I met with Nick Suller,
the coach who gets around 12-14 women running round the pitch every
Chatting with Nick and with the girls, my fears at being utterly
inexperienced were allayed slightly. I attended week five of an
eight week programme, but there were a couple of the other
attendees who said that, before they came to Back2Hockey, they had
Others had played in school but given up after that, with one
saying she hadn't picked up a stick for 24 years.
I didn't care about being better than anyone, you understand, I
just didn't want to shame myself.
Before the exercises started, I knocked the ball back and forth
with a couple of the other girls.
Nick showed me how to position my hands on the stick - left at
the top slightly turned, right lower down to give control - and I
worked at sweeping the ball across the Astroturf to my fellow
When everyone had arrived, we did a few warm ups which did more
to give me confidence, passing between players and working on both
stopping the ball and sending it off again in an appropriate
direction. I was starting to work up a bit of a sweat with the
running around and could see how an actual game would be a workout
and a half.
After getting the blood flowing a bit, we did some stretching
and lunges, and then into a solo exercise - running with the ball
and dribbling it through a series of 'gates', or sets of cones.
"Just keep the ball glued to the end of the stick," Nick
advised, which would have been much easier with actual glue.
I got overexcited a number of times and my little ball went
trickling off into the distance, so instead of going through a
record number of gates, I pretty much just added to my pedometer
steps for the day. But it was all cracking exercise.
Nick corrected my posture a couple of times - I found myself
hunching over instead of squatting to the ball - and by the end I
felt like I'd got it.
Sadly, all that confidence was pretty much shattered when it
came to the final exercise. With three teams of three, we played an
impromptu match - two teams on at any one time, goalscorers stay on
and losers swap with those on the bench.
I must point out that it was on a reduced pitch, but I still
didn't really get the hang of the intricacies, such as which goal
were we aiming at. OK, that was a pretty rudimentary one, but in my
defence, it changed every time someone swapped on!
During the game the floodlights came on and I had a real sense
of the excitement of playing hockey, but the truth is, an hour
wasn't really long enough to get to grips with it, and I sort of
ended up hiding at the back which, when you're on a team of three,
is quite an achievement in itself.
A cooldown later and the chat was just warming up. The ladies
and Nick obviously have a fun relationship, and there was a lot of
My apologies for perhaps slowing up the game - to put it kindly
- were batted away, and they were all keen to ensure I'd be back
the following week, which was heartening.
I felt like the team spirit of the sport was a real selling
point, and the workout that I got from running around in the fresh
air was much more enjoyable than pounding away along on a treadmill
at the gym.
Sort of made me realise the camaraderie I'd been missing during
my schooldays all those years ago.
Whether you want to try hockey for the first time or get back
involved Back2Hockey is a great way to take part in a social and
informal way, its great exercise and should involve plenty of
laughs. Go to hockeywales.org.uk for more information.