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Greater exposure is key to getting more youngsters hooked on hockey

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The past year has been a notable one for Welsh hockey, with the men’s team playing at their first Hockey World Cup and the women equalling their best Commonwealth Games finish of eighth place.

More high-profile fixtures are taking place this summer, with the women’s team preparing for the EuroHockey Championship II in Prague this month, where they’ll bid to follow Wales men by moving up to Europe’s A division.

The increased exposure that comes with Welsh stars competing on the very biggest stages is vital for growing the sport, and Hockey Wales say they have seen a 15 per cent increase in junior club membership over the past 12 months.

At present, the figures for hockey participation across the board in Wales are 67 clubs and just under 7,000 club members. Around half of that figure are junior members.

Newly appointed Hockey Wales chief executive Paul Whapham says: “We have to amplify the sport, tell our stories and be present in young people’s minds, and in particular on their phones, on a regular basis.

“It helps that we've also got a strong representation with Great Britain. 

“We're able to tell stories about the aspirational opportunity for young people, which is great.”

Paul added: “There is a big challenge for us because hockey isn't now guaranteed on the curriculum and schools look to do more sports. 

“So, we've got a big engagement piece across schools to introduce hockey and get as many young people with sticks in hands as possible.

“We want to give them that early introduction, an early sample of the sport, and then work with other sports to make sure that even at a young age, boys and girls are not choosing one sport over another.”

Millie Holme battles for the ball against South Africa
Millie Holme vs South Africa.
We have a latent demand for hockey of around 17,000 young people who would love to give the sport a try. We have got to make it as accessible and as inclusive as we can to make sure we open our doors to those 17,000 young people.
Paul Whapham, CEO

The Hockey Ambassadors scheme, now into its 11th year, is a programme aimed at getting young people into clubs and schools in order to ignite interest in the sport.

Supporting that has been a Hooked on Hoci initiative aimed at both primary and secondary schools, where existing clubs have been supported financially in getting into schools to deliver sessions to children.

“We know that we have a latent demand for hockey of around 17,000 young people who would love to give the sport a try,” says Paul.

“We have got to make it as accessible and as inclusive as we can to make sure we open our doors to those 17,000 young people. It’s then our aim to work with our clubs to make sure we can retain those players and sustain their interest in the sport for a long period.”

He adds: “We’ve had growth in participation after the Covid period and we plan to continue that.

“Part of my role is to develop a strategy that allows us to grow and to take the sport into diverse communities and basically give everyone an opportunity to run around with a stick in their hands.

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