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Major hockey clubs gets support to play again

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Hockey in north Wales has managed to stay afloat thanks to a grant from Sport Wales after fears the sport might be brought to its knees by Covid-19.

Like most other grass roots sporting clubs in Wales, Denbigh Men’s Hockey Club have had to adjust to the new normal in the wake of stricter health and safety rules brought on by the pandemic.

After months away from the sport, the club were able to resume training, albeit with fewer people allowed on their outdoor all-weather pitch at one time.

But head coach Liam Bell insists the Be Active Wales Fund grant has been crucial in still making hockey affordable for families in a socially deprived area.

“We applied because with Covid we’ve had to limit the numbers in our training sessions,” he says.

“Our main expense is booking the pitch. With restricted numbers it’s quite difficult to cover that pitch cost.

“We are allowed to train in close proximity, but sessions have been limited to a maximum of 30 per session.

“It’s difficult because with our juniors we would have had about 60 per session, so we would have had to double the price for our juniors if we didn’t have the grant.

“It now costs £60 per hour for the juniors and £80 per hour for the seniors. It’s £2 per person.”

“The grant helps make up for the lack of income because we’re not getting everyone out training at the same time. We’ve also had to spend more on safety equipment such as hand sanitisers.”

The grant funding has been made possible thanks to Welsh Government and repurposed money from the National Lottery, which continues to be one of Welsh sport’s biggest supporters.

It is only when sport is taken away that people appreciate how vital a role it plays in local communities up and down the country.

Denbigh Hockey Club serves a wide range of people from students to more senior members of society and its return has been welcomed.

They run four teams with one senior side and three junior sides including an under nines, under 11s and under 13s.

“We've players from different ethnicity groups, including players who are foreign exchange students who are boarders at Myddelton College,” adds Liam.

“We also run a juniors section which includes girls and there is currently a separate project running to reform a women’s hockey team. 

“Most people play for fun, but we have had one youngster, Matthew Jarvis, make the Wales under 18s squad.”

While many restrictions have been lifted over recent months Denbigh Hockey Club have been unable to compete against rival sides due to the introduction of local lockdowns to halt the spread of coronavirus.

“We play in the North West Hockey League which is the north-west of England and north Wales,” he says.

“A lot of these games have been put on hold because of Covid. What complicates matters is there are different rules in England to those in Wales.

“Some teams we would normally play against are based in areas of England where they are under local lockdown, so we are unable to play them. Also, we don’t want to travel to places in local lockdown and risk bringing the virus back into our community.

“We’ve put the season on hold and have recently been put into local lockdown so we couldn’t go anyway.”

The club are also using the Be Active Wales Fund to upskill their coaches in order to help improve their junior section.

Liam is one of the people benefitting from this aspect of the fund and he says: “I would like to get the level three coach qualification to provide the club with top quality coaching as I lead the seniors’ training and also direct all other coaches.

“We hope the higher quality coaching will retain more players at the club and keep those already at the club training weekly.

“We are also looking to start an under 6s section as we often had young siblings on the side of the pitch playing with our small sticks, so it would be excellent to get them into a small supervised fun group.

“That would lead to some excellent hockey players if they're starting to learn hockey skills at the age of four.

“We have good links with all local schools and I’ve been to coach in many of them, both primary and secondary, to increase interest in the sport and grow participation at Denbigh Hockey Club. 

“We're aiming to grow to be as big as other north Wales hockey clubs.”

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