Club Members' Survey - Longer Response
There were mixed views on this - not surprising given the depth of our coaching – but we believe we have made good progress this season.
All senior sessions are now supported by well qualified and focused coaches, e.g. men’s 2s/ 3s are supported by two qualified coaches and a volunteer coach, with excellent attendance.
There are qualified coaches to take men’s and ladies’ lower XIs training and many teams have a regular coach, or support from a men’s 1s player, for Saturday games. Training and coaching is available and accessible to all members, from beginners, right through to the top level.
There is obviously a variation in the level of experience amongst our coaches, but senior coaches have, and will continue to provide, advice and support to less experienced volunteer coaches.
There have been four goalkeeper sessions in Autumn for each of the men’s and ladies’1s and middle teams, colts and minis. Similar is planned for the spring half of the season.
Our coaching focus is on making better players as well as on specific team strategy. Working on improved generic game understanding and technique means players can transfer more ably between teams. This also supports the notion of playing for the club and not just one team.
Minis and Juniors
Although the regular winning of Essex, and qualification for East Nationals among our mini and youth sections suggests we are doing some things right, we will always want to do better and are very open to discussion with members about how we can achieve this. John Wright, a senior and experienced minis’ coach, is at the club most Saturday mornings, so please do pop in to chat to him.
All but one of our minis' coaches at the beginning of this season had some coaching or hockey experience, except for Giles, who is kindly helping in the team that looks after the 5 and 6 year olds, where the focus is on having fun.
In addition to John, we are also lucky to have Chris Gladman, who is a Performance Centre coach and former EH tutor. We mentor and assist all the coaches and with more resources we could do more. England Hockey do run some quite good courses and we encourage all coaches to attend, where appropriate, free of charge.
We also have juniors assisting regularly; great help to have, as well as helping the juniors themselves as they prepare for DofE and so on. Men’s 1s players have also been involved regularly in colts’ and minis’ coaching.
There were a couple of comments in the feedback suggesting a training resource bias towards boys, especially in the run up to large youth tournaments. We do offer extra sessions when needed, but often take up on the girls’ side is not great enough to make it worthwhile. We could also arrange some mixed sex training and games, if there is sufficient interest and time in the schedule. Mixed hockey at Under 10 level has already been implemented for this season.
In general, for the mini and junior age groups, we try to be as inclusive as possible, giving players the opportunity to compete at levels appropriate to their skills and confidence, and encouraging and valuing all young players, irrespective of their ability.
Recruitment and Retention
Enormous efforts have been put into recruitment, retention and repatriation again this season, especially within the ladies’ section.
The club has developed a lot of fantastic youngsters who have had the benefit of a great coaching and playing experience during their mini and colt days. When our players leave university, they may no longer live locally, may be offered money and job opportunities by National League clubs to play for them, may want to play with uni friends elsewhere or take time off from hockey. As existing members, we all need to play our part in trying to ensure they choose purple.
The men’s section has been fortunate in having a core group return to strengthen the higher teams. The ladies have not, so far, been as fortunate.
Pre-season, the Ladies’ Club Captain, with help from a few others, contacted all returners personally, contacted university captains, met local university representatives, put leaflets through local residents’ doors, contacted overseas players and coaches, advertised and urged.
Our membership structure has been streamlined and we offer free hockey to returning colts and university students, plus other generous incentives to those introducing new members and those joining.
We have alumni matches each year to encourage players to keep in touch.
We have a new initiative targeting current university students and we are looking to form relationships with the hockey departments of key universities.
Club Promotion and Fundraising
The feedback confirms what your committee has been seeking to achieve. We have been looking for volunteers for some time to:
a) Assist with dedicated fundraising projects
b) Act as a Communications Officer for the club
Re a) a small group of people were brought together by Paul W-M part way through last season to start looking at events which might raise money. They also helped on the Fun in the Forest 2018 Committee. We are making efforts currently to expand this group into a more formal fundraising committee.
Re b) we are currently advertising this role to club members
We have also been looking for volunteers to help find sponsors.
All the suggestions received revolve around people taking on these roles.
Each year there are those members who think selection works well and those who feel aggrieved that they or their child have not been selected appropriately. Club coaches and selectors will never be able to please everyone. As a group of members, we would like all players to remember that we are one club and that moving up or down between teams is normal and helpful.
Please attend training regularly, play with equal enthusiasm at home or away and accept that coaches may occasionally be right, however disappointing that might be. Captains and coaches, in the first instance, and Club Captains ultimately, will always be willing to discuss any frustrations with you.
The timing of selection has been a concern within the men’s section. This has been addressed and the new squad arrangements are intended to enable teams to be notified earlier each week.
Over the last 3 years we have overhauled the website and encouraged all members to use it to its full potential. All fixtures and results, latest news, team sheets and reports are available together with a wealth of additional information about the club. It takes hours of work by a dedicated few to keep it up to date.
Feedback suggests people do not know who does which volunteer roles despite all that information being on the website. If members do not look at available information it is difficult to know what more to do.
We are actively looking for a volunteer to help with all aspects of communication. Please let us know if you can help.
The feedback suggests that members do not take the opportunity to organize their own events or to mix between teams. We would encourage each team to organize at least one event a year. We have a wonderful clubhouse, with pitches on site, so are ideally set up for a vibrant, post-match social scene, if members are willing to make the most of it.
Hannah and Zara have stepped forward to head-up a social committee, but everyone is encouraged to get involved.
The committee needs to re-emphasize that there is a difference between social events, which may raise some money for the club, but are primarily about promoting club cohesion, and fundraising events, which dedicated committees will organize to raise money.
There was some feedback urging the club to ask members to subsidize the first teams and to do whatever needed – irrespective of the effect on the rest of the club structure – to achieve this. This is not the view of the Management Committee; the Club Development Plan, to be issued shortly, will confirm the commitment to all aspects and sections of the club
Clubhouse and Catering
Although members continue to enjoy some of the best facilities in London, we are still open to suggestions to improve the clubhouse further.
The standard of coffee has been improved and we now have several good bottled beers available at the bar.
Food menus are reviewed regularly and rotated on a four week basis. We are currently looking at ways to reduce the cooking smells which can drift into the clubhouse from the kitchen, especially on a Saturday morning.
The online kit shop now allows shirt sizes to be chosen.
We are running a level 1 umpiring course at Old Loughts to encourage more people to umpire.
Members have organized social hockey outside the winter season.
This year both men’s and ladies’ 1s will enter East indoor tournaments.
There are plans to develop a smoother path for players moving up through the bottom half of the men’s section.