Like many people we have a routine of a Sunday morning. You might have a long lie in followed by a big fry-up, perhaps, or take a stroll to your hip local cafe for a fancy coffee and a read of the papers. We have a pile of pancakes and then go to hockey practice for two hours. Have done for years. Or at least Daniel and Harry have. I make the pancakes and then get to hang around on the side of the astroturf for two hours watching the hockey practice. In fact so good am I at hanging round on the side of the astroturf that I'm well into my second year as Chair of the club, the junior section of Kings Heath Pickwick.
Every month or so, we ship a team out to Droitwich to play a few games. Because of the age my children, I've been heading out to watch the U11s for the past four years and will be doing so for probably another four. In the time, I've watched our little band go from a bunch of 7 year olds who lost every match for a year solid to a skillful and confident team that won pretty much every game for two years straight. This season nearly all those kids have moved up into our U13s team, where they've continued their winning ways and we have new young U11s team.
At our club, we pick teams not by ability but by availability. If someone wants to play, they can. If they don't or can't that's fine, and we'll just ask them again next time. It's been a real pleasure to watch those kids, and see them start to form themselves into a proper team. You'll see a kid who a bit shy or timid suddenly find their confidence - they make a tackle, or slot a good pass - and they just bloom. Some times the team string a good sequence together, maybe score, maybe not, but they know they've done well, and they exchange smiles. It's great.
Like most junior hockey clubs, we have kids from about five or six years old through to 16, both girls and boys. Most of our training is grouped by age and/or ability, but for the last half an hour we play "the Big Match" with all the kids together. I know that sounds like it could be a disaster, but the older ones take real care to include the younger ones and younger ones delight in taking on the older kids. Maybe we're just lucky we get nice kids at the club, but I'm sure the big match is part of what makes the club what it is.
As children's team sports go, hockey seems to be one of the most pleasant. As a parent, you hear all kinds of horror stories, particularly about football clubs - kids swearings at referees, parental fisticuffs on the sidelines, all kinds of nonsense. That just doesn't seem to exist in hockey, at least not that I've encountered. We've never had any bother with any one at our club, or from any other team we've played. If you've got children that need to run off a bit of energy at the weekend, you might want to think about it.