We will be taking our summer break on 10 July and will be walking back into action on Monday 11 September. It’s been an amazing launch season and Sarah and I would like to thank everyone who has helped make it so. Here are a few photos from our final session of this season
Well, here we are, back home in the UK, very tired but very pleased with how well the Walking Hockey trip went. We had an amazing time with Walking Hockey’s reception exceeding our wildest dreams. Everywhere we went it was popular, everywhere we went we met the most amazing people. We are so grateful to everyone who made the trip possible and to everyone we met along the way.
Very importantly World Hockey will benefit too from the interchange of ideas and opportunities we all explored making the hockey family a bigger brighter better place, both now and in the future.
And this is only the end of the beginning. I am confident so much more will come out of this!
Where would we be without adopting the Australian early start culture? This has enabled us to fit in so much more. This morning we met up with Kyle from Basketball Victoria. Ben, Acting CEO of Hockey Australia had connected us to Kyle as Basketball Victoria are ‘running’ a Walking Basketball programme. It was really interesting to exchange views and ideas with Kyle, the more so as we had almost identical approaches despite our sports evolving on different sides of the planet. Where we differ significantly is that Walking Basketball are working very closely with VicHealth, the health care provider in the state of Victoria, and targeting over 70 year olds. Through VicHealth and other similar organisations there are already many organised health and fitness clubs for the elderly so Basketball Victoria have ready made target audiences. Indeed VicHealth actively fund these and have provided grants to Basketball Victoria for their Walking programmes.
The other area where they differ is in how the sessions are run. They don’t have to be led by coaches, but can be led by facilitators who may have little or no basketball experience but are provided with training and resources so that they can deliver sessions. Also venues can purchase a Walking Basketball pack containing a venue guide, a facilitator guide, hoops, bibs and balls.
This seems to be a common approach over here as Hockey Australia’s Hook Into Hockey programme for juniors does the same with the additional offer of a heavily subsidised rucksack, stick, ball, shinpads and bib.
One area of mutual concern is that of keeping the product (Walking Hockey or Walking Basketball) under an element of control so that it is played to the same basic rules and in the same inclusive spirit everywhere.
So all in all an excellent meeting and we’ve agreed to keep in touch in the future.
After this we checked out of the hotel and headed downtown for a few hours walking along the impressive River Yarra. They’ve really done a great job turning this area into a lovely place to stroll, eat and drink, so we had lunch there before taking the express lift up to the 88th floor viewing platform of the Eureka Tower with its sky deck. 88 floors in 37 seconds is quite an experience!
We were very lucky as the atmosphere was clear and we could see all around for miles.
Then back to earth, an ice cream and sit in the sun for an hour before heading to the airport for our fourteen hour flight to Dubai, nine hour stop over, then onwards to Birmingham and home.
This is our last but one day of our trip and we had two major meetings to do.
We began the day at the Victoria State Hockey and Netball Centre in the Melbourne suburbs. We met Sash who is the General Manager. He gave us a tour of the fantastic facility and told us about the social hockey offerings they provide. He had been updated on Walking Hockey via our meeting with Hockey Australia on Tuesday.
We then had a quick trip to the coast and to Just Hockey, the largest hockey retailer in Australia.
In the evening we went to Footscray HC. They have two pitches plus a warm up area and a large clubhouse, amazing facilities. We gave our Walking Hockey presentation to their Board and it went very well indeed . As with everyone we have met on this trip they were great people and we had some very interesting discussions.
They are keen to be our twin club in Australia.
Today was an amazing day that began with an email arriving from Jason McCracken who is the Chief Executive Officer of the FIH, the World Governing Body for hockey. Jason has invited me to meet up with him to give a full briefing on Walking Hockey. I’m lost for words.
This was our last free day and we used it to take a day trip along the Great Ocean Road. It was a very full day, leaving at 7.20am and returning at 9.10pm, travelling 340 miles!
Despite the distances involved we had a brilliant day, made even better by our driver guide Leah, who was exceptional – friendly, bubbly and full of great information.
The long distances involved enabled us to confirm three more meetings in the last two days of our trip, two of these being late additions.
If you are ever on this part of the world then we’d highly recommend this tour, the scenery is simply stunning.
Today we had an early start to travel across Melbourne for a meeting with Ben, Acting CEO of Hockey Australia, James and Tom from his team and Suzanne from Hockey Victoria. We spent two hours in a really interesting discussion about our organisations and our social hockey philosophy and offerings, including our presentation of Walking Hockey. It was spooky how aligned we are in our thinking. It was very rewarding to hear from Ben that Hockey Australia will be adopting Walking Hockey as soon as they can.
After the meeting we met up for lunch with a friend of the family from England, Hannah, who now lives in Melbourne.
After that, on Ben’s recommendation, we took a tour of the world famous MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) and the Sports Museum. This was really interesting as they were preparing the MCG for a soccer game tonight between Brazil and Australia for which they were expecting a crowd of around 95,000! From the stadium we also saw the Rod Laver tennis centre, home of the Australian Open.
We then rushed off to Albert Park, home of the Australian F1 Grand Prix before very wearily making our way back to our hotel.
Arriving there I checked my emails to find that we have been invited to Hockey Victoria to see some of their social hockey offerings on Thursday and have been put in contact with Victoria Basketball as they have a Walking programme.
Today saw us saying goodbye to Cairns as we headed off to Melbourne. Cairns is an amazing city, small in terms of population but large in character and full of great opportunities and brilliant people. If you’re young and keen to develop your hockey, as a coach or a player, it’s a great place to go. Indeed that’s true of everywhere we’ve been and everyone we’ve met. Sadly we aren’t young else we’d be tempted!
Our flight to Melbourne took 3.5 hours and dusk was falling as we arrived. So it’s a quite night in, (and maybe a cold beer) before an early start tomorrow to meet with Hockey Australia.
Switching on my iPad when I got to our room I found:
New contacts from both Belgium and Argentina
Contact from a sponsor of Hockey Australia and Hockey New Zealand
And part of a promotional video put together by Cairns HA featuring our very own Bromsgrove stars!
Today was our planned rest day in Cairns. We booked a boat ride to Fitzroy Island to do some lying in the sunshine whilst sipping cool beers – however the Weather Gods decided that we weren’t going to get that. Setting off for the island at 8.00am in a grey overcast gloom wasn’t what we had in mind. In fact the locals said it was one of the coldest days they’d had on the island. However, not to be deterred we switched from our ‘inactive’ plan to ‘all action’
Firstly it was out in the glass bottomed boat where Sarah jumped overboard and spent an hour snorkelling the reef observing some amazing fish and coral. I was struck on board where I had the most fascinating talk to the boat’s captain, a real character.
After a quick change we grabbed some lunch then had a tour of the turtle rescue centre which was very interesting indeed.
After this we really went for it and climbed the mountain at the centre of the island. How steep was it I hear you ask – suffice it to say that it has two sections called Calf Burner 1 and Calf Burner 2. It was very tough but we made it up and back again. Then it was another walk to Nudey Beach – no, not that sort of Nude!
A quick trip back to the mainland in the dark to catch the end of the Cairns Ironman contest. To be honest we felt like we’d done that on the island.
Tomorrow we head off to Melbourne for the final part of our Walking Hockey Roll Out.
Today’s main event was our presentation to the Cairns Hockey Association. The association caters for over 1500 players across four clubs with lots of schools feeding into the system too. Our presentation was attended by David McNeil, Regional Coaching Director, Presidents from two of the clubs and representatives from the others. We were even filmed presenting Walking Hockey so that awareness can be spread as widely as possible.
The presentation was very warmly received and promoted some great discussions about the excellent opportunities it gives for greater hockey participation in the region across all age and social groupings.
Before our meeting today we explored the local environment and had a walk through the rainforest, saw some really interesting birds on the mudflats and enjoyed a taste of local ice creams!
This afternoon Matt picked us up and took us to Cairns Hockey Association, and what a set up it is. Two nice turfs, lots of grass pitches, hundreds of youngsters playing, and $4,000,000 investment set to be spent on a new high performance centre and super clubhouse. That’s the way to do it! We watched two games of girls hockey too and met David, the Regional Coaching Director for Cairns. We had some very useful discusssions about their philosophy and organisation. Tomorrow we return to present Walking Hockey to them.