FRE Flyers four years on

FRE Flyers 2

FRE Flyers is an East London based club that started in 2011 and it is all about giving young people opportunities through hockey. 

Andy Halliday the Great Britain men’s team manager from London 2012, helped found the club as part of London legacy project; “It’s not only about the hockey it’s about developing them as individuals, looking at their lifestyle and really helping them through those difficult teenage years that can be made even more difficult because of the struggle they can have in boroughs like Newham and Tower Hamlets.”

The club was named by their original members after the Olympic values; friendship, respect and excellence. It was set up for the young people in the local borough as an opportunity for them to play sport that they may not get otherwise. They started out with 30 youngsters from the local area picking up a stick and getting involved at local school facilities.  

“First and foremost it was set up to support the children, but the dual role was that it gave our athletes the opportunity to see life at the other end. They’re used to training in Bisham Abbey but they live in a fairly closed environment, so getting them involved really made a difference in that they appreciated what life was really like in the boroughs. So that’s how it was set up and it has gathered momentum, there’s no doubt about it.”

FRE Flyers

“When the kids came to the Olympic Games in 2012 they loved watching and you could really hear them above the rest of the crowd, they were starting to get really into the hockey. Their lives were improving away from the hockey pitch as well! The worry for us was that it would fall flat post 2012 but we were keen to keep it going. After Jason Lee, who originally set up the project, stopped working as coach for the women’s team we then had to keep it going; we recruited some coaches and we were very luck to get crowd funder support to help facilititate these costs. We’ve maintained, recruited and kept things going so we’re now here at 2016. We are five years on from the start and I believe this club are playing a big part as a figure head for hockey in East London.”

The club is open to kids ages 11- 25 of any ability. They don’t play in an official league as yet so they play many inter club games and they run their own inclusive “All Ability League” out of Lee Valley, inviting clubs like East London, Old Loughtonians, Waltham Forest to send teams along to gain experience and expertise. The fact it is all inclusive is the real appeal to the club as that means the kids aren’t under any pressure to win but just to go out and play. 

“The big difference for me is that it’s all ability. We don’t pick on merit; we give opportunities to kids that may have high functioning autism, physical difficulties or behavioural difficulties or are in fact very competent players,  but they all share the same pitch.” 

One of the original starters in 2011, Jordan Green is now playing for East London 4th /5th team and has just won their junior of the year this season. Another member who had a difficult upbringing now works at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis centre. These are just a few of the stories that are all around the FRE Flyers club. 

Andy continues; “It’s not just about what happens on the pitch it’s the support that they get off the pitch and the community and the family they gain. We’ve lost a few, gained a few and had people go and come back but it’s an on-going project and I hope that we can sit here in five years and it’ll still be going and we’ll have a load of new youngsters getting involved.” 

They are now off to Holland, four years on from the last time they visited. The club are hoping to take back the kids that went in 2012 on August 26th to 28th aged between 10 and 24. They will be meeting up with the Johan Cruyff Institute after the foundation set up by the great Dutch footballer to educate and support young sports men and women visited the Flyers a few weeks ago at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. They will play a few matches, visit the National Sports Centre in Pappendal. and hopefully benefit from some top coaching whilst visiting.

Jo Melchior, Club Development Manager at the FRE Flyers believes that the project is so much more than just Hockey. “These young people will always embody the core principles of Friendship, Respect and Excellence in everything they do, however they feel they have evolved to adopt an additional three new attributes, Family, Responsibility and Equality. They are growing into pretty good Hockey players, but more importantly they are becoming really fine examples of just how great young people can be!”

Find out more about FRE Flyers here.