Back To Hockey to most improved player of the year!

Back To Hockey Jules
Jules Le Bihan shares her story of how she found her nearest Back To Hockey session and her journey getting back to hockey with Stroud hockey club. 

Last Spring I happened to see a flyer in my local leisure centre for some 'Back to Hockey' sessions. Having given up 5-a-side football when I left my old company I played for a few years earlier, I was reminded of the fun of team sports and thought I'd give it a go. 

I hadn't played hockey since school back in the early eighties when we played on grass and the only protective gear we had was little rubber patches on the ankles of our canvas boots so I was a little apprehensive about giving it a go. I phoned the number on the flyer and spoke to Pauline who was really enthusiastic and explained that there was a new league running and Stroud were planning to form a third ladies team to take part. Pauline confidently assured me that my 30-something year break from hockey would be no obstacle and so, one wet May Wednesday evening, I put on my trainers and wandered along to the pitch.

It was clear immediately that lots of work had already gone into the venture as there were a good few new ladies like me. The coaches arrived prepared and had set up a variety of exercises for us to get stuck into. They were all very positive and encouraging, whatever our level and experience, and everyone was hugely welcoming. 

And it was like that every week. 

In addition a number of players from the other ladies teams came along to the sessions to participate in short games as well as some of the men. Everyone was so encouraging, offering tips and advice as well as enthusiasm and support that I already felt like a member of the club, so I signed up and started regular training. 

Our captain, Pauline, worked incredibly hard on and off the pitch: not just with all the necessities of the league registration and documentation, but making sure we all got to play in matches, ensuring we had transport for away games, turning up with oodles of spare kit for those of us just starting back as well as plenty of off-pitch pastoral support throughout the season and doing a match write-up every week for our club website. The coaches always arrived at sessions full of enthusiasm and expertise, and regularly turned up to our matches to look for areas to work on, even if they had their own games on the day as well. Other club members would turn up to see our games and support us as well as giving us tips on how to progress. 

I had such a great time that I never wanted to miss a training session or a match and what I lacked in skill, I made up for in effort. The support of the club made me feel really committed and this must have shown as I was delighted to be voted 'Most Improved Player' in our end of year team awards.

My hockey season started on the back of the Ladies GB team winning gold in Rio, and I think I might have been just as proud to receive my somewhat humbler award as they were to get their historic medals. But my award is entirely down to the time, effort and support I got from my club so I thought I would pass on my experience to offer encouragement with the Back to Hockey initiative. 

I'm sure there are many women of my generation, and probably younger too, who were not encouraged to continue with sport after leaving school and they may not realise that there is fun and friendship to be gained from joining a club, not just the fitness benefits. Long may it continue.

Get involved this spring by finding your local back to hockey session here.