Sheffield University Bankers hockey club are targeting the youth of Sheffield, as they aim to increase the sport’s participation levels and help develop the game across the region.
Three years ago the U16 section was virtually non-existent - but now Bankers regularly caters for over 30 youngsters and will field their first side this weekend, when they travel to Barnsley to play against Wakefield and Harrogate.
I caught up with one of the head youth coaches and former first team captain Chris Platt, to find out how the club has turned their junior section around and what the future holds for the Bankers.
“It’s quite amazing to see the number of kids we coach now,” he said.
“And the most important role of this club is to keep the sport going. We want to introduce kids to hockey and hopefully see them move up through the teams here.
“We are really starting to build momentum with our youth section and I put that down to the philosophy that we have here at Bankers - we want to be successful, but most importantly the junior section is all about having fun.
“I came through the youth system here, so the kids are the future. And by taking up hockey, we are increasing participation in sport which is important to keep them fit and healthy.”
Chris recently returned to the club after studying a Sport and Exercise Science degree at the University of Chester, where he also studied for his PHD and captained the hockey’s first team. However, the talented 30-year-old’s attention is now focused on coaching - and he is aided with the junior section by fellow coaches Daniel Langham, Dave Barrett and Joel Ghandi, as well as a faithful set of volunteers made up of parents and older players at the club.
“The setup we have here is brilliant because we have a lot of support for the number we coach,” Chris added.
“So it’s a quality experience and not just about how many we can get down here.
“We want our numbers to grow steadily so everything is done carefully with a managed approach.
“We don’t want to have a situation like what happened to athletics in the city.
“After the Olympics hundreds of kids started turning up to sessions and coaches just couldn’t cope, and so they lost a lot of people.”
For this season the junior section have registered one team in the under 14 boys mini league system, where girls are also allowed to play.
“The progress they have made in training has been fantastic,” said Chris.
“They have all worked so hard and I am hopeful they will be able to hold their own. We have a few youngsters who are playing up an age group so it will be very challenging for them but it is all good experience.”
Anna Ramsell, who will play this weekend, said: “I’m so glad it’s a mixed team and I can’t wait to play in these games because I feel I really have improved as a player.”
Another junior, Harry Barrett, added: “I’m a bit nervous but I know I will enjoy it. Also, I hope we win... fingers crossed!”
Bankers senior sides have had excellent starts to the season, with both the men and women first teams remaining unbeaten. But both face a tough challenge against Harrogate this weekend.
“We have had a really strong start, and the men had very good wins in our last two games (6-1 and 8-0) but they were against teams that looked to be struggling,” said Chris.
“Whereas Harrogate have also started well so it will be difficult. We have to travel away so we are expecting a very tough game but we can get a result.
“The objective for both teams this year is to get promoted and, with the way we have started, we are hopeful to push on. It’s going to be really hard work, but this year we are very positive and the future is looking bright for the club.”
The club are now looking for boys and girls aged U16 to join. For more details call 07824 396684 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.