James McLaughlin doubles as a player and Publicity Officer for Urmston Hockey Club in south Manchester. Following the success of Team GB women’s hockey team at the Rio Olympic Games, we asked him to write a guest blog for KUDOS on the impact that success has had on his club – and it makes for fascinating reading…
When Team GB’s women set off for Rio 2016, they had two goals:
‘Create history and inspire the future’
Less than a month later, Hollie Webb leapt into the air having sealed a first ever GB women’s hockey Olympic gold in a dramatic penalty shootout.
Stage one complete. Now for stage two.
As my Mum and I pondered the question “Just how good is Maddie Hinch?” (we settled on ‘Wonderwoman without a cape’) my phone began to buzz.
Hockey – The Magical Game
People were spellbound with the exhilarating pace and passion. The last-gasp drama of penalty shuffles. Hell, even J.K Rowling couldn’t hide her delight. If football was indeed “the beautiful game,” hockey could now lay claim to being the magical game.
Sure, it was great to see the Golden Girls flung into the limelight as chat show royalty. To see Captain Kate Richardson-Walsh cradle her long deserved gold medal – brilliant. But my Mum sighing: “This is going to change UK hockey forever” – priceless.
And it’s true. I play at grassroots level for Urmston HC in Manchester and was lucky enough to have a hockey role model thoroughly invested in my upbringing. But, for a lot of people, hockey hangs on the coattails of their school days, a nostalgic afterthought.
But not for much longer.
A generation inspired
Those sepia-tinged memories of old P.E. lessons are being brought back into focus as players rekindle their love affair with the game. They’ve also given youngsters role models to look up to – the kind that campaigns like Women in Sport and This Girl Can couldn’t have even cooked up in a lab. Glamorous, driven, articulate, successful and grounded. The epitome of teamwork, class and intelligence. Who wouldn’t be inspired by that?
After the team’s bronze medal at London 2012, hockey saw an uplift of 25% in participation among women and the early signs look positive for 2016’s impact.
Put in perspective, last season we had 22 ladies’ members. This year – amid the calls for Hinch to be made Prime Minister – our social media was inundated with no less than 14 women interested in joining our club. It’s not just women either. On the men’s side, we’ve had 7 players either come back to the game or join it for the first time.
For people like our 1st team captain Lois Oliver it’s a godsend:
The success of the Team GB Women has inspired a great interest in the sport. I’ve not seen as many people down at our training in a long time and we hope this influx helps our club grow while making it enjoyable to keep in shape with a good group of friends.
Better still, before the medals had even been handed out we had five parents contact us to bring along their children who were buzzing with enthusiasm for the game.
Immediate inspiration just the start of a golden legacy
The instant impact on our senior sides will do wonders in the short term, but this newly inspired generation will help our club and the wider game grow from strength to strength alongside campaigns such as England Hockey’s annual HockeyFest where the next batch of Olympians get to meet their role models and players get their first taste of hockey.
The photographs of Webb’s leap and teammate Sam Quek’s open-armed, elated sprint have been everywhere this summer. But those cheers are about more than the instant endorphins of winning a medal. Richardson-Walsh’s tears are about more than a realised dream. They are about a golden legacy left by these girls. They’ve changed hockey and they know a golden legacy is only just beginning.
We’d like to thank James for taking the time to write this brilliant blog, and to wish Urmston HC all the best for the future.
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