While elite professional sport is steadily returning – albeit behind closed doors – grassroots sport has remained in a kind of limbo. Hockey, like other team sports at grassroots level, is difficult to imagine in a socially-distanced scenario. We spoke to Emma Mack, first team captain at South Wigston Mixed Hockey Club – a club for whom we supply hoodies – about the club, the past few months, and what lies ahead for the club and hockey in general.
KUDOS: It goes without saying that sport comes a distant second to the health and safety of our loved ones – that is obviously of paramount importance. But, nevertheless, for all of us connected to sport, at whatever level, this has been a very strange time. The rug has been pulled out from under our sporting summer and it’s left us all in a position none of us have been in before. Firstly, how are you coping personally?
Emma Mack: For a very sporty person, and team of players that are always engaged with various sports outside of hockey as well, it has been extremely difficult. Everyone’s lives have changed, what with the ‘new normal’, but for a close social club like ours it’s not just the hockey that has been taken away – it’s the catch ups at training, the release from a busy week at work and the special competitive edge and camaraderie we all love; as many other families and teams will have found.
A socially-distanced game of hockey strikes us as pretty futile, indeed more or less impossible. What’s the latest at your club – have you moved beyond what England Hockey called ‘step 2’. If so, what does that entail and how are you getting on?
As things stand our club hasn’t been able to step back on to the pitch, the social distancing measures, coupled with the cost of hiring the pitch multiple times a week, would outweigh any money we could raise throughout the season. Additionally our training ground is inside the Leicester lockdown zone, which again adds another layer of difficulty to getting back on the pitch. As a club we are waiting eagerly to be able to safely (which is the priority for all) get back playing. The idea of playing a socially distanced game of hockey is ludicrous – it takes away so much of what the game is about…tackles and being a strong physical athlete.
So, South Wigston Mixed Hockey Club – can you tell us a bit about the club, the set up etc. Does mixed mean men and women / boys and girls train together, play together?
We currently have two teams which are both now in Division 1, as South Wigston Tigers have won promotion (even amidst the lockdown chaos) due to their performances from the beginning of the season and through to early March.
Mixed means our teams are made up of 5 men and 5 women plus a goalkeeper who can be anyone, providing you are 13 Years of age or older everyone will train and play together – below age 13 you aren’t allowed to play for safety reasons.
How had everything been going at the club before it all came to a juddering halt in March?
Our season up until lockdown beginning was definitely a very successful, rewarding and enjoyable one. Both teams were winning games and both teams have made it through to the finals of their respective cups (these Cup finals are still to be played, probably when we get the new season started, and hopefully both teams will come away triumphant!).
As I have mentioned above our second team had won the league comfortably beating off teams that have been in and around mixed for years. This team is predominantly our ‘happy hockey’ team, however this does not mean there is less determination to win. South Wigston Tigers was initially set up as a team that would be made up of those just returning to hockey after injuries or starting families, wanting to try it out as a new sport or picking up a stick after years out the game. It has gone from strength to strength.
How do you think hockey and grassroots sport will emerge from this crisis? It feels to us like the ramifications of the crisis will linger longer in grassroots sport than most other areas of society.
We anticipate that the season will be disrupted in the sense of not starting until much later than usual, there will be potential disruption if there is another lockdown along the way. It will be interesting to see whether we have much time to practice as a team prior to the new season starting.
And lastly, how would you sell the club to anyone thinking of joining?
Our club is one that makes people fall back in love with hockey and make them realise they should have never stopped. There is lots of room for competitiveness, fun and plenty of friendships. We train as a club each week and as a result we grow stronger, fitter and more determined. We all support each other on and off the pitch and we are one big happy hockey family, we welcome all ages over 13, and all abilities.
Thanks to Emma for taking the time to talk to us. If you’d like to get involved at this excellent club, contact them via their Facebook page or contact us and we can put you in touch. Good to everyone at SWMHC for the future!
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