Hockey in Guernsey has a lot to be proud of. A great playing and social facility at Footes Lane, a real family ethos and growing numbers playing at all levels of the game.
Hockey Development Officer, Steve Eulenkamp, is keen to stress that the sport can be for anyone.
‘Hockey is a sport you can enjoy for life,’ said Steve who has worked in the part-time role since 2017.
His playing career started at Elizabeth College when he was 12 but it was the experience of competing for the Island team at the National Under 14 finals that really fired his love for the game.
‘It was a four team round robin tournament that really got me excited about hockey.’
He played for the Guernsey senior squad at the age of 16 as well as the Channel Island under 17 team before heading off to Bath University to study Sport and Social Science. He continued his playing and coaching career in the UK at both university and during a placement year in south London.
‘I had always been interested in sport development and my goal was to develop my coaching which I was able to do at my placement in Merton which had a fairly similar set up to the Guernsey Sports Commission.,’ said Steve.
Steve’s next step was teacher training and a return to the island as a primary school teacher.
Combining his passion for teaching and developing hockey on the island seem a natural fit.
‘I currently work around 15 hours a week in my hockey development role mostly overseeing the programme, working on development projects and coaching junior teams,’ said Steve.
‘I think one of our strengths is our tight knit hockey community. What we are trying to do is broaden our scope and be more inclusive. We have lots of families who play and bring their kids down.
‘We are lucky to have such a national class facility here at Footes Lane. When teams visit, they comment that it is very high quality.
‘We also have great sponsors to support all our programmes and this allows us to be more inclusive and also supports our school programme.’
Hockey is now well established in primary schools with children experiencing a 6-week block of coaching culminating in a schools’ tournament in the summer term.
‘The aim is to give them a good experience, they can learn about hockey and we take them to have a look at and play at our facility.
‘The technique can be quite hard so making it enjoyable is so important.
‘We are not here to sell hockey – its all about enjoying physical activity and enjoying sport. That is our overarching aim – do you enjoy it, and do you want to come back and play again?’
Guernsey Hockey is now working with the Sports Commission to improve access to hockey in secondary schools with the aim of continuing to swell the numbers taking part in in the junior development league and hopefully staying with the sport and playing at senior level.
‘We have a competitive men’s first division which is now even tighter with some good quality games.
‘Our men’s division 2 and ladies league is also strengthening. We have a full junior programme at under 14 and under 16 plus minis for those from Reception to Year 6,’ said Steve.
The Sunday morning minis sessions attract around 110 children aged between 5 and 11 with 117 secondary-aged students taking part in training sessions on a Tuesday and Thursday.
As well as the men’s and women’s leagues, Guernsey Hockey has also established a Veterans Club for over 35s to get people back into playing hockey and into the club. They hope that this will get the whole family involved in the club in different ways.
‘We have lots of volunteers investing their time and effort in the game,’ said Steve.
‘Everyone works for the benefit of hockey. They want the best for the club, and they want it to grow.’
In line with most other sports, the 2020 season was slightly curtailed because of the impact of Covid-19 although the recent air bridge with the Isle of Man provided the opportunity for a well-supported weekend junior tournament.
‘We’ve not been able to go away but in September the Isle of Man brought over 4 junior sides, under 14 and under 16 boys and girls. We had loads of people watching and were also able to play mixed games on the Sunday.
The impressive Guernsey Hockey Club House, with licensed bar and spectator seating certainly helps to provide a great atmosphere on game day.
‘The place is packed and we’re starting to see a real club and community feel.’
Everyone is welcome and a full calendar of weekend games means there is always sporting action for those keen to watch.
For further information visit www.guernseyhockey.com