Sport Editor Ross Wilson takes a look at women’s hockey in England and the growing successes of the sport in Great Britain. From international outlooks to university perspectives, the game is becoming more popular than ever for females up and down the nation with a desire to succeed in grander sporting arenas.
Back in 2013 the International Hockey Federation announced that England would host the Women’s World Cup in 2018. As the EuroHockey championships take place here this coming August, not only does there appear to be an increasing amount of major hockey events in this country but at the same time a growing presence of elite level womens’ hockey.
The word ‘legacy’ is fervently used throughout the world of sport, football pundits/coaches and chairmen in this country are often the major culprits in its frequent misuse. Cast our minds back to the thrilling London 2012 Olympic Games and it was the GB Women’s hockey team who could hold their heads proudly in being part of that successful sporting summer, with a more than respectable bronze medal. The development of the Lee Valley Hockey centre has indicated a level of seriousness to match the drive and determination to elevate the women’s game, particularly in England.
Philip Kimberley (England Hockey Chairman) essentially echoed those sentiments by highlighting that ‘ (we) have an excellent track record of driving interest and participation through major events, and hosting world level events of such significance means we can continue our sustained effort to get more people playing and watching our sport, and in particular deliver a legacy of female participation in hockey’.
Southampton Ladies 1sts (at time of writing) sit 4th in the BUCS Western 1A, only two points behind and with a game in hand of Gloucestershire in 3rd. With fixtures having to be wrapped up by Sunday 15th March, it will be interesting to see if the team can produce a good run before the important matter of Varsity, held in Portsmouth this year. When I interviewed VP Sports Development Katie Lightowler, she talked about the development of the focus sports programme which ultimately has the aim of better training and regularity in team participation. I feel it is important the university seeks to encourage the best development of the hockey team as it begins to be more prominent internationally than ever before.
The Investec Women’s Finals Weekend takes place on the 18th and 19th of April at Lee Valley. It will cover an initiative that seeks to allow ticket buyers to help raise money for their clubs. The BBC will broadcast the EuroHockey Championships in August which will surely be a further boost to the visibility of the sport and the high levels it can be played at.
Without seeking to deliver an ill advised patronisation of female participation in sport, it is more apparent than ever that there is a desire for broader interest in women’s hockey. It should by no means be an attempt to pack in more and more sports with a superficial attempt to say how well the country is doing, but a way to display the importance of the game and its role in showcasing talent that often goes not so much unrewarded as widely unnoticed.