MOST Wildcats fans see the efforts of our senior team on the ice every weekend but Swindon’s ice hockey programme stretches right the way down to kids as young as five and there are a lot more people that put in a ton of effort to make this all work.
It starts off right from the beginning, with me teaching children to skate when they come in with their schools. I also go out to schools to do ball hockey as a late class or after school club as well as assemblies, trying to get them involved any way we can.
From then we try to get them along to our beginners’ programme on a Friday night, which anyone can come to. The first session is free and they stay here until they can move up into a team. Team training is mainly on a Monday night but we have things going on every night of the week .
I mainly oversee the 14,16 and 18 teams and Mark Perry looks after the under 10s to under 12s. Each age group has its own head coach as well. We’re pretty lucky in that we’ve got some very good coaches and people who really care about hockey.
We’re up there, if not the biggest junior programme in the country now. We’ve got 180-plus children.
On our learn to play programme on Friday nights we had over 100 kids on the ice at times and this helps to get young guys coming through.
We have to work hard at the grass roots level to get them involved but it pays off in the end.
Some of the players help out on a Monday and some come out with me into the schools. I also have two apprentices, Robbie and Jackson. Robbie has been with us a while now and Jackson is learning the ropes and he’ll be getting involved full-time soon as well.
We’ve had some good success from our schools stuff. One girl, who came to us from an assembly with Toothill School, is now playing for her age group for Great Britain. It’s nice to see that it does work. Going to schools does pay off in the long run.
When you go into schools and get them involved and see them go on to achieve something like that, it is great to see. It’s definitely worth it.