On Wednesday 1st February, we were proud to host the first regional universities small-sided women’s hockey tournament. Our own Lancaster Women’s Hockey team were joined by clubs from Sheffield Hallam and the University of Leeds, taking part in 4 games of fast-paced hockey action.
“We’ve got some stamina,” said Rhian Hughes (Sheffield Hallam) in a pre-game interview. “We’ve got a variety of players from our site for once, sometimes we end up with all defenders, but today we’ve actually got defence, mid and offense, so it’s ideal.”
The tournament was organised by student David Birch (pictured right), in collaboration with the BUCS league. You can read our interview with David about setting up the tournament here.
The home turf gave Lancaster the advantage, winning the majority of games in the tournament. Emma Prendergast, captain of the Lancaster team, was delighted by their success – “It’s going really well so far!” The wins didn’t come easily though, and all teams showed a great display of skill and endurance during every game.
With a bit of team-swapping to make up the numbers, everyone got the chance to get involved and enjoy a fantastic day of hockey. Thankfully the weather stayed relatively fine for Lancaster (we even got some sun!), allowing all the players to focus on the game and give it their all. Hopefully all the teams involved will participate in future events like this and keep up the spirit of friendly competition that was displayed during the tournament.
Greg Sturge (pictured right), the manager for BUCS small-sided hockey, helped the Sports Centre to organise the event. We caught up with Greg before the tournament to get some more information on how the programme had been developed…
Can you give us a bit of background into the BUCS league?
BUCS is the national governing body for university sports. We deliver all the inter-university leagues and all the major events that happen throughout the year. We also do a lot of development work, looking to increase participation, and running campaigns like This BUCS Girl Can. We also have international games as well, taking the teams abroad to compete in the international university competitions and tournaments.
So it’s really looking at every stage of the sport.
Yeah, it’s the full pathway. Right from the lowest participant looking to play recreationally or get fit, right through to the international athlete who will go on to represent Great Britain in the Olympics.
Small-sided hockey is something that BUCS set up recently to let universities without the numbers for a full team be able to allow those interested to still get involved. Can you explain a bit more about how they can achieve this?
Small-sided hockey is an initiative funded by Sport England, working in partnership with England Hockey to develop this six-a-side version of the game. It’s very much focusing on the recreational end, the intra-mural tournaments, looking to increase the number of people that can play hockey. It’s a lot easier to get a team of six out on a third of a pitch than a full team of 11 with a goalkeeper and a full pitch! It’s all about making it more accessible by creating an exciting, fun version of the game that students enjoy and can play on a more recreational basis alongside other 11-a-side hockey matches.
Have you visited our Lancaster campus before?
Once or twice! I think this is my second visit here.
Have you had chance to see any of the teams that will play today?
I know some of the Leeds guys, as that was my university before I went to work in BUCS, though I doubt I’ll know anyone on the team today. But I was involved with the Leeds Uni Hockey club while I was there, and I’ve done a little bit of work with the other universities playing today. They’re all here because they’re involved with the small-sided hockey project to some extent so far, so we thought this would be a great chance to pull together some of those teams that have been running it at their own institutions and give them a chance to play against other universities to develop their game.
Do you think we should have more events like this that can promote the sport?
Well this is very much a trial event for us, and assuming it goes well (and there’s no reason why it wouldn’t), it’s very much something we’re looking to continue to roll out across the sector, facilitating games and tournaments for Freshers, better trial processes (it’s a great way to trial new club members) and development tournaments between University clubs. It’s a lot easier for clubs to increase playing opportunities for developing players by creating six-a-side development teams that can play on a regional basis, and then feed into 11-a-side teams as they grow in skill and confidence.
What do you think the future of small-sided hockey will be?
I definitely think this is a way forward for the sport. We’re not going to get rid of 11s, that’s still very much the staple of the sport, but the small-sided game is that level underneath which will hopefully allow more players to access the sport and develop as hockey players, letting them go on to play 11s in future.