The new Men’s club Captain looks forward to the season ahead.
The summer always gives us a chance to refresh, revive & relocate that passion for the game that we all crave and love. The drive and time of numerous volunteers need a moment just to recharge before we go again on another all-inclusive journey. The summer is never that quiet, however, and as I sit in the sunshine on the Isle of Man, I’m pleased to report it’s all change at the top, the structure of the whole club has been rewritten and we have a brand new coaching set up in place - 2018/19 will be an exciting year for us as a men’s section, and I also wish Karen and the ladies all the best for another successful season - we look forward to hearing from her in her column shortly.
Firstly it is my great honour to have taken over as Club Captain, I have a huge pair of shoes to fill as Matt Wilde is promoted to Club Chairman. Responsibility roles within this club should never be taken lightly and if I achieve half of what Matt has in his time as Club Captain, I’ll have done a sound job. Since 2011/12 Matt has overseen a total of 11 league promotions and no relegations. On average each team in the club has gone up 1.5 leagues under his watchful eye and in that the club has also masterminded a return to South Prem Hockey (from regional 2 in 2011/12) and 2 England Hockey Championships, not bad in 7 seasons and it lays the foundations for myself and the rest of the club to drive his legacy forward. Matt not only drove the club on the pitch but has, and will continue to be, a vital cog in the future of this impressive machine of success. We are all indebted to him and his infectious desire to develop both the club and people and we wish him all the best as Blackheath and Elthamians very first Club Chairman.
It’s 70 days since the men's 1’s reclaimed the England Hockey trophy, another step in the right direction for this incredible club and just rewards for a superb second half of the season. The reason I say it’s a step in the right direction for the club is because the unity that a cup final brings is worth its weight in gold. The whole club comes together, players, coaches, juniors, families, the lot and it really does show exactly what this special club is about.
The offseason has brought about a number of interesting developments. The first being that the men have not been involved in the summer league this year, a decision made for us by the Ladies Hockey World Cup taking over Lee Valley, but what it has done is force the men 1st XI into an elongated rest. A much-needed one to be honest, as for the previous 3 summers the lads have only had 55 days break between cup final and summer league, this year, by the time the 1’s & 2’s return to the training pitch, they will have had 95 days off without any hockey. I hope this has refreshed mind and body in so much as they will be gunning to go.
Secondly, not everyone has been feet up and totally switched off. Plenty of planning and decision making has been going on behind the scenes, the men’s coaching set up has changed dramatically & plans for the coming season are very much in place. Chris Harden takes on the role of 1st XI Head Coach and Player on a full-time basis having done such a wonderful job post-Christmas last year and Jade Bloomfield has been appointed both Men’s 2’s Head Coach and club coach. All three of these roles are vital to the progression and development of the club and in Chris and Jade we have two guys who have the vision of the future of the club at the front of their minds. We will see a greater impetus on fitness, team ethos and, vitally, a fluidity within the clubs selection policy that will see anyone who is putting in the hard yards on and off the field rewarded for their endeavour. It will
also see a far more professional approach at the top end of the club and a determination to reignite the development of the rest of the club with a much improved set up for Club training on a Wednesday. 1/2’s return to the pitch on 7th August and club training will begin on 5th September. None of the above would be possible to achieve without the foresight of both these men and I wish Chris and Jade the best of luck and offer them my and the clubs full backing for the season ahead.
Next I need to report that It will be an interesting season as in 2019/20, we will see the introduction of 2 new national leagues and thus a restructure of the South and regional leagues. This season more than any season will be the year to finish as high up in the leagues as possible as ‘bonus’ promotions may be on offer for 1 year and 1 year only. The Captains are very keen and ready to go and everyone has top end finishes in mind for the season ahead. Every point and every place could matter this year, keep that in mind throughout.
So in my first season as Club Captain I wanted to set some targets. Not specific league places but some constitutional targets. My 3 points this year to the captains and coaches are to: ‘invest in the individual’, ‘encourage individual responsibility’ & ‘promote a respectful ethos’.
I believe that as a club we need to get to know each other better and from a leadership point of view I want my captains and coaches to understand their players better. That doesn’t mean players waiting to be spoken to, I want to encourage an open channel of communication between players, coaches and captains.
Captains and coaches will be making great strides to understand what makes an individual ‘tick’, at the same time as being specific with individuals roles and responsibilities in and around teams. Again, as players, do not wait and expect the coach or captain to give you plan, seek and you will find, take that responsibility on yourself as a player to discuss with your leader - you are being encouraged to ask. Find out what your role is and what’s expected of you.
With that in mind, I want players, in particular, to take greater responsibility for their own performance on the whole. I want us to increase our levels of respect for all aspects of the club and I want us to embrace the opportunity that being at a club like BEHC offers. I think in the past there has been a tendency to look away from the mirror when things are not going right or to your plan. This year and from here on in I want us to adopt a ‘search within’ approach, before looking elsewhere or pointing fingers. Ask yourself ‘have I done enough?’ ‘have I been to every session?’ ‘have I given my all?’ ‘Did I do preseason?’ ‘Have I done everything asked of me?’ ‘Have I had 6 immaculate games?’ If the answers to all of those are yes then maybe you can start to focus on other people’s performance or talk tactics or organisation with the captain or coach, but until then, let’s really focus on our own responsibility. If we get things right however and everyone understands their roles and is working towards them, then we should be in a pretty good place - no matter what team you play for.
The easiest ‘win’ we can get over the opposition is to control our controllables. There are so many things we can do to be ahead of our opposition without taking Hockey ability into account. How we approach fitness, how we treat each other, how we react to each other, how we speak to umpires, how we conduct ourselves, these are all things you can control without a hockey stick or ball. This can be stretched further to: making meet times, filling out availability, communicating about training attendance or holidays, paying subs & buying the right kit to look the part. All of these things are controllable and can make a huge difference to how you perform but ultimately how the squad performs. Respect yourself, respect your teammates and respect the club, get your own house in order, then we can worry about the opposition and everyone else, guide your focus. If we can get things right as individuals, invest in our individuals and increase our respect for the club and each other, then we will have a superb season.
On top of all I’ve said, we are working incredibly hard to improve our hospitality off the field and make sure our social experience is as higher quality as we can offer. Skippers and coaches will be making a concerted effort to improve every team’s social aspect and there are many exciting incentives for each team to implement each week as well as clear improvements to London Marathon Pavillon bar - here’s to a big year on and off the field.
We play the game hard and fair, we give it absolutely everything. We have a chance this year to do great things on the field and increase the number of promotions and defend the trophy. The club is in a good place and I urge you all to embrace what it has to offer on so many levels!
I firmly believe that this is the greatest club in the world. It ticks every box, we have elite hockey, social hockey, family hockey, socials and media beyond belief and unnumbered opportunities for every participant. However it is my absolute belief that it is the integrity, dedication and character of each and every one of the clubs members that makes this place so special. But we don’t stop there, we make it better. I wish you all the best on and off the pitch for 2018/19, play well and be successful!
Be proud, Be Worthy
All the best