Get Inspired: Walking hockey gets Bromsgrove moving into 2017

Coach Alan Gormley hosts the first session of walking hockey at Bromsgrove Hockey Club
Coach Alan Gormley hosts the first session of walking hockey at Bromsgrove Hockey Club

One of the UK's fastest growing sports in recent years has been walking football.

There are now more than 1,000 clubs - a five-fold increase from two years ago - putting on sessions that offer genuine health benefits to those who want to stay active but can't manage a full-speed game.

And that success is now inspiring other sports providers to get involved.

Bromsgrove Hockey Club started holding 'Back to Hockey' sessions back in 2009 for former players who wanted a return to the game.

But that provision has now extended to walking hockey, the brainchild of one club member - Liz Morris - who struggled to keep up with the regular sessions but was determined to keep playing.

"I loved hockey when I was younger," she says. "I played at school and then for Birmingham Municipal HC until I was about 30 then it all stopped.

"After a gap of 20-something years, I tried Back To Hockey but needed something a little slower, so I suggested that we start a walking hockey club."

Bromsgrove's head development coach Alan Gormley liked the idea and decided to put on a six-week run of sessions, starting on 9 January, and the response was even better than he'd hoped.

"It was incredible to see so many new faces to the session on Monday," says Alan. "I was optimistically aiming for 20, so it is great that so many more attended. It shows my marketing paid off!"

Participants ranged from those aged 60-plus, looking for gentle exercise in a fun environment, to a Slimming World group and some using the session for rehabilitation - from knee surgery and even cancer.

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In 2015, Anne Turton was diagnosed with myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow) and, having undergone chemotherapy, wanted to use walking hockey to build her fitness and stamina.

'I played a lot of hockey as a youngster and it was my passion," she says. "I played a couple of seasons with Bromsgrove Ladies but then I stopped and I wasn't very active.

"I have come through some pretty hefty chemo sessions and this is part of my recovery periods, to build up stamina and to get as fit as I can. I wanted to get out and meet people rather than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself."

The impressive numbers for Alan's first session were no fluke. He was proactive in identifying a local need, planning and promoting the sessions and getting help from club members.

Here's the Gormley checklist for any club wanting to start up its own sessions:

Walking hockey set-up checklist
ResearchLook carefully at your local market for sports activity to see if there is a need or latent requirement
MarketingPromote your sessions across all media channels regularly and in a lively and varied way
AffiliationInvolve your local sports bodies and contact your regional English Hockey relationship manager.
CostsEstablish a project cost model that is attractive to and affordable for participants and sustainable for your club
SchedulingIf possible, run the session before a Back To Hockey or club session so people can see, if they want to, a pathway to getting involved
Enlist help!Involve other suitable club members in the launch session
EquipmentHave a good supply of long sticks so people do not have to bend too far - lots of our people were older and less flexible than existing players.
Start gentlyCreate a first session that eases people into the sport, paying particular attention to a relevant warm-up and a run through basic skills
Keep it relaxedParticipants will have a vast range of expectations and will almost certainly be nervous and/or apprehensive, so have a coach who can relate to and communicate with participants in a lively, relaxed and friendly way
FeedbackFollow up immediately after the session with each person to get their reaction

If you want to get involved with walking hockey at Bromsgrove, contact Alan Gormley at alan@sport-edge.co.uk or if you're interested in starting up a similar scheme, contact the national associations for England,Wales,Scotland and Northern Ireland.

You can also check out our activity guide to find out other ways to get into hockey.