Scottish Hockey have been working with young athletes from around the country to give them an introduction to the sport. Working in partnership with local clubs, primary schools and secondary schools, the Club Connect programme exists to increase participation in hockey clubs across Scotland.
The Club Connect Programme was formally introduced in 2016 with the aim of fully embedding hockey into local schools and encouraging students to stay involved with the sport both inside and outside of school.
Scott Madden, Scottish Hockey lead regional development manager, said: “The programme came about through discussion between club reps and Scottish Hockey on ways we could improve school-to-club links in Perth.
"Perthshire Hockey Club were re-evaluating their youth offering and wanted to ensure maximum impact from the programmes they put in place.
"It was felt that embedding the club within a secondary school along with the primary cluster would ensure a very clear pathway for players, parents, coaches and officials into the club setting.”
The Club Connect programme offers pupils the opportunity to test their hockey ability and learn new skills from coaching sessions by Scottish international players. Students also take part in a Q&A with the players before putting the new skills they have learned into practice by playing against students from other parts of Scotland.
Since the programme was piloted in 2016, more than 60 pupils have taken part in the initiative. Through this, each pupil has now seen an increase in their hockey coaching time at school. Scottish Hockey have also seen an increase in the uptake of the sport at a local level following a Club Connect event.
Perth High School
In 2018, the Club Connect programme ran in Perth for the very first time. The event saw four teams made up of students progress to the National Primary Hockey Festival, which took place in Glasgow in June 2018.
Since the event, hockey is now thriving in Perth High School due to the students' passion for the sport. There are now 31 pupils taking part in the S1 and S2 group, with a noticeable increase in the older students' extra-curricular hockey classes too.
However, participation isn’t the only metric of how Perth High School are reaping the benefits of their involvement in the Club Connect programme.
The school has also seen an improvement in performance results. The school team enjoyed success in the Perth and Kinross Schools Hockey Tournament, they are currently top of the outdoor league and they also finished first at a recent indoor tournament.
Soft skill development
At the same time, there are evident benefits for the pupils on a personal level. Alongside their improvement on a sporting level, there have been noticeable developments at a softer skill level.
Scott Madden said: “While coaching the club connect groups, I have noticed a huge change in their ability to take responsibility for their own improvement and performance.”
Club Connect provides students with more time to interact with each other on a personal level, increasing their social skills and encouraging them to take more responsibility both within and outwith their sport. Currently, S2 players are entrusted to run their own effective warm-ups and drills.
It is not only the players’ hockey skills that are improving, but also their decision making, creativity and responsibility.
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