Support through Sport UK's Claire Allen spoke to Ann Harris, Pam Machin and Lorraine Ferrin about their experiences of England Hockey's 'Back to Hockey' Programme ...
 
What prompted you to sign up for England Hockey's 'Back to Hockey' Programme?
 
Ann: I saw a local advertisement and had wanted to do some form of  exercise. I had always enjoyed hockey when I played years ago and so, with the encouragement of my daughter, I made the phone call and went along to my first training session.
 
Lorraine:  I’d always enjoyed hockey when I was younger. I played for the school team and wanted to get back into it.
 
Pam: It was my daughter, she wanted to play hockey and the 'Back to Hockey' sessions ran alongside a junior training session.
 
How did you find out about the programme?
 
Ann: The local secondary school had a banner outside advertising 'Back to Hockey'.
 
Lorraine: A colleague of mine mentioned she played mixed hockey, so I went along and tried it but wanted to get back into ladies hockey - so I looked for information about local hockey clubs and found the 'Back to Hockey' Programme at Caroline Chisholm School.
 
Pam: I went online and searched for local hockey training sessions.
 
How have you found the programme?
 
Ann: It has been excellent. The sessions I attended were fun with really friendly, patient and encouraging coaches. I thought it would be a bit daunting and was unsure if I was going to be able to keep up. I also wasn't sure if I would remember the skills - it was 18 years since I'd last picked up a stick - and so not only has my life moved on - but so has the game in terms of pitches, sticks and rules. However the programme was - and I am sure it was all credit to our coaches - steady, achievable, fun and rewarding. And all in an hour and a half.
 
Lorraine: The programme has been very rewarding; it's taught me skills which I previously didn't have.
 
Pam: The programme was very good, it was good for fitness and learning hockey skills.
 
What benefits do you think the programme brings?
 
Ann: It's been great getting some exercise with a group of like-minded ladies and gents. I've made some new friends and have a wider circle of real people to talk to - not just links in a network. We've had some real laughs but felt we worked hard at every session, there was no going soft or easy as we hadn't played for ages - but we all progressed at our own speed. Another benefit is that, through playing and attending sessions, I have proved to myself and my husband that I still have the ability to do some form of physical exercise other than pushing a hoover around!
 
Lorraine: The programme offers the opportunity to learn new skills and improve existing skills and caters for players of all levels and abilities. It has improved my fitness levels considerably!
 
Pam: It shows you what hockey is about and how much fun it can be.
 
Have you continued playing hockey since finishing the programme?
 
Ann: Yes, I was lucky enough to be part of a 'Back to Hockey' Group that was enthusiastic enough to want to keep playing as a group. Our Back to Hockey Coaches were so committed that they started a brand new club. It couldn't have been better.
 
Lorraine: I have continued to play hockey and now wouldn’t know what else to do with my Saturdays!
 
Pam: Yes, a hockey club was formed from the players and coaches who attended the sessions.
 
How have you found playing club hockey?
 
Ann: It's great playing a team game that I enjoy and feeling that I'm getting some health benefit. Playing within a really friendly new team means that we come off the pitch on a high, even when we've lost a match. We've gelled quickly as a new team; we fit together really well. Under the superb guidance of our 'Back to Hockey' Coach - and now Team Captain - we've all found a position we're comfortable with. My daughter now plays for the new team, so it's great to spend some time together. both playing a game we love. She does a lot more running than me - but it's great to come off the pitch together and congratulate each other and talk about the game after - she's my best critic!
 
Lorraine: I love the buzz of the matches and have a great bunch of team mates who all support each other.
 
Pam: I love it. I have made new friends and it keeps me fit. I enjoy the social side of it as well, everyone gets on and whether we win or lose we are all still smiling at the end.
 
Do you think you would have got to this stage if you hadn't have done 'Back to Hockey' first?
 
Ann: No definitely not. I wouldn't have approached a club to just begin playing or training, as I knew I wasn't fit enough and didn't know if I still had the skills to be able to play.
 
Lorraine: I think without the 'Back to Hockey' Programme I wouldn’t have had the confidence to apply directly to a club. The programme allows you to take it step by step.
 
Pam: No, I don't think so. The 'Back to Hockey' sessions were like refreshers and enabled me to see if I could still play. It was also great to be with other players who hadn't played for years or who had never played before, as we were all at the same stage and there was no pressure.
 
What would you say to someone thinking about doing some 'Back to Hockey' sessions?
 
Ann: Give it a go. It's not as daunting as you think and you will find you are with a group of like-minded people, all unsure if they are doing the right thing.
 
Lorraine:  Go for it! Come along and try a session, you won’t look back.
 
Pam: I think they should go for it and try it because you have nothing to lose. It doesn't matter if you've never played before or are unfit, that will all come together in time.
 
Is there anything else you'd like to say about your experiences of returning to hockey?
 
Ann: Hockey has given me health benefits - but also a whole new circle of friends and it's rekindled my interest in the sport, meaning I am more able to support my daughter with her hockey ambitions.
 
Lorraine: I haven’t looked back since joining and love it. I would recommend it to anyone. It has become a passion!
 
Pam: I just wish I had done it years ago.
 
Ann, Pam and Lorraine now all play for Wootton Wanderers Hockey Club and have just completed their first seasons with the club, which is already highly-ranked in its league.