Edge Hockey Centre scaling new peaks

30,000 more adults are playing hockey in England this year and Alderley Edge Hockey Club is at the forefront. It is enjoying the success of the planning and hard work which, amongst other developments, has seen it named runner-up in the 2012 European Hockey Club of the Year awards. Barry Hook visits the Edge Hockey Centre.

Kelvin Briggs knocks the spent coffee grains out of the filter and expertly refills it with freshly-ground beans. I could have been in any coffee shop watching a professional barista at work.

Kelvin Briggs

Instead, I am in the pavilion of Alderley Edge Hockey Club at the Edge Hockey Centre on the Ryleys playing field,Wilmslow Road. It’s a Friday morning and Kelvin has just finished a ‘Back to Hockey’ session.

At 4am the day before he had been atManchesterAirportwearing the costume of Eddie the Edgehog (the club’s mascot). He was bidding farewell to 100 sick children who were on their way to meet Santa Claus inLapland, courtesy of the charity, When You Wish upon a Star.

A couple of days earlier, he was meeting with the Seashell Trust to discuss a disability hockey programme and just days earlier he was representing the club at the Cheshire East Sports Awards. The club was named Club of the Year for the second consecutive year.

Fittingly, the energetic Kelvin was also called to the podium on the evening. He was named Volunteer of the Year.

Kelvin is the club’s honorary secretary and community coach but he also takes responsibility for wider issues such as the adults’ kit, merchandise and disability hockey programme.

“We are looking to partner with the Seashell Trust and Cheshire East Council to develop a programme for people with learning difficulties and people with disabilities. Hopefully, we will have that it operation by the Spring,” he says.

Undoubtedly, the club is thriving. Remarkably, it was runner-up in the 2012 European Hockey Club of the Year awards.

“Membership is currently showing a 46% increase over the last 2-years,” says Kelvin. “That’s on the back of opening our new artificial grass pitch in 2011 and the success of the English Hockey teams in the Olympics.

“We’ve just started our 7th men’s team alongside our 6 ladies’ teams and we are delivering a popular junior hockey programme in local schools.

“We are delighted that Emily Spencer is now having trials for the U-18 national team having represented the North of England along with seven other club members.”

Every Sunday morning, rain or shine, there are over 170 juniors taking part in age group sessions at the Edge Hockey Centre. “Children’s hockey is a big feature at the club. Each half-term and throughout the summer holidays we arrange Hockey Camps for children where they can learn the core skills and have fun being coached by top England coaches and leaders.”

As someone tweeted last month: ‘These guys are doing it right. Leading the field in many ways’.

And to a large degree the Alderley club (which is part of the four-sport Alderley Edge Cricket Club – hockey, cricket, squash and tennis) has ‘to do it right’. So much depends on it.

Last year, the club invested £520,000 in a state of the art artificial pitch. After years of fund raising and grants from both the National Hockey Foundation and the Alderley Edge Institute Trust, the club committed itself to a £300,000 bank loan; so the fund raising (like the annual village firework display which the club organises and the many coaching and training initiatives) has to continue.

That investment in the pitch – widely regarded as one of the vey best in the North of England – and the Edge Hockey Centre’ is reaping real dividends for the club and the community.

Additional revenue is generated from the 26 pitch-side advertising boards. “We only have six boards remaining to be sold,” said Kelvin. At £690 + vat for a 3-year advertisement and on a facility which is used everyday of the year, that sounds like tremendous exposure.

It’s what Kelvin describes as ‘needing to be more savvy’ in order to fund the club’s development and coaching.

The ‘Back to Hockey’ session which I interrupted is just one of those initiatives.

Every Thursday night and Friday morning it offers £5 sessions for ladies returning to the game or just starting out. Sticks and equipment are provided as well as a post session coffee, tea or hot chocolate and a chat. What better way is there of keeping fit and re-kindling a past-time? The activities and coaching cater for all levels of skill and fitness and avoid being highly competitive.

Rush Hockey, held every Wednesday evening from April, is for those who love a team sport but can never find the time to commit to one. This turn-up-and-pay-as-you-play (£4 a session) version of the game is fast, furious and fun. Played on smaller pitches with teams of 4 or 5, there are few rules but lots of excitement and involvement.

Those are also two of the ingredients found in the club’s weekly Junior Quicksticks Hockey Club. Held after school on Wednesdays, sticks are provided and beginners are welcome. Just pay as you play at £4.

“We have a fantastic team of volunteers at the Club and my award is really one for the team. Our coaches, parents and young leaders and players put so much effort in to providing ‘Sport for All’ at the club and the local community,” said Kelvin

Certainly great things are being achieved at the Edge Hockey Centre and yes, towering peaks are being scaled . . . to say nothing about the excellent fresh Cappuccino. One lump or two?

For membership details contact Kelvin Briggs, kelvinbriggs@btconnect.com  07825 213205. For all other information visit  www.aecc.org.uk/

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