IT WAS party time for Bromsgrove’s Walking Hockey last night as the sport celebrated its second birthday with an appearance from BBC broadcaster John Inverdale.
John joined in with the weekly session where six people who had not played hockey for more than 30 years joined the regulars.
Afterwards there was a celebration at the clubhouse featuring a special second birthday cake and a buffet.
Walking Hockey was invented in Bromsgrove in 2017 and began with a six-week pilot programme. Its popularity snowballed and it took England Hockey’s prestigious ‘Innovation Award’.
Between then and now Walking Hockey has been exported around the World and there are now people playing it in Australia, New Zealand and Dubai.
There are pilot Walking Hockey sessions taking place in France and at the weekend The Old Stars, which run Walking Football in 360 clubs in the Netherlands including 14 premier league clubs, pitched the idea of Walking Hockey to the Dutch Hockey Association and it will now be introduced there.
Alan Gormley who runs the sessions has been contacted by hockey representatives in Uruguay.
There are 43 clubs playing it in England, Wales are on board to take it up, Scotland is interested and people have flown in from Ireland and the USA to see the sport being played with a view to introducing it over there.
Tournaments in Walking Hockey have been played and at the Hockey World Cup, players from Bromsgrove showcased the walking form of the game there.
Alan told The Standard: “ I can’t believe what started with ten people in Bromsgrove has gone Worldwide.
“It shows the level of interest in it.
”The success is all down to the people of the Bromsgrove and the surrounding areas who have supported it and turned up to play on a regular basis.”
Bromsgrove has 50 players signed up for the sport, including people from Worcester, Redditch and even one from Hampton-in-Arden who come each week to play.
“Some weeks we have 12 people, other times over 30 – people just love dropping in when they can to play.
“It is a great all inclusive sport – it is suitable for any age and any physical ability.
“We have everyone from teenagers to people who are 60 to 70 years old.”
Pilots have been held in Droitwich and Stourport and Alan said he hoped, going forward, other Worcestershire areas would have their own sessions.
John said: “I have been staggered by the enthusiasm and the sense of community – it’s just brilliant.
“It has been really good fun and a great way to get over 55s active.
“I had my phone on me which counts my steps and I managed 10,000 during the session.
“It keeps your body active but it is also good for your mind as well as you are thinking about aspects of the game, such as where to go and who to pass to.
“People who face medical conditions and problems on a daily basis forget about them while they are on the pitch.
“It’s also a good way to combat loneliness and isolation because there’s a very sociable aspect to the sport. I’ve met people tonight who look forward to it every week.
“There are so many benefits to the sport.”
Bromsgrove Hockey in general has also enjoyed a purple patch in the last three years.
As well as Walking Hockey, there was the unveiling of the brand new full-size, floodlit, sand-dressed astroturf in 2016 after a 12-month building programme.
Prior to that there was the four-year ‘Astro for All’ campaign to raise the funds for the new pitch.
The pitch meant Bromsgrove Hockey Club, which previously had to play its home matches in Redditch, was able to return to the town.
Ten years ago the hockey club was struggling to get four men’s teams and had just two women’s teams.
Now it has five men’s teams and six women’s.
The number of juniors has increased dramatically from 30 to more than 200, the under 14s and under 16s are playing teams from the national league and the under 12s made a national final.
Alan added: “It just shows if the facilities are there, people will come and play.”
Walking Hockey sessions are held every Monday from 7.30pm to 8.30pm.
Contact Alan Gormley via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07731 369942 for more information.
No previous hockey experience is needed.