Perthshire Hockey is proving that lockdown may close pitches but it cannot stop sporting spirit and togetherness.
As one of the first to sign up to Scottish Hockey’s new club pledge, it is showing a strong commitment to maintaining a sense of community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new hockey club pledge includes a commitment to hold weekly online video meetings as well as encouraging virtual club social events, setting challenges to raise money for charity and good causes, and profiling club members who are on the frontline.
Perthshire Hockey has been part of Perth’s sporting life since 1975 when Perth Hockey, Murray Royal Hockey Club and Perth High School Ladies’ Former Pupils amalgamated.
As well as the recent Scottish Hockey lockdown pledge, it also holds a bronze level PACES accreditation – the quality assurance system to help sports clubs operate efficiently and effectively, offering guidance on policies and procedures - and providing support for development.
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Gordon Loudon has been the club president for the past seven years and helped push the club through the PACES accreditation as part of an ambitious five-year development plan which has seen the club secure £22,000 of grant funding from sportscotland.
Gordon commented: “Being PACES accredited has helped us get access to grants, workshops and other courses run by LAL, which aid our progress in a myriad of ways.
“As well as this, a number of our performance level athletes have been part of the Talented Athlete Scheme giving them free access to venues as they seek to build strength and conditioning and overall fitness. It’s a great scheme.
“Our five-year development period is about to come to an end and so we’re now fixing Zoom meetings to get the next five years in place. I’m proud to say that, thanks to our many volunteers and the help of Scott Madden at Scottish Hockey, it’s been a real success story.”
The funding has been used in the main to secure a professional coach development officer, Perth resident and past Perthshire Hockey player, Jess Martin.
“Jess is an incredible player and has proved to be a fantastic coach,” added Gordon. “She works primarily with Perth High School and its feeder primary schools in the area, encouraging youngsters to take up the game.
“It’s paying off, with Perthshire boys under-18s now Scottish Cup holders for both indoor and outdoor hockey.
“Both the girls and boys Perth Schools teams - made up of Perth High, Perth Academy and Perth Grammar pupils to compete in the Aspire Cup - made the Scottish Aspire Club finals earlier this year.”
The club’s PACES accreditation and work with Live Active Sport has seen the relationship with the schools develop further – and is a ‘vital link’ in the ongoing survival of the club.
Gordon explains: “Working with LAL Sport and gaining that PACES accreditation has allowed us to build partnerships with the Active Schools programme and attract young hockey players into the game.
“As a club we then help develop these players with a view to graduating them onto senior hockey.
“By the time they leave school and move to university they have become confident players and many go on to play into adulthood with some returning for our mixed social hockey during the summer.”
At present, Perthshire has two players in the national performance squad, seven in the Scottish development squad and 11 in the midlands squad.
There are also six players in the under-16 squad.
The club now boasts around 250 members across all age groups and has a core of 20 volunteers.
Gordon continued: “We are fortunate to have a team of dedicated coaches, some ex-internationalists such as Neil Mitchell, one of the country’s leading coaches, Stephen Dick ex-Team GB and Scotland, and husband and wife team, Kerr and Karen Thomson who are both ex-Scottish internationalists.
“Together they have produced many players who have gone on to gain national recognition in various age groups.”
The hockey season runs from August to April, switching to indoor training at Perth College UHI’s Academy of Sport and Wellbeing between December and February, and Bell’s Sports Centre for social indoor hockey on a Friday evening during the winter months.
While action is currently off due to the coronavirus outbreak, online fitness sessions and quirky skill challenges continue to keep members busy.
“The team captains and members have really worked hard to ensure we stay connected,” Gordon concluded.