Bray Hockey Club

Founded 1993

Co. Wicklow

Bray Hockey Club Juniors Report 2022-2023

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The 2022/23 season started strong with 650 junior members all ready to get out and play hockey. The junior members play in 8 competitive league age groups across 18 divisions for boys and girls, from 6th class to U16s. Our U8’s to 5th class also took part in numerous blitzes and friendly matches. We saw big improvements at all levels and we are proud of how our players trained and competed, always with a smile on their faces.

This year, we introduced a number of new initiatives to help with the development of the junior section. Most age groups were assigned a Manager, generally a parent that has volunteered, to support with admin and communications. This worked really well and allowed the coaches to do what they do best.

The junior section has traditionally relied heavily on volunteer coaches, primarily parents, to get our kids out training each week. However we recognised the need to supplement our volunteers with the modern hockey skills which are required in today’s game by introducing our Junior Coaches Incentive. This proved key to the progression and development of our junior members, particularly in the competitive leagues and is the way forward if our junior members are to continue learning and developing their hockey skills to keep up and match current levels. It was most rewarding to see our older junior members (5th, 6th year & 3rd level students) stepping up to coach across all age groups.

On the coaching development side of things, our coaching director Nasir Munir Chaudhry worked with a number of priority age-groups, including the Boys U12’s, U14’s, U16’s and Minor Girls. A number of our coaches attained Hockey Ireland Coaching Qualifications, both at Fundamentals and Level 1.

There was also a focus on goal keepers as again, there is a shortage, primarily with the girls section, with many keepers covering multiple teams. Erin Lloyd, the Senior Ladies keeper hosted introductory sessions for 6th class & 1st year girls which sparked some interest. We introduced senior level keepers, Holly Miklim (Ireland U21) and Cameron Larkin (Senior Men YMCA) to train the minor and U16 girls with fortnightly sessions. The junior boys also benefited from keeper training from Sarann Kennedy on Friday nights in TCG. We also ran a one-off session with Irish Goalkeeping Coach Nigel Henderson. They were extremely successful and a necessity next season.

Our Gaisce members also took another step with their volunteer programme by umpiring junior level games and also helping out with coaching. With the number of competitive matches being played each week, there is also a shortage of umpires. Having them step up to help out and gain experience was also key in helping the junior section run smoothly each week.

Lastly, Andy Lynham did a sterling job as junior fixtures secretary and introduced a new match schedule management system which made communication of matches more efficient and manageable to follow. Not an easy task with so many teams and only two pitches!

The girls section had slightly lower numbers this season with 570 girls compared to 600 last season, which was expected due to a large 4th year group moving to senior level. We also noted drop off with the transition from primary to secondary due to the strong focus on hockey training across secondary schools leaving little or no time for club hockey. The girls section still stands strong and a waiting list is in place for the upcoming season. In total we had 7 x 6th Class teams, 4 x 1st year teams, 3 x Minor teams and 5 x U16 teams. It was another successful year with the majority of teams from each group reaching semi-final or finals in their leagues or cup matches with our Inter 2 girls winning the Div 3 Shield and Inter 5 winning the Div 8 league. Players were pulled up to play in higher age groups throughout the season with ease, a note to the high standard coming through the club. We have girls representing at all interpro levels from the U15 Development squad, U16 and U18 groups for South East Region. There was great progression for our Inter girls with many playing within the Senior Ladies teams including the Ladies 1st’s who were promoted to Div1. Playing at senior level gives them a taste for senior hockey and also helps with the transition. Next year, we hope to introduce our first U18’s girls team. As much as the majority are ready for seniors, we have many that are not. This period is normally where players drop off, for many various reasons, and having an alternative option to senior level may help in keeping players and also be an outlet for this age group at an important time in their lives. Abdullah Chaudhry has committed to coaching the U18’s which is a great start.

The boys section had 85 registered members this season which is 11 less than last season. We continue to compete with bigger sports like soccer and rugby and this year some of our boys have chosen to prioritise these sports over hockey. Nevertheless, we managed to field teams in the U16B league, U14B league, U12 B and D leagues and played blitzes at U10 and U8 level. We competed well at all age groups and there was a huge improvement in each team throughout the year. There were two significant developments in the boys section this year. Firstly, our U8 boys trained with the rest of the primary school boys in Loreto. It was brilliant to see so many boys on the pitch and we believe this is an important element in our long term development of the club. We intend to recruit more boys at this age group, to build a solid foundation for the future. Secondly, we ran an introduction to boys hockey course for 6th class boys in local schools. 15 boys graduated from the course and we hope that most of them will go on to play hockey in secondary school and hopefully with Bray as well. We had 7 boys play representative hockey with Leinster this season and this is a clear indicator that we are edging towards the top levels of hockey in Ireland. A large number of boys continued to step up and play senior hockey this year as well, and made big contributions, especially as part of the Men’s 2nds team who were promoted to Division 3. For next season, we hope to grow the number of boys playing hockey for Bray and need the help of all of our members to get the word out.

On the social side of things we had our traditional halloween session but unfortunately due to bad weather the christmas hockey session was cancelled. We had a great turnout for the Bray St Patricks Day parade with our new celebrity, Brion the Lion. For the first time we held an awards night for all our competitive age groups over two separate events. Each took place in Greystones RFC due to accommodating large numbers and were a wonderful way to recognise player and team achievements. The end of season U16 boys and girls match took place again this year and more interaction between these groups across all junior ages, throughout the season, should be encouraged going forward.

For next year, we will continue to be one of the biggest hockey clubs in Leinster and we will focus on maintaining and improving the level of coaching to meet today’s standards, whilst also ensuring that our junior members enjoy spending time with their teammates, regardless of whether they win or lose. For the girls side in particular numbers are not the issue but we do need further investment in quality coaches, a strong coaching structure from Junior Infants to U16’s and continued training in umpiring and coaching. A greater link between mens and ladies' sides as mentors to our junior members is also important to help instil a sense of community, pride and loyalty to the club.

To finish, the junior section is thriving and hopefully will continue to do so. We could not do this without the support of our volunteers and coaches, who we want to extend our grateful thanks too. The support of the committee must also be recognised. Thank you!

John Lush - Junior Boys Coordinator

Michelle Lambert - Junior Girls Coordinator

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