It's turning out to be another remarkable season here at Wapping, so I've tried to capture below some of what's been going on. As ever, if you have suggestions for how to improve the club, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
This is really quite staggering. Last season, M2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9 & L5 all promoted and a couple of near misses (M1, L6) made for our most successful season to date. We may surpass even that if all goes well this season.
Check out the current positions:
The following teams are top of their league: M1, 4, 5, 7, 9, X, L1, 6, 7. Yes, 9/17 teams are in pole position. 3rd place M2, 3. 4th place L2, M6. Scroll down the league tables and there's an awful lot of Wapping doing well.
You are simply playing better hockey than ever.
I put a lot of this down to culture - we are people who enjoy competitive sport, and competition for places is causing a phenomenal work rate at all levels - heck, the MX even circulated a nutrition & hydration plan and it wasn't even sent as a joke! Whilst the influx of new players / uncertainty around your place in the squad can sometimes be challenging (believe me, I've been dropped a lot), it is this culture of competition that is the biggest contributor to your on pitch success.
A lot of thanks has to go to the coaches too for enjoyable & effective training (and, generally, sensible selection decisions putting the wider club first), and to you the members, for effective participation in those sessions (as well as games). We continue to push credibly towards the national league, but there's no rush, it will eventually happen for any club buzzing as much as this. But it's more than that. National League is a big prize / benchmark of success, but this is about lifting the whole club, getting all of our teams up, improving the hockey we play right through from beginner to top.
One of the drawbacks higher performing clubs sometimes suffer is competition for places can test friendships. It can lead to an over-serious environment if you're not careful. Although you can obviously take as much or as little as you like from your membership, it's really encouraging to see that we have people enjoying their games, choosing to socialise together, watching other teams play, and really making the club a positive place to be.
Now we have the John Orwell again, I'm optimistic that the Cape night out can get back to where it was a couple of years back. Really pleasing to see folks making the effort to come for a jar after an away game. To my mind, it is the social side of this club that puts us streets ahead of some rivals & this is something we will continue to work on.
3 Volunteering & generally stepping up
It used to be that folks that wanted to help took some job on the committee and that was that. Perhaps because of the positive atmosphere winning & lashing generates, folks are really stepping up this year. We have stacks of volunteer coaches, the new Kidds club is entirely volunteer powered, so is the Flyerz section and we have the most umpires we've ever had. Back to Hockey was another great success last summer, but for the first time ever it was free, thanks to volunteer coaches & further volunteer time getting the Freesport grants for the pitch. We are really pulling together to make this club everything it can be and that is brilliant to see.
4 Growing membership
This is a healthy fun club and people want to join. We are doing exactly what we promised we would do if we had help with facilities. More and more people are not just playing but learning hockey with us. I think we're on something like 5 or 6 beginners joined just this month. Driving participation like this underpins everything you see with facilities and so on and that's why the biggest investments this season have been into lower (then mid) section training.
A big thank you also to everyone for making these players welcome, to the men for making MX a success and to the ladies with their patience on L8. The only reason we start new teams is to make sure you have enough pitch time & for the most part, this is working out for you all - the new joiners generally haven't led to taking loads of subs which would happen without the new teams.
Another key point to make here is goalies. Pretty much every club in London and many beyond will be short of goalies from time to time. But we are one of very few that not only attracts them, but creates them too. We have three brand new goalies created just this season. Not many clubs do that with adults. This will remain a key area for us to invest in and we're looking at how we can further enhance goalie training. It is a telling illustration of our increasingly exacting standards that despite the progress we think there is far, far more we can do for goalies and we should have extra dedicated training starting very soon.
Some incredible work going on here. From barely supplying any a few years back, we are now one of the largest contributors to the umpiring pool. We've hosted an umpiring course, a coaching day, and we've got a brilliant level of focus on it. I'll let the stats speak for themselves:
Across pool, L1 and candidate:
- we started the season with 47 and now have 79 umpires. An upgrade of 32.
- 9 successful panel umpire assessments (at various levels) and 7 L1 passes (so far).
- We are now one of the largest supplies of panel umpires in the East League. But more still to do as this area has to develop at the same pace as our scarily rapid playing development.
They said it couldn't be done! We have a brand new youth hockey sister club. The first targeting primary age children in inner London. It's fully sponsored and by working in partnership with the council & with the volunteers' help, it is running at a cost to the club of, drum roll, ZERO - there are no overheads! Incredible.
7 Inclusive environment
Some of you may know Hoff is up for an award for this. Just a couple of years ago, we had one female coach. Targeted investment and mentoring has resulted in us now having 5 female lead coaches and 8 female assistants, and that's not including Wapping Kidds HC (see here: Kidds). Incredible.
Other inclusion work is ongoing. We have more and more people with disabilities in the main club and we just launched Wapping Flyerz, see here: Flyerz. We are removing all barriers to our sport as we find them and frankly, with your help, we are smashing it. You are all awesome.
Improving and improving. From the excitement in 2013 for a pub we could all fit in for the first time in ages (heck, we were excited to get a kit store by the pitch that year), to now:
Three national league grade pitches. Playing where England play. Watching them win gold on our pitch. But now playing too in the heart of Wapping having helped deliver a massive improvement to a community facility. Pitchside catering to covered spectator seating. I mean this. Imminently, we will have menus up at the JO from the Turks Head and you'll be able to text and get a cuppa brought to you in the stand! And in doing so, fund the club! How great is that?!
And of course, covered seating at Lee Valley too. This is increasingly a club where we have a great environment to watch hockey as well as playing it.
9 Innovative and well supported
Consistency for a few years on club direction & officers has allowed us to build deep and effective relationships. There aren't many clubs with clubwide sponsors for home, away, youth, and so on. With the fantastic level of support from the Council alongside this, we are building an offering for all. I'm delighted we have never turned someone away for financial reasons since putting these relationships in place, and over the longer term, I hope we can get to the point we never have to turn anyone away again.
Look at the innovations too. We even have our own beer, seriously, how cool is that! And we're helping other clubs to do the same.
As a result of all this, the rep of the club continues to grow and we get quality media coverage every week. We've been on telly, we've been in the international hockey press, all of this helping our sponsors, but also helping attract first rate coaches and members to the club.
Ladies and Gentlemen, that is how I see things a little over half way through the season. You'll note I haven't attempted individual thank yous in this piece unlike usual. Partly because there are so many to thank that it'd make it even longer. But mainly because I want to say a big thank you to all of you. Members, former members, visiting umpires, facilities providers, stakeholders, commercial partners, other hockey clubs, everyone who is touching this club in some way is causing this unprecedented level of success.
Well done all and thank you!
Updated 20:13 - 4 Mar 2016 by Joel Marsden
Chairman, Wapping HC