On Sunday 30 March 2014, 49 disabled hockey players from across England were joined by 15 GB players for master-class coaching and games at Walthamstow Academy; the GB players were Giselle Ansley, Grace Balsdon, Alex Danson, Amy Gibson, Nikki Kidd, Jo Leigh, Kirsty Mackay, Sam Quek, Georgie Twigg, Sally Walton, Ellie Watton, Nic White, Alastair Brogdon, Andy Bull and Iain Lewers, who were also joined by ladies team coach Jason Lee and men’s team manager Andy Halliday.
With Flyerz hockey starting to spread nationwide, this was the first attempt to bring together Flyerz clubs from around the country for a Flyerz Club Day, and we were joined by Stevenage Flyerz, Phoenix Flyerz and Yeovil, as well as another local group.
The weather couldn’t have been better, and the sunshine and blue skies reflected the mood on the pitch. In the morning, as participants were put through their paces by the GB stars in a series of coaching drills, the atmosphere was one of fun and camaraderie. But still everyone was focused and serious about improving their hockey, and the concentration was clear to see as young players tried to perfect new skills. The GB aces were supported by an army of volunteers from within the club, and on-pitch rivalry was set aside as neighbours Wapping HC also supported the day, as well as the usual support from Access Sport.
After lunch, GB players were allocated to teams and joined in with small-sided hockey games, split into two levels so everyone could compete at their own ability.
Pani said after the event “I’m buzzing! Everyone’s got a huge smile on their face – this is what it’s all about! I saw on the pitch today the kind of joy that you only get from sport – players doing something they love alongside their friends and team-mates. And thanks to a small group of clubs and volunteers around the country who are working hard to grow the Flyerz family, players who normally wouldn’t get the chance to play and compete, now can. For us volunteers, the sense of pride and joy is immense. I would urge any club to set up a Flyerz section, if for no other reason than because it’s so much fun!”
Pani continued “Something else that made this day so special was the support from the GB players. Once again they’ve thrown themselves in with barrels of energy and enthusiasm – it’s infectious and it inspires everyone around them. We can’t thank them enough for their ongoing support.”
One of the Flyerz at the event said “I’m so excited to meet the GB players, they’re so nice. It was fun to tackle them!” One of the parents, who was watching proudly from the sidelines, said “my son has loved today. Playing hockey has become a really big part of his life, and he can’t wait to play every week.”
Following the event, several GB stars and Flyerz clubs took to twitter “Great day with @ForestFlyerz for Flyerz Day. Brilliant to see so many people enjoying hockey. Looking forward to the next time!!”, and “Super Flyerz Day @ForestFlyerz lots of coaching, super stars, great hospitality and best of all #Flyerz having fun!”
The next event on the Flyerz calendar is Flyerz Festival on Sat 21 June 2014, an international tournament for players with learning disabilities. Forest Flyerz hope to welcome 20 teams to the event, and even more GB players! Read more about the event here