As we approach another incredible weekend of hockey in exchange for our 9-5’s, we wanted to look back over last weekend’s visit to North Wales.
Whilst enjoying a very crisp morning in Wrexham, watching Wrexham Glyndwr ladies take on Alderley Edge, we were fortunate enough to catch up with Hockey Wales elected board member, coach and umpire, Derrick Heaton-Rue. A man we could very possibly describe as Northop Hall’s biggest fan!
Derrick who regularly volunteers for the club as an umpire, coach and committee member talked fondly of his connection to Northop Hall and to hockey as a sport. A firm fixture amongst the club and the Hockey Wales Board of Directors, Derrick believes more people should come forward to offer support to clubs:
“My son joined Northop Hall, so I started umpiring to spend more time with him and help the club where I could. Sports clubs are crying out for our help and without the support of volunteers, we’ll see them fold sadly, which very nearly happened to us of course but thankfully we managed to survive.”
With the recent addition of a third men’s team, Northop Hall have gone from strength to strength over the last few years. Something that undoubtedly felt miles away back in 2010 when the club started to feel the impact of a falling membership. Without a strong, renewable membership base, by 2014 the club were down to fielding just two teams, and a 1st team that painfully yielded their place in the Northern Premier League in order to keep the gap between 1st and 2nd team league positions manageable and to stop the club from going under.
Thankfully Derrick told us a number of senior members in the club, led by Matt Pritchard, were able to look at the bigger picture in 2010 and begin the exciting journey of developing a brand-new youth section. A section the club had never had before! Breathing new life into what was then a club on its knees, Northop Hall’s youth section has thrived. This season already the club has seen 18 players, 17 or younger, make an even split across the now three teams!
“What’s been even more encouraging, is that some of the players that moved away from Northop during that time have since returned, having witnessed the style of hockey being played. Some of the kids are so skilful. Already this season half a dozen have re-joined, excited by what we’re doing here.”
Derrick explained the journey has been a tough one and continues to test the club but in a positive way.
“Obviously some of the younger players will move on to University and play for them so we always have to be on the look out for ways to replenish our members but with three teams across three different divisions we feel confident our junior success will help us continue to grow.”
Another incredible feat Northop Hall can attribute to their inspirational turnaround is the growing number of players making their way through the Hockey Wales Aspire and 360 Centres and into the National Age Group squads. Derrick proudly informed us the club also had two players (a boy and girl) who played in Euro 5’s last summer and have three who’ve gone on to play for Celtic Jaguars at U17 level this summer.