On Wednesday 8th May 2019, GB and Scotland Goalkeeper Nicki Cochrane visited Harris Academy Merton and Pollards Hill Youth Centre along with Chris Walker from Merton Hockey Club and Sue Martineau programme Director of Hockey Futures. Their aim was to inspire children from the local area to play hockey.

Chris, with the help of Hockey Futures, (a charity who work with clubs to reach young people in the most deprived inner-city areas to create an opportunity to change their lives), set up 2 sessions in the Merton area to help inspire children into the sport of hockey and gain more participants to his sessions, an after-school club on a Monday at Harris Academy and Pollards Hill Youth Centre on a Wednesday or Friday, this give the children an opportunity to learn something new and fun for free.

Nicki’s day began at Harris Academy. Chris wanted to inspire the children and hoped to get sign ups to his Monday after school hockey club. Nicki spoke to the children about what it was like to be an international hockey player, the children had lots of questions to ask her about the sport; including ones about her kit, her rivals and why she plays hockey. It was fantastic to see over 40 children involved and engaged in learning about Hockey.

After a quick Q&A they headed to the sports centre (due to the rain they had to play inside). Nicki showed everyone her Kit, explained what each piece was and why it was needed. Ryan, a brave young lad tried it on to see how heavy it was and how easy it is to move around in.

Once the show and tell was over Chris set a challenge for the children to win a stick. Each child had the opportunity to go up against Nicki and try and score a penalty shuffle.

6 were successful and headed into the shuffle finals to find the lucky winner. The children had a great time and 25 of them were so inspired they signed up to the after-school club.

The second stop of the day was Pollard Hill Youth Centre (they offer a wide range of activities for children and young people in the local area in a safe place). The children had just finished school and headed to the Youth Centre to spend time with their friends.

Chris and Nicki were set up ready to inspire more children into the world of hockey. Our first participant was Gabriel (who dragged his friend along who had never played before). Gabriel was a regular to the Hockey sessions and even watches the FIH Pro League matches on BT Sport.

He had seen the GB Women V China game at the weekend and recognised Nicki, but he was to shy to say hi, instead he asked Chris if he could explain what the cards mean as he had seen them being used in the game. Chris introduced Nicki to Gabriel and to begin with he was nervous as he was meeting one of his idols, she explained to him what the cards mean, and Gabriel even gave Nicki a few pointers from what he had seen in the match on Friday.

They managed to get a few more players and get a 3 v 3 game going, everyone was having a great time running around trying (no rules) hockey, most of the players had never played before. We spoke to each child after their 30 minute session and they loved it! There were a few natural players and 3 wanted to come back and try it again on Friday.

Before we left Nicki wanted to give her fan a little extra experience, she let him kit up in the exact same kit he watched her play in at the weekend and he was so excited. He ran over to the goal and was keen to go head to head with Nicki and some of the other children. He was a natural, hopefully we will see him playing as the Merton Hockey Club Goal Keeper soon.

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