On Friday 25 April 2014, a team of 6 players from Forest Flyerz, along with their parents and 6 club volunteers, set off for Zutphen, Holland, for a Parahockey event, feeling proud to be the first English club to enter such an event.

The tournament was on the Saturday, and we were lucky to be bathed in glorious sunshine all day – an unexpected bonus!! The game format was 6-a-side (including GK) on a quarter pitch, for players with learning disabilities, with standard equipment and hockey rules (except for no short-corners, and players could score from anywhere within 10 metres of the back line).

We came into this event knowing that our players were not as prepared as the Dutch teams, who have been practicing/playing for much longer than we have; so prior to the event, we organised 3 practice games for our team against Waltham Forest HC club members. It was the first time our players have played a standard game format, and they rose to the challenge; their understanding of the game increased visibly, and we saw huge improvements in particular with their movement, passing and closing players down – they were starting to play really well as a team.

By the time we came into the event we felt as prepared as we could be, considering the short time we’d had to prepare – i.e. 3 weeks! The tournament itself saw our team play 5 games of 15 minutes each, with 5 minute turnaround – pretty hard work for our Flyerz. They performed brilliantly and their results were:

> Lost 2-1 (game could have gone either way)
> Lost 4-0 to the Dutch champions (defended brilliantly)
> Won 2-1 (brilliant team game)
> Drew 1-1 (had enough chances to win it)
> Lost 2-1 (another close game which we could have won)

Every one of our players did amazingly well: Shaun made some spectacular saves (the Dutch want to sign him up but we’d quite like to keep him!), Sunny was a revelation playing in defence and gave lots of encouragement to his team with calls such as “SHOWTIME” and “WAKE UP”, Mudassar showed excellent skills throughout and capped it off with a brilliantly taken goal, Shane G was solid and worked very hard in midfield, Shane C showed some clever play with some great passes and well-timed runs, and Jordan showed lots of energy, making several great runs into attack.

Parents and coaches watched, coached, shouted and cheered from the side lines. You could say we were pretty excited when Flyerz scored, so it was great to have 4 (good) goals to celebrate!!!! By the end we were exhausted just watching; I don’t think many of us could have imagined our players coming so far in such a short space of time, and we couldn’t be prouder of them.

Following lunch we had one final play-off game, with two halves of 10 minutes. It was a very close game which we lost 2-0; but no-one minded too much, we had a great time and finished 4th out of 6 teams.

After the tournament there was some entertainment and disco from the organisers, which we threw ourselves into wholeheartedly; the Brits showed how it’s done with a rousing version of Macarena, and taught the young Dutch a few new dance moves (e.g. the birdy song!) – we had an absolute blast!

We were all sad the weekend had to come to an end; it was a weekend we’ll never forget. As a club we’re extremely proud of all our Forest Flyerz players; it was just a shame we couldn’t take all our players to Holland! It’s not just the players who get so much from something like this, but the volunteers too.

We now look ahead to the Flyerz Festival on Sat 21 June 2014, the last big Flyerz event of this season… more on that here. And don’t forget you can see lots more photos from Holland here.

Following the event here’s what some of our Flyerz and volunteers had to say:

Flyer Sunny: “When are we going back to Holland?”

Flyer Mudassar: “Did you see my goal?”

Flyer Shane C: “I thought we played really well as a team”

Driving force behind Haslemere Flyerz, Charley: “I had the most amazing time at the Paragames in Zutphen, the team did brilliantly and it was a real privilege to be involved with the Forest Flyerz. It was a really fun weekend with lots of hockey, dancing in the disco and wonderful Dutch hospitality. Thank you for letting me join you all, you have inspired me to take the Haslemere Flyerz even further!”

Volunteer Dobby: “Being part of the Forest Flyerz trip to Zutphen was such a great experience. Our hosts were amazing and I was so proud of our players, both for their playing and dancing!”

Volunteer Pani: “It was so amazing to spend this time with everyone, we had so much fun. It made me even more proud (if that’s possible!) to be a part of Forest Flyerz. Even though I’ve been to other Parahockey events myself in the past couple of years, and always had a brilliant time, it was nothing compared to going with our own team of players and volunteers. This was a very special weekend with the Flyerz family.”

Volunteer Ray R: “I am so proud to be a member of the Forest Flyerz.”

Volunteer Tim: “A great day of hockey that resulted in all the Flyerz playing out of their skin! On the first session back it was noticeable that they were continuing to play at a higher level and introducing some of the vision they were showing in Holland to the other Flyerz.”

Massive thanks to Club Zutphen who organised the event, and our lead contact, Erna Boswinkel, who ensured we were looked after throughout our entire stay. We were welcomed into 3 houses in a beautiful holiday park overlooking a lake, our fridges were full with food, home-cooked meals were delivered to our entire group on the 2 nights of our stay, and we were transported to and from the airport and tournament venue, and generally had our every need looked after. The hospitality was second to none and made our stay even more special than we could have hoped.

Source: Pani, Forrest Flyerz

Photograph: Parents, Volunteers and Forrest Flyerz