At the 2019 EHF General Assembly, the member National Associations signed up to the European Hockey Charter for Gender Balance. EHF continues to celebrate and champion the work nations are doing as they strive towards equally amazing developments.
Kenny Carroll, Regional Development Officer at Hockey Ireland looked at a problem in a different way. “Usually like many other countries in recent years, as far as I can see hockey camps would be ‘mixed’ yet whilst in Ireland participation in girls’ hockey is increasing boys’ hockey is struggling relatively. So, we looked at the data for the camps we run across the country every summer, and generally, 85% of the places are taken by girls and just 15% by boys. So, in North Dublin this summer at Sport Ireland Campus we ran three Hockey Ireland camps one in June, July, and August and the numbers were consistently similar.”
So, the National Association (Hockey Ireland) decided to do something different and monitor the effect. They split the camps by gender the girl’s camp filled up with 100% of participants as expected and the boy’s camp had 90% registered a huge increase (75%) in the number of boys, but also an increase in total participation, so more young people playing hockey.
“The area where the pilot camp is in Dublin has not typically been a hockey stronghold and especially with boys hockey. A simple but effective change that provided an environment for more players to participate. The players both girls and boys said they preferred the single-gender camps. By increasing the numbers attending it meant more children of all genders were able to receive up to date technical coaching, which is so important in a young hockey player’s development.”
Hockey Ireland’s participation strategy is supported by hockey camps together with their work across clubs, schools, and competitions supported by a range of volunteers, teachers, coaches. Hockey Ireland continues to share good practice measures such as this with their clubs and provinces.
Carroll gleaming from this pilot shared “I am sure the majority of boys and girls would prefer this as we play separately and train separately nearly all the time and yes mixed hockey can work for adult groups and the youngest groups but there is obviously a difference at teenage years and late primary school years in the vast majority of cases that needs to be recognised. I know talented girls playing with good standard teenage boys can be a great performance development tool for them, but it needs to recognized as that and not a participation building tool. Maybe we should facilitate more mixed-gender activity on sessions on topics such as tactics, fitness, volunteering, and social events. In my experience, most girls prefer to practice and play with other girls on the field and the same applies to boys as well. ‘
“The next step for us as a NA is to share this experience with our provincial branches, clubs, and schools. The numbers spoke for themselves so it is something we will monitor closely over the course of 2022’.