LUC Ronchin flourishing through Potager project

Posted On 18/05/2023

LUC Ronchin’s Hockey Potager project is allowing the club to flourish in more ways than one as the French club’s unique approach is helping welcome new members to their community.

Mathieu Wlodarczak is the founder of Hockey Potager, an idea which came to him as an additional way to engage his young children in the club.

He has been an almost ever-present with LUC Ronchin for the past 34 years, only missing one season while on an Eramsus stage, since joining as a six-year-old.

“It is a big part of my life,” he says with a big grin. “I was looking for an extra way to get my kids involved in the club and usually a sensory activity is ideal to engage them.”

A friend on Mathieu’s team was an agriculturalist; they spotted about a patch of ‘wasteland’ near the clubhouse with nothing on it and the genesis of an idea formed.

“It started as sort of a joke but we thought maybe we could create a vegetable garden there. We met the president of the club and he just said: ‘Good idea, let’s go!’”

And so the project got legs; starting in 2019, weekly family-friendly hockey sessions on Saturday mornings for an hour were followed by an hour of developing the garden.

“It is important in our club to be something more than simply sport; we are a sports club of course but we want to transmit other values.

“The other idea was to speak about hockey in another way when we brought in Hockey Potager; to get people talking – ‘What is it? I don’t know hockey but I do know potager’. We found kids and families who didn’t know hockey but they heard of us because of the project. If they stay in the club afterwards in the young teams, it is a big boost.”

In the garden, they now grow apples, pears, plums, currants and raspberries as well as trying out potatoes, onions, courgettes, squash and tomatoes.

“Sometimes it works, sometimes the rabbits get them!” Mathieu laughs, adding the group will also take in presentations and guidance from farmers and gardeners to inspire ideas.

“The activity is the goal but there is of course nice by-products. My idea was also to share a meal together from this produce with the families. We have done it two or three times and it is a great moment.

“We take it direct from the garden to cooking to the plate. Anything leftover, we share out. There is no objective of production but it is more to learn how to grow vegetables for the garden; why we put certain plants here and when, how to prepare the ground; things like that.”

Mathieu Wlodarczak

“The idea is these people improve the living environment so people want to stay a bit longer each time and maybe participate in the life of the club.

The project has seen over 10 families become embedded in the club with the children adopting the sport with a new cohort of adults engaged and contributing in the community.

It is part of the reason why the club was successful in the EHF Club of the Year awards in 2022, showing a unique way to engage with members.

“It was a big surprise to win [the Small Club of the Year award] and we are very proud. This prize is not for the results but for all we do as a club.

“We are not just for competition but for life;. For us, it is important to have social activities. For two years, we have had Walking Hockey for senior people with mobility issues or cardiac problems to still do sports.

“We contribute in the neighbourhood to develop sport for children who financially can’t. We are definitely proud to be recognised for that.”

The respect for the environment is also evident in the club’s pitch whose watering system now uses 75% rainwater.

These projects allow diverse and varied populations to practice a sporting activity in order to be healthy, all in conditions of use and practice respectful of the environment and in a friendly and family atmosphere.

For Hockey Potager, Mathieu is looking forward to some new developments to continue its growth.

“This year, we have a project to build a storage area just for Hockey Potager because we currently share it with a hockey lock-up. We will build it from wood, clay and straw as an educational project. The idea is kids can participate in the project, not just watch their parents do it!”


Hockey Potager is among a number of successful interactions between French clubs and the environment in recent times.

This focus has played a part in the French Hockey Federation winning the FIH’s Pablo Nègre Trophy for the focus in their governance on making hockey more inclusive, more sustainable and more accessible.

This included raising awareness in its community and its clubs to become more sustainable and eco-responsible. The two European qualifying tournaments which took place in August in Calais and Dunkirk in 2022 received, for the first time in France, the “eco-responsible label” from the CNOSF (National Olympic Committee).

This trophy rewarded the Federation for its project of modernization, inclusion and societal success. A success shared with our partners UFOLEP Nationale and Sport dans la Ville.

Isabelle Jouin, President (Fédération Française de Hockey) presented with the Pablo Negre award by Dato Tayyab Ikram, FIH President, during the men’s World Cup earlier this year in recognition of their sustainability work. Picture: World Sport Pics/Frank Uijlenbroek

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