The 2011 review of player numbers in Leinster conducted by Lucas Piccioli (pictured), the IHA’s Eastern Regional Development Officer (ERDO), has revealed encouraging figures for the boy’s game.
The raw figures are that numbers increased to 1028 active players, an increase of almost 13pc and, to date, the highest number since the participation survey was introduced in 2009.
It is positive news in the wake of alarming figures in 2010 when a decrease in numbers of 12pc was recorded. Piccioli, along the LHA Development Committee chairman Brendan Carr, worked in tandem to try and arrest this decline with the initial fruits of their labour coming driven by the rolling out of six “Tricks 4 Sticks” school’s development programmes.
Supports were also made available to clubs who had registered a decrease in junior numbers in 2009 and 2010 in relation to coaching structures, development plans, recruitment mechanisms and retention initiatives.
On the girl’s side, the game continues to grow at underage level in a “steady fashion” in Leinster with growth between 2010 and 2011 at around 14pc. In the Southeast, the situation with girls’ hockey and its figures are pretty similar to Leinster as the records show that there has been a participation increase in the last two years.
The Southeast has shown remarkable development in terms of expansion. In 2009, clubs tended to cater for only two age groups. Currently, there are girls playing hockey from the age of 8 all the way to 18 which means there are five age groups.
Four out the six club youth sections have more than 100 players. Boys’ hockey in the Southeast is played in four clubs only and this overall number has been steady for the last two years with a little less than a 100 players in total.
In terms of adult hockey, from the LBIHA and the Southeast leagues, on the women’s side, there was a drop of six teams in comparison to 2010 (3% decline).
This shortfall has slowed from an annual growth of 15pc in the past three years. On the men’s side, the number of teams dropped with five less teams registered than the previous year. Given this significant decline, Piccioli will conduct further analysis will be carried in terms of what factors are at play.
The approach in terms of building adult figures has always been to build from the ground up, leading to an emphasis on the youth side of the sport. Although there is a decrease in the ladies figures in 2011/2012, with the growth of the girls’ game, it is expected that the figures will bounce back in the future.
Speaking about the statistics and how 2011 panned out, Piccioli said: “2011 was a successful year in many ways but in particular for boys’ club hockey in Leinster. The growth target for boys’ club hockey in Leinster by 2014 is 15pc and even though 50pc of this overall target has been achieved in one year, we will continue to strive to surpass this target.
“There is also ERDO individual support in terms of drawing up an emergency plan and following through on it. Tricks 4 Sticks will also be available for these clubs.
“We will continue to run Tricks 4 Sticks in Dundalk, Gorey, Navan, Cavan, St Brendan’s and Phoenix Park, Athy and in the southeast of Dublin to support the current structures in those geographical areas.
“Tricks 4 Sticks is also an option for those schools that fall in a geographical area where a club/school link can be created and sustained. In terms of development in schools, it is envisaged to continue with the primary school visits and furthermore to organise a number a coaching clinics to support those primary schools playing hockey and their players and coaches.
“There are a set number of services available to the clubs through the Licensed Development Officer (LDO), a self-funded position created in 2011 with a view to expanding the IHA’s reach to more clubs and schools.
“In 2011, the LDO ran three Youth Leader Workshop and two coaching clinics. It is planned to run the same amount of Youth Leader Workshops for 2012 and to increase the number of club coaching clinics. In 2011 the LDO ran five Transition Year Hockey Programmes catering for 96 students. Our goal in Leinster is to complete the same number of TY programmes in 2012.”