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Hockey chiefs eye bright future

By GRAHAM HAMILTON

Ulster Hockey is all set to enter a new four-year cycle but as the governing body for the sport in the province launches its Strategic Plan for 2013-2017, it admits it's facing many barriers as a result of reduced funding.

However, executive manager Angela Platt believes that much can still be achieved as hockey moves into a new and exciting phase of development, particularly with the willingness of schools, clubs and the valuable team of volunteers.

The Strategic Plan, launched last night at the pre-season Club Forum, sets out the priorities that will help to broaden the participation base, create stronger structures within clubs, improve the quality of coaches and ultimately have better structures in place to enable the most talented athletes to reach their full potential.

"In order to achieve the aims and objectives contained within this new plan we will need the support of Government Agencies, the Irish Hockey Association and everyone involved in hockey within Ulster to play their part," insists Angela.

Over the past four years hockey in general has enjoyed growth in participation and development despite a marginal decline at boys' and men's level. Overall participation numbers, which include male and female adults, juniors, has risen to around 15,000.

The Strategic Plan takes into consideration current priority areas established by Sport Northern Ireland, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, the Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety and the NI Executive, and it also recognises the current developments within the IHA.

Ulster Hockey's management Board will be charged with the responsibility of delivering the vision which includes:

* Participation Development: to increase the number by at least 10% and improve the quality of the player experience, with specific focus on increasing participants in boys and men's hockey.

* Club Development: to build capacity within junior and senior clubs by raising the standard through the enhancement of the Hockey Club Accreditation and development scheme.

* Talent Identification and Development: to enhance our quality-based player pathway system, to identify talented players, develop them and support them to achieve their full potential.

* High Performance development: to help the best to become better and achieve at elite level.

* Coaching Development: to implement a robust coach development pathway to improve the quality of coaches operating at all levels.

* Umpire Development: to maximise the quality and quantity of hockey umpires in Ulster.

* Governance: that Ulster Hockey will be recognised by all stakeholders and members as a modern, dynamic and fit-for-purpose sporting organisation.

* Communication: to enhance the public profile and brand awareness, with specific focus on attracting new players, coaches, officials, volunteers, sponsors and business partners.Already two sponsors have come on board for the new season, Total Hockey and Kukri.

The new season hits off with the men's Kirk Cup, Linden Cup and Sussex Regiment Cup pool games next midweek and also the women's Ulster Senior Shield and Senior Cup.

Men's Kirk Cup Group A: Mossley, Cookstown, Banbridge, Kilkeel and Instonians. Group B: Belfast Harlequins, Raphoe, Civil Service, Lisnagarvey, Annadale

Men's Linden Cup Group A: Cliftonville, Queen's, Campbellians, Newry, Bangor. Group B: PSNI, Antrim, South Antrim, Portadown, North Down

Women's Ulster Shield Section A: Armagh, Ballymoney, Belfast Harlequins, Lurgan, Randalstown. Section B: Ards, Lisnagarvey, Pegasus, Queen's, Ulster Elks

Women's Senior Cup Section A: Banbridge, Cookstown, Civil Service, North Down, Victorians. Section B: Ballyclare, Ballymena, Larne, Omagh, Portadown

Belfast Telegraph

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