Chris Pearce at Southgate Hockey Centre, Trent Park, London, UK on 14 April 2023. Photo by Simon Parker/SP Action Images

Chris can you start by perhaps explaining what led you to apply for this new role at Southgate?

I had a long hockey conversation with Andy (Richardson) in the summer of 2022 about possible new opportunities at Southgate and it was clear that we had similar views and values for what was important in a hockey club context.  It then transpired that Kwan joined the club and along with Andy, they obviously took on the two 1st XI coaching roles.  During a conversation with Kwan at the end of 2022 he outlined the next step the club were looking to take and with my recent change in career, the opportunity to put myself forward for a role at such a prestigious club was a no-brainer. The fact that I have been fortunate enough to be offered the role is humbling and exciting in equal measure and I can’t wait to work with all of the committee members I have already met and the wider club as I start in the role.

Your career is steeped in hockey, coaching and education- can you tell us a bit more about your background?

I chose to leave my teaching career in the summer of 2022 after 24 years where I held leadership roles in various PE, sport and boarding roles for 21 of those years.  I played 1st XI for various clubs, predominantly in the South Prem leagues, represented Kent during those years and enjoyed various coaching roles with men’s, women’s and junior sides at club and representative level.  Due to a back injury, I have focused on coaching since I turned 40.  I have coached 1st XI men at regional and south prem levels and 1st XI ladies at National Division One South.  I became heavily involved as a junior co-ordinator at the club where my children played.  I also coached the South Masters O45’s for 2 years (National Champions in 2019) and I still coach the Kent Men (National Champions since 2019).  This year I have coached 1st XI men at Tunbridge Wells, 1st XI ladies at Canterbury, Kent University Men and school sides at Kent College, Canterbury.  Since leaving my Director of Sport role at a grammar school last year, I have gained a coaching accreditation and am now working privately and in school settings as a transformational performance coach alongside my hockey roles. I am also currently on the Advanced Coaching Programme with GB Hockey.

Can you explain a bit more about the role(s) you are taking on at Southgate?

This new role at the club is Director of Hockey and Director of Junior Hockey.  Ultimately, the role is to develop and implement club-wide strategic objectives across all aspects of senior and junior hockey, including coaching, playing and selection. Developing strong working relationships with all stakeholders from juniors and parents to playing members across all senior sides will be important in moulding the future in relation to participation and excellence across the club. I will be active in all sections of the club on different training nights and match days as well as working on our school outreach programme, ensuring we are active and impactful in the local community. Initial priorities will focus on growing the junior section further, supporting and growing the coaching network within the club at junior and senior level and looking to build on our indoor provision.

Could you outline for us what your ambitions in the roles you are taking on?

I want to ensure Southgate fulfils its potential as one of the best and most important hockey clubs in the country and, with time, Europe. Both senior 1st XI’s playing premier league hockey supported by 2nd XI’s competing at national league level. A club structure that values each and every playing member and team throughout the club ensuring a healthy balance between enjoyment, participation and competition.

A flourishing junior section where numbers are high with players from a range of state and independent schools, supported by high quality coaches who provide a programme that offers development, progression and a pathway to be a valued member of Southgate HC for life. A club with values and an ethos that current members are proud of and players, children and parents from elsewhere want to join and be a part of.

Do you plan on coaching a team here at Southgate?

Yes.  I love coaching and want to continue by working with a team that suits us as a club.  I will have conversations over the summer months and we will come to a decision as to which team it would be best for me to work with.  Aside from this, I aim to coach on training nights across both the men’s and women’s sections each week.  As a part of developing a programme that supports our coaching network within the club it is important that I coach alongside as many of our coaches as possible so we can learn and develop individually and collectively.

This is a full time role- does that mean you plan to base yourself from the club or will you work from home?

My plan is to do both. I live in Ashford, Kent so where appropriate I can work from home  – zoom meetings and the like post pandemic make this a viable option!  However, it is very important that I am a consistent presence at the club so any member can come to me if they wish and to ensure my presence is felt equally across all sections of the club.  During the season itself I envisage doing school outreach work during some days, being at the club for training two evenings a week as well as match days on Saturdays and junior training on Sundays.  I also hope that Liz will be happy to have me work from the club office!

Your appointment represents a big step up and a fresh change for the club, how do you hope it might impact junior and senior club members?

My hope is that this role will offer all members of the club a consistent presence and representative who will work with energy and passion to ensure everybody’s views are heard and represented, whilst working to deliver an approach that will see the club go from strength to strength in the current era.  With a committee who are dedicated to building an even brighter future for the club, all junior and senior members will benefit from a clearly communicated vision and a development plan with the sole purpose of supporting the development of all members, whether that be as players, coaches, officials or any other role and at any level.

Chris you have dedicated a pretty impressive career in hockey-  do you still play and what is it about the sport that keeps you coming back for more?

Since my back injury shortly before turning 40, my playing time has been limited to playing alongside my son in development sides or supporting teams as needed.  Unfortunately, I am governed by my back so I’m far from a regular anymore!  Hockey has given me so much since I first picked up a stick at the age of 11.  I love all sports, especially team sports like rugby, cricket and football and it wasn’t until I went to university that I focused on hockey because of the quality of players I was able to play with and against.  Through teaching in schools and being a member of various clubs, I was given many opportunities to coach and the journey I have been on in this regard has given me so much – from volunteering to support half term camps for young juniors, to coaching top players in representative sides and coaching various teams across league seasons in both the men’s and women’s game.  Coaching teams and individuals to be the very best they can be is a passion and I’m very grateful to this great sport for giving me the opportunity to work in this field.

Back to Southgate have you had a chance to follow any of the clubs season this year? And do you remember our coaches Kwan and Andy from their Canterbury days?

I’ve been particularly interested in the 1st teams as I have been coaching Canterbury Ladies this season.  With Canterbury and Southgate both in Men’s National Division South the story of Kwan going back to one of his old clubs was intriguing.  On the ladies side, I was keen to see who may be promoted into National Division South to play against Canterbury next year but then to see such an amazing two horse race develop was incredible.  To have a 100% record going into the last game of the season and potentially still not winning the league was unbelievable so it was great to hear that they got over the line in a tight game.
I do remember watching a number of Canterbury’s best sides circa 2000 so did see Andy play.  The first time I came across Kwan was actually playing against him when I was at Herne Bay in a mid week training game. Since then I’ve been coached by him, watched him play, enjoyed many coaching conversations with him and even coached the Kent men’s team that he has played for.  I am really looking forward to working with both as we clearly share the same vision and passion for the sport and what we can achieve as a whole club moving forward at Southgate.

Finally Now away from hockey can you tell us maybe a bit more about you- family life, passions and any interests that fill the hours when not out on the pitch or in the dug out?

I’ve been married to Sara for 19 years this year and we have two boys – Alfie (17) and Daniel (15).  Both played hockey when they were younger but both have given it up for other sports!  Alfie is a county level rugby player and Daniel plays national league basketball.  My family is my passion and whenever I’m not working I will be supporting them wherever I can – as a parent, referee (I volunteered to ref rugby matches) or coach (I coached both of their cricket teams).  My wife and I loved travelling when we were younger, with South Africa and Australia being our favourite places and we also enjoy the theatre, movies and box sets together – we are currently watching season 3 of Ted Lasso! Since leaving teaching I have enjoyed developing as a coach away from the sports field and have enjoyed working towards a Masters in Senior Leadership, becoming an accredited coach and reading books on leadership, coaching and performance. I coach clients privately in 1 to 1 settings as well as delivering coaching and CPD in various educational settings and organisations.

Chris Pearce at Southgate Hockey Centre, Trent Park, London, UK on 14 April 2023. Photo by Simon Parker/SP Action Images