by Kathy Hammond
Some 120 hockey players aged from 35 to over 65 bid a fond farewell to women’s masters hockey in the South of England on Sunday, July 25.
The South Women’s Masters Festival was organised by Sara Walker of Teddington HC who coordinates all women’s O35s hockey in the region. The aim was to celebrate the success of the sport for older players in the South before it is divided into three new areas – South Central, South East and London – as part of the incoming England Hockey restructure.
Players at the event were organised into eight teams based on age, playing three matches of 25 minutes each with spectacular bring-and-share teas pitchside at Basingstoke HC in the sunshine after all the hard work.
Southgate’s Kathy Hammond, who has played for South O45s and O50s, took part in the celebrations. “I’ve had great fun playing masters with new-found hockey friends from across the southern counties,” she said. “While I love turning out with the youngsters at Southgate on Saturdays, there’s something special about the camaraderie on pitch with those your own age. I never thought I’d be winning medals playing alongside former full senior internationals when I picked my stick up again at the age of 40 and it’s been an amazing confidence boost so I was delighted to take part on Sunday.”
Meanwhile the club’s Jo Price admitted she was “nervous” about taking to pitch with such experienced masters on the day. “But I was pleased to find I slotted easily into the yellow team (pictured) who eventually ran out winners of the mature group,” she said. “It was fantastic to have the opportunity to play and socialise together. I really enjoyed the whole experience.”
Women’s Masters hockey in the South of England had an inauspicious start in 2005 when former GB international and Staines HC player Ruth Hine was asked if she could get together a team of women “veteran” hockey players. Since then, the more senior age group hockey in the region has grown exponentially with competitive trials for selection to teams in each of the O35, O40, O45, O50, O55, O60 and O65 held annually. Teams represent their region at a national tournament lining up against North, West, East and Midlands. “South has won more medals than any other region at women’s masters over the years,” Ruth said at the event. In 2018 South made a clean sweep of the national tournaments winning in all age groups.
Ruth was playing on Sunday and was on hand to thank Sara Walker for her dedication in growing the sport for older players in the region as players and umpires closed the festival with a resounding three cheers for women’s masters hockey in the southern counties. As the regions will split into a larger number of areas next season there will be more opportunity for representative hockey for players age 35+. Details of trials will be published in the newsletter once they are available. In the meantime, if you are interested in playing in either of Southgate’s women’s masters teams for O35 or O45 players, get in touch at email@example.com