New appointments take coaching setup to the next level for Sevenoaks Hockey Club

The 2019/20 season represents a truly exciting time for Sevenoaks Hockey Club. With multiple generations of families actively playing across the club, Sevenoaks has maintained it’s family feel, whilst becoming one of the top hockey clubs in the country, providing high-level senior hockey, with both Men’s and Ladies 1st XI’s playing in Division One of the National League. It isn’t just the performance senior teams that are prospering though; there are amazing opportunities for every level, age and gender, including the immensely popular Vets Festival, which attracts teams from across the world to Sevenoaks over the May Bank Holiday weekend every year.

Total membership of the club is nearing 1,000 people, with 18 adult teams fielded each week, whilst the club boasts the 2nd largest junior section in the country with over 700 members, between the age of 5 and 18, ranging from complete beginners to junior England internationals.

The appointment of former South African international and Olympian Ian Haley as Men’s 1st XI player-coach and Lead Junior coach has taken the coaching setup to the next level. With triple Olympian Jen Wilson continuing to player-coach the Ladies 1st XI, both sides are now headed up by experienced international hockey players, with over 250 caps between them, including multiple Olympic games experience. Both Haley and Wilson have been prolific goal scorers for their country!

Ian and Jen are also joined by Jason Bigara, who joins Sevenoaks from Grey High School (one of the leading hockey schools in South Africa) where he was Director of Hockey and Head Coach for the successful Boy’s 1st XI. The new coaching setup will see all junior age groups at Sevenoaks get dedicated and varied coaching, including from a number of players from the Men’s and Ladies 1st XI squads who will be bringing great playing and coaching experience to help develop the next generation of 1st team players. As a club, Sevenoaks has always prided itself on the number of 1st XI players who have come through the junior system, with around half of both 1st XI squads made up of players who started their hockey journey as Sevenoaks HC junior members.

Through their connections in the hockey community, the regular coaching team will introduce other top-quality guest coaches to the club’s holiday camp offering.  This will lead to diverse and varied sessions and camps, which helps develop rounded hockey players. There will even be masterclass camps introduced to work on specific skills such as goal scoring and goalkeeping, run by experts. All these camps will be held in the heart of Sevenoaks, at the club’s home venue, Hollybush Lane, which has one of the best pitches in the county. Details of holiday camps can be found here: http://sjhc.eventbrite.co.uk.

There are many additional junior opportunities, on top of the regular outdoor activities such as indoor hockey, overseas tour opportunities, Olympic park visits, and the like. With the Men’s 1st team regularly competing in the Indoor National Finals held at the CopperBox at the Olympic Park, there are great role models to look up to and the opportunity for a fantastic day out supporting the club.

Over the club’s 107-year history, a strong working relationship has been built with the sport’s governing body; England Hockey, and there will be an opportunity to meet the new coaching line-up at the club’s England Hockey “HockeyFest” event being held on Saturday 31st August at Hollybush Lane. The event is open to all club members, and any interested new members, who are encouraged to come along to mix in and play some hockey, meet other club members, enjoy a BBQ and then stay around afterwards for a Beach Party themed social in the club’s historic clubhouse situated on the Vine.

With the new coaching setup, assisted by over 200 volunteers (including team managers, umpires, captains and committee members) the club are in a fantastic position to push on, and there should be plenty for the club’s official Mascot, Oaksy the Squirrel, to be cheering this season! A preview of the 1st XI’s upcoming seasons will follow closer to the season opener at the end of September, with an update on pre-season friendly results, details of league fixtures and the announcement of exciting new signings.