Hockey ACT has revealed how it plans to grow the game on the Border.
A strong schools program is going to be key in attracting the next generation of players, with an Albury-based participation officer working alongside Hockey Albury-Wodonga's clubs to raise hockey's profile with children.
But re-engaging adult players who have left the sport since the start of the pandemic is also critical for Hockey ACT chief executive Rob Sheekey.
"Once people stop doing things, it's important to get them back as quickly as possible otherwise they may never return," Sheekey said.
"Participation (in Albury-Wodonga) has been down about 25 percent in the last two years and understandably so, with the border closures people have suffered through, so it's important we put some strong programs in place to be able to attract those people back to playing hockey.
"We need a strong presence in that junior space too, offering some programs to make sure that kids know hockey exists.
"If you're watching free-to-air TV, you're not going to see hockey come up like your big football codes so we intend to get stuck into the schools really strongly, not just here in Albury and Wodonga but also Beechworth, Wangaratta, Corowa and Rutherglen, working the whole region and making sure everyone, even if you're living in a remote community, can play hockey close to home."
HAW president Bert Eastoe is thrilled to be formalising a partnership which has already seen the Spitfires play in Canberra's Capital League for the past eight years.
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"All sports are under pressure and we need to change our habits to respond to what the marketplace is doing," Eastoe said.
"Hockey ACT has undertaken to give us a resource to assist with recruitment and retention of juniors particularly.
"While we have the equivalent of nine full-time volunteers running our sport, we just couldn't extend ourselves to this recruitment area, which was fairly specialised.
"You have to have a really good understanding of the sport and create an excitement about coming to play."
This new chapter for HAW also represents a new challenge for Hockey ACT.
"We're really excited about the opportunity," Sheekey said.
"It's a little bit daunting for us because this is our first regional association but it's good for us to be able to contribute in the region and help grow the game, which is what we exist for.
"Hockey Victoria has a lot of regional affiliates along with its Melbourne clubs but we only have our ACT clubs so we're able to pay a little bit more attention and really focus in on the participation pathway."
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