The 2023/24 season is upon us, so I thought that this would be a good time to introduce myself, let you know what has been happening over the summer and share some thoughts on the future.
Like many of you, I got introduced to Hockey (over a decade ago) when my eldest daughter joined the youth section. (I now have 3 daughters playing – Aela, Tess and Millie). Turned out that I was one of those parents that stayed at every training session and found myself getting interested in both the sport, the club and its great people- slowly but surely, I got more and more involved.
I’ve had numerous roles in the club and have helped design the strategy that has brought us to where we are today. Avoca Hockey Club has become a passion.
Avoca Hockey Club has a rich history and more importantly, huge potential. Over the last few years, we have focussed on structure, culture and growth – we will now focus on getting stronger, developing our product and embracing our members.
The club leadership team never stop working and what you may not know is that the beginning and end of the summer are the busiest parts, where we close out one season and organise ourselves for the next. This year was exceptional, with the significant upgrade in Newpark: replacing the pitch surface and replacing and upgrading the fencing. This is being led by Ben Geoghegan and Ian Keogh. We have also completed a brand refresh process and launched a whole new kit design. The magic of the redesign was that it was driven by our members with almost 60% of the club getting involved and sharing their views.
The key theme, or mission, of Avoca HCs current strategy is to be Irelands Premier ‘Hockey for All’ Club. This meant expanding the mindset from a focus on performance primarily, to providing hockey for all levels of ability and to offer an avenue into our sport to as wide a spectrum of the local community as possible. To this end we now have 6 Senior Teams in both Men and Women’s, 3 Women’s Vets and 1 men’s masters, social hockey for parents, u18s Hockey and Hockey ID for people with disabilities. We are now planning the introduction of Walking Hockey for the over 65s. This is all on top of our burgeoning youth section and the Give Hockey a Go! Campaigns. Mix in the summer Hockey club offerings for adults and the camps and we have the whole year covered – no downtime in this club!
So..onto the future. I’ll be working with the Club Team and our members to define what our strategy will be for the next 5 years and endeavouring to ensure that the club is set up to maintain its current success.
Our 2 top teams successfully maintained their national status and retained their positions in the EY2 (IHL DIVISION 2) leagues, with a core focus of maintaining that position and driving higher over time. Key to this is enhancing the coaching team. Graham Shaw will continue his Elite Performance Director role for the coming season and will continue to work with both Trevor Dagg and Noelle Farrell, who are both working hard to strengthen their sides. I will be focussing on our coaching and player development models over my term.
We also continue to increase our youth success at representational level in both Ireland and Leinster – the successful attainment of national status helps us strengthen these players as we work hard, build from within and push up.
On the senior side we attracted a huge number of new players last season and expect to do the same this year. The level of interest took us a little by surprise. Feedback indicates that we have a very special vibe in this club – we have a very friendly, warm and supportive culture – you are welcomed with open arms and supported no matter your level of ability. Our social scene is also attractive – and we’ll be doing more in this space.
Our youth section is thriving, and we have doubled our young players over the last 5 years through expanding our pitch footprint to include St Andrews and increasing the numbers in each age group. So that’s 5 pitches in use every Sunday. The u18s girls both got to their finals last year with the As taking gold. 42 have signed up for it this year so far. A huge success and something Avoca fought hard for within Leinster.
A big one for us was all of our 6th class teams reaching semi-finals last year with a couple going on to take gold – this means that we are getting the team balancing and league level entry right – which makes for happy kids!
The boys section is at record levels with the u16s taking gold last season. We want more boys – so get your brothers, sons and friends involved!! It’s a brilliant sport.
I want to talk about what we need from you, our members, players and families. Our club has grown, and, with our new Vice President Bernadette Keogh, I will be focussing on 2 areas that require some hard work- fundraising and volunteers. To continue delivering a quality experience and improving your Club we need all the support that we can get. Over the last while we have attracted some sponsorship, you will see an increasing number of pitch signs etc. This is one key part to funding our club and offering a quality product to our ~1200 players. We have purposefully held off on fundraising but will be getting into it in a big way over the next year – more on how you can help soon.
We will also be looking at enhancing our approach to volunteering. We want to get families more involved in club life and get more people involved in coaching kids…. And yes, you’ll be supported and coached too – many parents are nervous and feel they can’t help because they don’t have a hockey background …. Neither did I!
While we get all this in place, feel free to reach out and help in any way you can. Simply talk to someone in the club.
I’d like to just mention the new club leadership team, the great people who make it all happen:
New Vice President Bernadette Keogh – New, Parent, took up hockey again after many years.
Treasurer: Celine Furey. Parent – not a hockey player.
Club Development Leo Sex; parent, player
Head of Youth Hockey: Chris Stewart – Player, Coach
Men’s Captain: Andrew Ramsey – player
Women’s Captain’s: Molly Cole and Jess Whelan – player/coaches
Primary Girls Chair: Mait O’Faolain Parent and new to hockey player
Secondary Girls Chair: Niamh Kennedy Parent player
Boy’s Chairs: Belinda Crous – parent and player and Nathalie Carroll – parent
Al Robinson- Secretary- Parent and Hockey all rounder
We also have an excellent board of directors, chaired by Dennis O’Connor.
One exciting event that is being planned is our Newpark Pitch opening extravaganza. We plan to get the whole club involved! Keep an eye out for news on this soon.
I am excited for this season and really looking forward to working with the team, the coaches, the volunteers and I hope to meet as many of you as possible over the year.
So on behalf of the Club Team and the Board, please have a great season.