The 2017-18 season may be long gone, but at Leeds Hockey Club, players of all shapes, sizes and abilities still flock to Weetwood Sports Park every week to continue their individual love affairs with the sport.
Upon paying a midweek visit to the club, it isn’t hard to see why.
Despite the vast number of teams within the club, all members come together to share laughs, memories and in-jokes as well as competing with each other on an equal level during the off-season knock-about nights.
A plethora of different hockey abilities mix together, with those in charge of running the club – such as social secretary Dave Taylor – keen to point these differences out.
As all the players get into separate teams and have their knock-about, Taylor turns the attention to two players in particular playing on the same team.
“We’ve got one player there who normally plays at county level during the season,” says Taylor. “But then, at the same time, there’s also the other player over there who before November had never even picked up a hockey stick before in his life.
“Our youngest player who competes in the senior teams is only 15-years-old, while the oldest is 68. So the variety we have and the fact everybody mixes with each other is what I really like about our club.”
The club certainly seems unique in this sense, with such a coming together of age ranges and experience perhaps a rarity at other clubs – certainly when compared to other sports.
However, men’s club captain and committee member Matt Duncan insists it is an atmosphere not just limited to Leeds.
“I think that’s the great thing about hockey in general,” says Matt. “It is a sport that doesn’t judge people on abilities and anyone can come and play regularly for a team whether they want to do it professionally or just for fun.
The variety we have and the fact everybody mixes with each other is what I really like about our club.Dave Taylor
“Someone like me probably wouldn’t be too much use in sports like rugby or football (his rather short stature has earned him the dubious nickname of ‘the Hobbit’), but I think hockey is a game for all different types of people and it’s been more than just a sport to me.
“I wasn’t brought up around Leeds so joining this club was how I made all the friends I have now. It just made it so much easier for me to settle in.”
But despite all that the club has to offer off the pitch, itis only right to mention its success on the pitch.
As coach Steve Parker points out, last year was a season when Leeds officially made history, with the promotion of the womens first team from National League North meaning that, for the first time in their history, both the mens and womens teams would be playing in the National Hockey League.
The manner in which they achieved it made it all the more special, with the women going unbeaten for the whole season while also attracting crowds of up to 200 to their games – the highest they have ever attracted.
And with the junior section continuing to thrive and grow every season – thanks in part to the 2016 Olympic gold medal achievements of Great Britain’s women – the future certainly does look bright.
Admittedly there remains a slight stigma around hockey, particularly among men which even those who play it are fully aware of.
Dave, Matt and Steve are quick to acknowledge its reputation as a ‘posh boy’ sport due to its long history of being played in public schools, which can easily drive potential newcomers away.
But for those who do decide to brush the stigma aside, Leeds Hockey Club can prove to be a venture that can easily change the lives of anyone who joins it.
Club: Leeds Hockey Club.
Based: Sports Park Weetwood, Leeds.
Season highlight: Ladies 1st making history with promotion to the National League.
Training nights: Seniors - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; Juniors - Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday; Knockabout sessions Tuesdays (summer).