The ability to keep playing and competing in hockey no matter what your age or ability is one of the cornerstones of the International Hockey Federation's (FIH) Hockey Revolution strategy. By retaining people within the sport, hockey is helping individuals stay fit, active and physically and mentally healthy. It is also keeping a wealth of experience within the game as people who belong to clubs are often called upon to help out with managing teams, administrating or running events.
One flourishing area of participation is the Masters hockey scene. From club teams to national teams, more and more people are continuing to play hockey or returning to hockey after an absence. And many of them are living proof that while we might slow up a little with age, we don’t lose the skills and game understanding as we get older, If anything, tactical nous gets better with age.
There is also no lessening in terms of competitiveness as players get older. Just as the 20-year-olds are always chasing the win, so it is with the 50-80-year-olds. That desire to top the podium does not diminish with age.
And with this being World Cup year, it is not only at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 and the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 that the best of the best will be competing.
From 27 July until 5 August some of the great ‘golden oldies’ will be taking centre stage at the Exin Masters World Cup in Egara, Spain, while currently, the Grand Masters World Cup is taking place at the Real Club de Polo in Terrassa, Barcelona, Spain between 20-30 June.
"Masters Hockey can play an important role in the future wellbeing of the game through encouraging older players to continue playing and therefore being active members of their clubs and, in many cases, other hockey organisations."
Adrian Stephenson, World Grand Masters Association Consultant Director
The International Masters Hockey World Cup competitions are being held in Egara for 35+, 40+, 45+, 50+, 55+ and 60+ year-old men and women, while the 60+, 65+, (men and women) and 70+ and 75+ (men only) age groups are catered for at Grand Masters level in Barcelona. These events provide a real showcase for sporting endeavour and excellence at all ages.
The breadth of teams taking part is immense. In the 60+ age group at the Grand Masters Hockey World Cup, 18 teams are lined up in four pools. Teams from Singapore and Wales compete against the hockey strongholds of Australia and Germany.
In the women’s event, nine teams line up, with teams such as Argentina, England and the Netherlands thrashing it out for the title.
The number of competing teams has increased each year and it became clear that the alignment of Masters hockey was required to support future Masters events and encourage further development and growth at national and continental levels.
Answering that call, the FIH has worked with the International Masters Hockey Association and the World Grand Masters Association – to create one unified body, World Masters Hockey. This body comes into existence officially in 2019.
The teams that will run out onto the pitch this year at both Terrassa and Egara are a mixture of seasoned internationals, who have continued to play the game throughout their lives, and players who have taken the step from club hockey to international representation later in life.
Ian Baggott is one such player. President of Field Hockey Canada and a member of the Canadian Grand Masters side that recently competed in Barcelona, Baggott first became involved in the sport in 1988 after his three sons introduced him to field hockey.
In those early days of involvement in field hockey, Baggott was largely to be found in a sports administrator’s role, working in junior, club, provincial and national level. His hockey playing experience had been limited to school-age hockey and then, at 45, he took up the game again.
This year, he has reached the pinnacle of his sport, playing in the Canadian Grand Masters 60+ team, making his international debut at 70 years old.
“I love the nature of hockey,” says Baggott. “From the health aspects of physical fitness required, team bonds established with fellow players, rivalry but also respect and camaraderie for other teams and players. I particularly enjoy watching our younger generations getting to know the game, the thrill of new friendships and bonds between team-mates.”
For Baggott, his time as an ‘older' player has been nothing but positive. “This is my first experience with Masters, albeit I have enjoyed Golden Oldie festivals for many years. I have been impressed by the friendship at the event: despite strong on-field team rivalry, teams have a healthy respect for other players and teams.
“And on a personal level, the experience and preparation has brought rewards with better physical fitness – I run twice weekly and do regular gym sessions – as well as improved hockey skills. Both my fitness and game skills have improved, particularly as we play against younger rival teams during the regular league season.”
At grass-roots club level, keeping players in the game has numerous benefits. An article written on the World Grand Masters Association website by WGMA consultant Director Adrian Stephenson says: “Masters Hockey can play an important role in the future wellbeing of the game through encouraging older players to continue playing and therefore being active members of their clubs and, in many cases, other hockey organisations.”
For further information on the World Grand Masters Association Hockey World Cup .
For further information on the International Masters Hockey Association Exin Hockey World Cup, .