From Nord Pas de Calais to Cote d’Azur, sports clubs across France will be bustling this week with the sound of sticks, balls and whistles as hundreds of women and girls get out and active at their local hockey clubs.
The week (15-21 May) will include a range of fun activities, some competitive league-based events, visits and talks from well-known hockey stars and the chance for people to sign up with their local hockey club, as players, officials and volunteers.
Back in 2014, the French Hockey Federation (FFH) launched its National Hockey Day, to attract women and girls to the sport. Just two years later and the event had grown in size, reach and impetus to become a week-long event that attracts participants across the nation. This year will be the second edition of the National Women’s Hockey Week, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever.
The goal, as outlined by the FFH, is to make hockey part of the nation’s sporting fabric, with a numeric target of 33 per cent of females playing hockey at some level.
“The Federation hopes that, through this project, the values of French hockey are embodied,” says the FFH website. These values are: conviviality, elegance and style, and openness and diversity. All ideals that mirror those of the FIH and its 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy and fully embrace hockey's 'Equally Amazing' motto.
An advert posted on Facebook by Mathilde Grunbaum of Racing Club de France is typical. She said: “100 per cent girls from 5 to 77 years are invited to take part in the hockey festival at Racing Club de France.”
This year, the FFH is also joining forces with the Ministry of Youth and Sport to promote hockey access for all groups, with the programmes in many clubs and sports centres including activities for athletes with disabilities.
The National Women’s Hockey Week provides opportunities for people of all abilities to pick up a stick and join in hockey activities in the local area – making the sport accessible both in terms of ability and locality. Regional committees and local leagues all throw their weight behind the project in an effort to make this event as successful as possible.
Besides the overarching aims outlined above, the FFH is also hoping to meet some very concrete and measurable targets. The FFH will seek to run a minimum of 50 events across the country, with at least 5,000 participants in total. Once the week is completed, the FFH hopes that there will be a minimum of 500 new participants as a result of the activities and hockey promotion.
The week-long programme also has the backing of elite athletes, umpires and officials, many of whom will be joining in the activities and explaining how they got into hockey and the many benefits they have gained from a life involved in the sport.