Since it began back in January 2017, Walking Hockey has taken the world of hockey by storm. What started out as an evening activity for older or less mobile members of the hockey community at a local hockey club in the UK has now spread across the world with more than 40 countries either playing Walking Hockey or preparing to launch it.
Founder of Walking Hockey is Alan Gormley and he is both delighted and astounded by the rapid growth of the game. “I’m still totally amazed at how the idea is catching on across the world. I’ve gone from being a local town coach to having hundreds of colleagues and contacts across the world.
“I think the thing that excites me more than anything else is the way it is being used across the entire spectrum of ages, from toddlers to very old people – very young children to introduce them to the game safely; players well into their 70’s; and some who have never played before. Originally it was set up to be a small scale local solution.”
So let’s take a journey around the globe to see where Walking Hockey has made an impact.
One of the first areas to show an interest in the sport was Oceania, with both the national sporting association Hockey Australia and the health department of the New Zealand government keen to start Walking Hockey. The result a year on, is Walking Hockey available via two state hockey associations in Australia and as a club run by the Nelson Hockey Association in New Zealand. In addition, Western Australia is doing research into the benefits of Walking Hockey.
Hockey Wales and Ulster Hockey are both keen supporters of Walking Hockey with several clubs in Wales now signed up with Walking Hockey clubs. The sport has also launched in the northern Ireland province of Ulster.
In the USA, the national association USA Field Hockey held their inaugural Walking Hockey event last year and will be launching regular Walking Hockey sessions from March this year.
In France, Lyon Hockey Club are trialling Walking Hockey. The upsurge in interest in the sport is partially a result of the French national team’s courageous performances at the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar in December.
There is also the promise of a Walking Hockey group in Malta and in the most recent update, the Netherlands national hockey association, the KNHB, are planning to meet Alan to discuss starting Walking Hockey in the hockey-mad European country. This is on the back of interest shown by the Old Stars, a group that runs Walking Football in the Netherlands.
Back in England, where it all began, there are now 43 clubs offering Walking Hockey and the first ever Walking Hockey tournament took place at Keynsham near Bristol. An exhibition match was held at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup in London in July, which brought the sport to the attention of thousands more people.
And if anyone doubts the range and appeal of this innovative and inclusive twist to the regular game, then consider this: “Walking hockey has given people with serious illnesses, retired people, pensioners, people with absolutely no hockey knowledge, retired players, injured players, mums, dads and their children the chance to take part in a fun, social environment where they can get exercise and make new friends.”
As the FIH continues its pledge to attract new audiences to the sport, then Walking Hockey is a great asset to achieving that aim.