Flyerz Hockey is a growing phenomena in Great Britain as more and more clubs are committed to ensuring the sport is as accessible and inclusive as possible.
The sessions are planned and delivered so that disabled and able-bodied players can play hockey together. The emphasis is on participation and inclusion.
Flyerz Hockey started in 2011, when Access Sport partnered with Waltham Forest Hockey Cub to create the first wholly inclusive hockey section in the country. Access Sport is a charity dedicated to providing sporting opportunities for young people with disabilities or in deprived communities.
Flyerz became the movement that is associated with grassroots disability inclusive hockey. It has now been introduced into more than 20 Flyerz groups in England, Wales and Scotland. The aim is for 50 or more Flyerz sections to be running by 2021.
As with all sporting activities, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit Flyerz Hockey hard. The annual Festival of Flyerz Hockey had to be cancelled this year and training and events have all had to temporarily cease. For players, many of who have severe mobility issues, the lack of physical activity and social contact has hit home hard.
The good news is that organisers, coaches and players have been able to find innovative ways to keep their hockey activities going. The Tunbridge Wells Flyerz disabled hockey team are a case in point. The group were determined to hold their Sunday morning gatherings as usual, so the club’s 19 Flyerz players and coaches put aside their sticks and instead held an online training session, complete with a warm-up featuring some energetic dance moves.
This was by no means an isolated example of how the Flyerz sections continued to support their members throughout lockdown. Tom Kirby is a member of the Midland Mencap Flyerz and he explained that his group was connected via WhatsApp and Facebook. Coaches would check in regularly with the players to ensure they were doing okay through self isolation but also that they were finding ways to stay active.
Hayley Barton is Access Sport Delivery Director. She says: “We have been overwhelmed by the attitude of Flyerz Clubs in their desire to reach out to members and their families to make sure they are able to support them socially and ensuring they stay physically active.”
Home skills challenges, such as dribbling a ball around obstacles in a room or bouncing the ball on a stick, hockey-focused, fun quizzes, other physical activities and social group chats are all ways in which the Flyerz community has maintained contact with all its members.
Activities on the pitch may have been put on hold for the Flyerz community for a while but the sense of unity among its members has mean that the motivation to train and play and the love of the sport has remained as strong as ever.
The Great Britain and England national squads have been strong supporters of Flyerz Hockey since it began. The latest ambassador to join the Flyerz ranks is England and Great Britain International Emily Defroand. Quoted on the England Hockey website, Emily says: “The main reason I want to be a Flyerz Champion is because I’m a firm believer of inclusivity within sport. It shouldn’t make a difference depending on your background, gender, age or ability to have the opportunity to participate in sport.”
More information about Flyerz Hockey can be found at the following link: https://www.accesssport.org.uk/flyerz-hockey.