A hockey coaching programme that has introduced more than 70,000 children to our sport is something to be celebrated.
Small Sticks has been running in New Zealand since 2012 and, since its introduction, the nationally branded junior participation programme has offered children from 5-13 years old a fun way of learning the skills and concept of the game.
Even during the Covid-19 pandemic the programme has continued to roll-out across the country, with Tinui School, 35 miles from Masterton, the most recent school to sign up to the programme.
Set in a rural location at the southern end of the North Island, Tinui School has 37 students. Thanks to the efforts of teacher Nicky Brown and support from hockey equipment suppliers Kookaburra, this small school has been able to offer hockey to all its pupils and is on the verge of entering its first tournament.
Talking to Hockey New Zealand, the national governing body, Brown said: “The kids have loved it. In particular last term with Fun Sticks, we had lots of good feedback from parents as the kids had been going home sharing their experiences during the day. Even better we have kids keen to play hockey next year as well”.
Small Sticks offers four modules, which are based on a child’s development stages. The activities and equipment are all appropriate to the child’s learning and development stage and are delivered by qualified coaches and teachers. At least four sessions are delivered by an accredited coach, who also provides the regular teachers with appropriate knowledge and teaching resources to continue with the programme.
The first module is Fun Sticks and as the name suggests, it’s all about introducing children to hockey in a safe and exciting way. Aimed at 5-6-year-olds the focus is on developing fundamental movement and basic hockey skills such as running, striking, as well as body and spatial awareness.
As children get older and their skills progress, so they move on to different phases of the junior programme, continuing to learn basic hockey skills and being part of a team.
When the children reach 7-9-years, they move into Mini Sticks, which introduces them to a six-a-side version of the game divided into two options; development and standard competition streams.
This provides those new to the sport an opportunity to join in at their level and experience.
By the time the children reach 9, they’re moving on to Kiwi Sticks, before continuing through the programme on to Kiwi and finally Kwik Sticks.
At all stages of the programme, the childrens’ parents and carers are encouraged to get involved as coaches, umpires and team managers.