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Author: Roger Jackson
A popular sporting event is returning to Cheltenham at the end of next month for the first time since lockdown.
The Cheltenham Hockey Club summer camp was an annual occurence for many years before Covid struck.
Now it’s back, with the organisers delighted to announce that this year’s week-long event for eight to 14-year-olds will run from Monday 31st July to Friday 4th August.
“It’s very exciting,” said Rachel Chicken, a Cheltenham player and camp organiser. “We can take up to 100 people a day and it’s always a sell-out.
“Hockey runs largely from September to March so it’s a really great way for children to keep their eye in and their skills up.
“All the coaches are from Cheltenham Hockey Club, they’re all qualified and they make it great fun.”
And Cheltenham Hockey Club have certainly been having fun these past few months, with the men’s flagship team regaining their place in the national league, while the women retained their place in their national league on the final day of the season.
“The final day of the season was astounding. To see the men’s 1s gain promotion and the women’s 1s retain their place in back-to-back home fixtures was just incredible,” said Rachel. “Next season we will be the only club in Gloucestershire to have both the men and the women playing in the national league.”
And it really was a stellar season all-round for the club because the under-16 boys reached the final of the national plate competition and came fourth in the national league.
Now 49, Rachel is a former 1st XI player who has been with the club for more than 20 years.
These days she plays for the 3rd XI with her twin daughters, is still loving every minute of it and is happy to champion all that is good about a game that she first started playing as a 14-year-old.
“It’s a really inclusive sport,” she said. “I like the team aspect of it, it gives you the opportunity to go out with your team-mates and work towards a common goal.”
That common goal will differ depending on the standard of hockey you are playing but Rachel says that’s one of the great strengths of the game because it provides something for everyone.
“The 1st XI play at a high level, drawing some very talented players to the club” she said. “The 2s and 3s are also competitive but participate in lower leagues. And this year we are pleased to be re-introducing a 4th team to encourage more women back to hockey.
“That’s why it’s such an inclusive sport, it gives you a sense of community. And because it’s a fast game it’s good for your fitness too.”
Cheltenham Hockey Club has close ties with Cheltenham Junior Hockey Club, who run teams for boys and girls from five-year-olds through to under-14s.
The two clubs are separate entities but have close links, with many players moving seamlessly from one to the other.
Rachel, mum of three girls, has watched her daughters graduate into the senior club and she said: “The nice thing about this club is the whole cycle.
“You start as a junior, work your way up the ranks in the seniors, maybe go off to uni or get involved in coaching the younger players, and as you get older, you can drop down the ranks again.”
The youngsters who will take part in this year’s summer camp, which will be based at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, are obviously at the start of their hockey journey, one that so many have enjoyed over the years.
For more details about the summer camp, visit chelthockey.org/news/camp