Program providing pathway to pitch

March 1, 2024 BY

A NEW six-week program led by Hockey Ballarat representatives is aiming to draw in more junior girls’ participation for the sport.

Taking place weekly since Thursday 1 February, the initiative is seeing about 30 girls test their skills as part of a youth development program for female and non-gendered players between 12 and 17 years old.

Program co-creator and Hockey Ballarat junior subcommittee member Shannon McDonald said the effort has grown out of a need for greater support for young non-male-identifying hockey players.

“Sarah Stapleton and I created the program and we’re both mums of kids who play hockey for different teams,” she said.

“We took a team of under 13s girls to the Junior Country Championships in Melbourne last year and came second which was massive.

“It was the first time an under 13s team had competed in about four years.

“We realised the girls thrived in a single gender environment. Every girl was given a shot and was able to showcase their skills.

“Normally they don’t have that option for a male and female competition in Ballarat.

“They tend to miss out on vital moments in the game and get less field time so from there we said we needed to do more for our girls in hockey.”

Run out of Ballarat Grammar, each session has offered an hour-and-a-half of personal and developmental training with volunteer coaching provided by WestVic players.

Guests so far have included RAD Centre sports dietician Michelle Ryan while next week will feature Discover the Olympian Within founder Deb Covey-Barnett, with the opening portion open to all Hockey Ballarat parents.

McDonald said she looks forward to seeing the program’s development.

“From seeing the success of the program, I know we’ll be able to run it again so I hope to see more participants and there’s the potential for more specialty workshops like around goalkeeping,” she said.

“Numbers overall are good for hockey in Ballarat but female and non-gender-specific players are less than half.

“The hope from this is to see more registered players within the competition and a higher retention for females in hockey.”