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Second Annual England Hockey Youth Festival a Resounding Success
On the weekend of May 15th and 16th 2004 the second annual England Hockey Youth Festival took place at the Highfields Sports Club in Nottingham.  The event once again coincided with the FIH Global Youth Marathon, with the theme this year being Junior Club Development. 
The Festival incorporated many individual events, which all combined together made one of the biggest and best events in the country across all sports.  This year, the Festival included the Under 9 Mini Hockey Olympic Festival, an International Charity Match, the 9th Young Umpire Challenge and the 2nd Young Leaders Challenge.  In addition, this year, the England Hockey Youth Panel, who organised and coordinated the whole event, decided to sponsor a charity, and so the Festival was run in aid of the NSPCC – National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Saturday morning kicked off to a flying start with the arrival of all the Young Umpires and Leaders who were participating.  While they were doing team building exercises and theory sessions, the U9 Festival went into action.  All the teams in the U9 Festival named themselves after teams which may compete in the Olympics to make the Festival a more fun affair in this Olympic Year.  In the afternoon, some of the Young Umpires were able to get some practice by umpiring in the tournament.  Some of our most prominent junior clubs were present – which fitted with the theme of the Global Youth Marathon - including Old Loughtonians HC, Beeston HC and the eventual Festival Champions, Coventry and North Warwickshire HC.

In the afternoon, we decided to hold an International Match in aid of our charity.  The match pitched the England Men’s U21 team against an All-Star team selected by former England and GB player John Shaw.  Two umpires who have come through the Young Umpire Programme – Mindy Dhanda and Kevin Twissell – umpired the match while the umpires and leaders on the Challenge watched them and criticised them, whilst at the same time trying to get tips from them!  Some of the leaders also went round shaking buckets at people so that the public could donate money to our charity.  It was a very successful occasion with all the young people able to watch the match, from the under 9s to all the umpires and leaders involved.  The match was a close affair, with England U21 eventually winning 2-0.

In the evening, it was the Challenge dinner.  All the umpires and leaders were able to dine together in a marquee set up by Highfields, and after this there was a fun “fines session” – with over £100 raised for the NSPCC just in fines!  After that was the Challenge Karaoke – everyone participated in the singing and dancing, and fun was had by all.  This was after all the most important thing….FUN FUN FUN!

On Sunday were the finals of the National Mini Hockey Championships.  In this tournament, the top five teams in each the U11 and U13 age groups for both boys and girls competed.  So from a starting base of well over 10 000 players, the top 200 were at this event competing to be the National Champions at their age group…it was a massive day, and 29 of the country’s best young umpires were appointed to take charge of these matches…something which is a great achievement and something to be proud of for all of them. 

Also during the day, the young leaders took part in practical sessions and also helped England player Cathy Gilliat-Smith to run some masterclasses for young people so that they could receive some high standard coaching to improve their play.

Throughout the whole weekend, there was a face painter in attendance so that young players could have their faces painted to match their team colours.  Also a bouncy castle was available for youngsters to come and have fun, and also Stix Trix were set up so that people were able to try out their hockey skills and win prizes!

At the end of the day, the trophies were presented by Barry Chivers, Chairman of Sport England, and Lindsey French, captain of England U18 Women.  The Young Umpire of the Year was also awarded at the presentations, and this year the Tony White Trophy went to Daniel Barstow.  The inaugural Young Leader of the Year was awarded to Francesca Root.  Both of these prizes are completely voted for by the umpires and leaders and are awarded to the person who has made the most outstanding contribution both on and off the pitch during the weekend.

Everyone went home at the end of the day completely satisfied with their weekend’s work, with a massive sense of achievement, and happy to have been able to take part in this event. 

Our thanks must be extended to The Hockey Factory Shop who provided t-shirts for all teams participating in the U9 Festival, and polo shirts for the umpires and leaders.  Their support over the weekend was absolutely invaluable.

Many thanks to all who helped to run another very successful weekend, and we look forward to an even bigger, better and more successful Youth Festival in 2005.

Mindy Dhanda

Chairman of England Hockey and FIH Youth Panels

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