working wordsmith + happy husband + doting dad + amateur author + fledgling farceur + pretend prestidigitator + jolly hockeyologist
working wordsmith + happy husband + doting dad + amateur author + fledgling farceur + pretend prestidigitator + jolly hockeyologist

Hockey

Yep, that's me, in the yellow shirt, (the one diving, not the one on the far left, just standing there not doing very much - though some of my current team mates would probably say that describes me to a 't'!), looking vaguely athletic, not to mention looking like a poor-man's cross between Darth Vader and the Michelin Man (some would say I have 'natural padding' these days; I would argue that I AM wearing body armour, and I'm not quite that large, honest! It's not easy getting as fit as a fiddle when you're shaped like a cello. My body is not a temple, it's more like a bouncy castle!)

I was 12 or 13 when I first got bitten by the hockey bug, mainly because one of the PE teachers at my school was the first team captain of a prominent local club. A transport mix up saw me make my debut for the Firebrands Men's First team at the age of 14, a game we won 4-3, with the three goals I conceded all being penalties.

I played county hockey, for Avon Under-18s and Somerset Under-21s. Unfortunately, real life got in the way, and my job meant I could not play every week, so I hung up the pads and played outfield, scoring twice, before changing jobs which forced me to give up hockey altogther.

Over the years, I would drive past my old club, and mourn the loss of my fitness and the game I loved. My wife told me I should go back to it. I would argue that I was not fit enough, and would be a laughing stock.

Then one day, someone posted a message on the intranet system at work; a small, Bristol-based club was desperate for players. To cut a long story short, in September 2009, I played a pre-season trial game, and I've been with South Glos Hockey Club ever since.

I made a mark on the club, building and, for about five years, maintaining a website. I launched, and captained, the men's second Summer League team (mainly because I had enjoyed myself so much in my first season back that, when it came to an end, I didn't want to wait six months before playing again), and I am extremely proud to have been voted as the Men's 3rd team player of the year for five of the past seven seasons I've played (the 2016/17 season was my eighth in total with the club; my first win came in my second season). I was also the first ever winner of the Club Person of the Year Award.

I'm nowhere near as fit or agile as I used to be, but I can think a good game and my positioning is much better than it was in my youth. My aim every week is to save more shots than I let in, and I'd say that, overall, I'm slightly ahead on that front. 

Having got back into hockey, I saw an opportunity to fulfil a second dream - to give something back to the hospital which had helped my son. I suggested the club adopt a 'charity of the season', donating money for every goal scored, and organising a charity match, plus a fund-raising social or two.

Someone suggested a marathon match; someone else then asked if anyone knew what the world record was for the longest hockey match. The end result? I organised an event which result in me spending my birthday in May 2011 playing for 31 hours non-stop, earning an official Guinness World Record, and raising more than £5,200 for the Cots for Tots Appeal at St Michael's Hospital in Bristol. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

We held the record for one year. A few years later, I helped initiate a second world record attempt. Although I didn't play in it, my club-mates played for 50 hours, raising more than £10,000 for the hospital.

Hockey has been a very important part of my life. One of my single biggest regrets is that I did not return to the sport sooner. But the lesson here is 'better late than never', and I am loving every minute that I spend on the astroturf these days although, if truth be told, I wouldn't mind keeping a few more clean sheets! I only wish I had tried harder in my younger days to keep going with the sport, but there's nothing I can do about that, so I adopt the approach of "better late than never". While I'll never know how good I could have been (I was once tipped as a potential international player), I'll keep going for as long as my body lets me, my captain picks me, and opposition players come up to me - as they still do quite frequently - at the end of a game and say "we could have scored a lot more, if it wasn't for you!"

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© 2017 Darren Bane