Bravery, Creativity and Freedom: the Essence of Hockey at Sedbergh

Hockey is an enormously popular sport at Sedbergh School and in addition to team success across different age groups, Sedbergh players have gone on to prestigious hockey scholarships at universities in the United States. During the season, we have 13 hockey teams at the School; seven girls teams plus our club team, which plays in the local league. We also run five boys teams.

Nick Davey, Director of Hockey, talks through the philosophy of hockey at Sedbergh and his belief in the need to be free to make mistakes and to make decisions knowing that the School and coaching team are 100% there to support players.

A highlight of this year is that with the completion of our two Newfield pitches we’re really forming a style of play from year nine right the way through to the senior teams.

The Newfield pitches are allowing us to play a quicker game and they’re allowing us to train more often. As a result of that, I’d say our teams are much further along in terms of their own individual development and their understanding because the girls are able to train on the pitch more often with each other and therefore they’re a lot more connected.

We want to play really attacking hockey at Sedbergh and what that means is we want to look to play forward, we want to look to play over shorter distances with passing but really support each other to move the ball to see our girls and boys using all of their skills and being really creative and that means probably being quite brave. We want to be as attacking as we possibly can; all of the pupils are really buying into that as a style that we want to play.

Whether it’s being brave or having freedom and creativity or at least to not worry about the fact that it might go wrong, we want all of our pupils here to play with as little, or zero, fear of failure or of making mistakes. We want them to feel that the coaches, their teammates, everybody at the school are going to completely back and support them.

Whether it goes well or not, if the attitude is to go out and really grasp opportunities and to see moments where they can make a difference, we’d would much rather our pupils go for it and try to do the positive thing wherever possible. That is the best way that we’ll get ’em to stretch and for them to find out about themselves and to discover new skills. No one gets better at things unless they’re willing to try it and to try it under pressure. Sometimes in games is the time where you find out how good they are and I think that’s something that we try really hard to support the boys and girls to have that lack of fear, that real bravery to go forward and to look to score as whenever they possibly can.

The philosophy for the school is that we want our players to be able to think for themselves. We want them to be able to read situations and for us to really facilitate them in doing that. We are there to guide, we’re there to support.

We don’t want to be in a situation where we are tying them down too much with parameters and rules and we want them to show their own individuality whilst they’re playing their sport and to really enjoy it and all of those things are bound up. Ultimately we are there to help them get the most out of their hockey and I think the best way to do that is to allow the children to play and to feel that they have that agency to make decisions for themselves.

We’ve had a lot of very successful players, players who’ve played for England and players who have gone on to the U.S.

The lucky few if you like, who really are in a position to test themselves against the best, the only way they’re able to do that is to have the confidence to go and play as close to the highest level of their abilities they possibly can and that has to be supported by an environment where they train in a way that gives them the confidence to be able to do that. Those players generally have been very highly motivated themselves, but they still have the same worries, anxieties and nerves as all the rest of us and so certainly my job for all of our pupils is to really help them have the joy for the sport and that comes from pushing themselves, putting themselves into situations that might challenge them and seeing what happens next and then we’re either there to celebrate with them or to commiserate with them either way. As long as they know that we are there to support them.

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