When the going gets tough – how to rebuild a club?

Olton HC recently issued a statement about why it was conceding an Investec match. It was a powerful statement that resonated with me, given the dreadful season we have had at my much smaller club.
@Oltonwwhc (follow Olton HC on twitter)
It’s been the toughest season ever at Sprowston Hockey Club. Lots of players are pregnant, on maternity leave, away at university or retiring to play golf. This has meant that our first team has lost a spectacular eight players.
Inevitably, this meant that my third team lost a similar amount of players – mostly up to the first team. It was a tremendous leap for such young players, some of them still in their early teens, although they’ve stepped up to the mark.
However, it’s been tough times putting out three teams and I’ve had to pull in utterly inexperienced players for the third team. We will rebuild and regroup – and many of them look promising. However, this season all three teams have been losing a lot.
This has been compounded by the worst season’s availability I can remember. Holidays, sick children, caring for elderly parents, illness and a spectacular amount of injuries have decimated the club. We’ve been losing a lot, not helped by having an inconsistent line up and many of our strongest players out injured.
People have shown their true colours in such adversity. Some have knuckled down and done everything they can to bring in new players and train up those we have. Others have moaned, been negative and even defected to other clubs thinking the grass is greener.
We will rebuild for next season and we’ll be back winning again like we were last season when we won promotion.
So it was with huge interest that I saw this statement for Olton and West Warwickshire Hockey Club pop up on Twitter last week. They have had a tough season and have had to concede games. They are a big high-profile club in the Investec and we are a small club playing in local leagues but the sentiments resonated with me all the same.
The lack of availability, the struggle, the reliance on young players who are shouldering way too much pressure and responsibility, the unprecedented defeats due to playing with 10 outfield players or an inexperienced GK. Been there, done that and got the T-shirt this season. Challenges in our first team have filtered all the way through the club. However, things are looking up already and we have more players thanks to a recruitment drive. We’ll rebuild over the summer and be back to fight another match. However, any advice and tips would be appreciated.
I wondered if anybody had experience of tough times at their club and how they got through this to rebuild and regroup.
We have one more league match then we’ll be sitting down with giant sheets of paper and ideas for rebuilding our historic club.
Here’s the statement for Olton and West Warwickshire Hockey Club. It makes interesting reading.
 Friday 14  March 2014
This is a formal statement from Olton and West Warwickshire Hockey Club outlining details of our decision to forfeit our Investec Women’s Hockey Premier League fixture against Canterbury on Saturday 15th March 2014.
Having been members of the English Hockey National Premier League for 18 years, today we had to make what for us is the unprecedented decision to forfeit a league fixture. We are issuing this statement as we are keen that our fellow National League Hockey Clubs are aware of the reasons for this decision. As one of the longest standing members of the National Premier Hockey League we are hoping that you can recognise how difficult a decision this has been for us.
You will all be aware of how difficult a season this has been for Olton, and we have at all times endeavoured to conduct ourselves with dignity, integrity, and good humour, even whilst enduring defeats the likes of which have not been seen before in this league.
We have appreciated thesupport of other teams and players, many of whom we have been playing against for many years,and some of whom clearly recognise our difficulties as being representative of the growing divide that now exists in hockey between the South and everywhere else.
Due to a number of players being unavailable to us this season, and others choosing to leave the club last summer on promises of bright lights elsewhere, we have at times struggled to field 11 players.
 Despite this, we have battled through every minute of every game, and Olton Hockey Club are proud of the way in which our players, and management team, have conducted themselves.This week we have hit our biggest challenges yet. We have 10 outfield players available and nogoalkeeper. Of the three goalkeepers that we have registered, two are away with school commitments, and our first choice GK has become injured and is unable to play.
We did ask England Hockey if we could register another GK but this was refused. We also asked permission to move thegame to the allocated slip date, but this too was refused. We were in essence left with just three options; that we play the game against Canterbury with no GK, that we place an outfield player in goal, or that we forfeit the game
. As a club we decided that neither of these first two options were viable, the first being unfair to other teams in the league who are vying for top spot and where goal difference may well become relevant, and the second being unsafe. The safety and welfare of our younger players in particular has played a significant part in this decision. Four of the team that we would have been taking to Canterbury this weekend would be young and inexperienced players, the youngest being 15 years of age. The pressure on these young players this year has been immense,and as a club we have decided it would be unfair and inappropriate to expose them to a situation where they would be playing against one of the top teams in the country and potentially placing themselves in danger in their efforts to impress and defend a keeperless goal.
Therefore after considerable debate and deliberation we have decided to forfeit the game. Wenever thought we would ever be in this situation, but we are not the first club to experience suchchallenges, and we will not be the last. Whilst some people will no doubt be quick to judge and to condemn us, they will be doing so without full knowledge of the circumstances and little insight into how they would deal with the same situation should they encounter it in the future. Olton are a proud and strong club, and whilst we hugely regret having to make this particular decision, we are also aware that none of the options open to us was any less problematic’
We have a duty to ou ryounger and less experienced players and we take responsibility now for managing the consequences of this decision.Finally, we would like to formally and publicly apologise to Canterbury, with whom we have enjoyedvery positive relationships in the past. We can only hope that they in particular try to understand oursituation, that they know us well enough to realise such a decision will not have been taken lightly orwithout due cause or consideration, and that in the end that this is a decision that does not have anybearing on the outcome of the league for any team
Richmond Hockey Club
Richmond Hockey Club men’s captain Andrew Denye told England Hockey’s publication The Clubhouse that the club has had its ups and downs. However, a new framework five years ago changed the fortunes of the club…. a lot of players left at the same time at one point: one person goes and others follow. The ladies’ first team left pretty much en masse so the club’s aims had to change. To concentrate on stabilising rather than challenging.
Ladies’ captain Alex Ferguson said: “It was a challenging situation but one you need to approach with a positive frame of mind. We ended up with a few teams relegated but now we’re starting to turn things around.”
  • Acknowledging not everything can be fixed overnight.
  • Then identifying achievable goals and committing time and energy towards them.
  • Having people take ownership of specific tasks was absolutely key.
  • Investing on training coaches within the club, since top quality coaches are in high demand.
  • Rebuild by emphasising enjoyment and responsibility.

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