Check out these plans for a new hockey competition
IPSWICH Hockey Association president Margret Mantell is "optimistic'' a fourth A-grade men's team will rejoin the competition next year.
Off-season development sessions and recruiting work by regional coaching director Sam Spry and senior Easts player/coach Paul Malcolm has boosted hopes enough players will be found to field an additional top grade side.
However, the strengthening of the A-grade men's competition is only one of the items on Mantell's 2017 wishlist.
Another important development she hopes to see in the new year is Ipswich Hockey's historic under-20 transition competition.
The plan is to provide a more fun-based, learning series for players without a junior grounding in hockey or to help young players prepare for senior hockey without added competitive pressures.
Mantell said Ipswich Hockey's RAP (recruitment, advancement and promotion) team came up with the idea to introduce a new competition to cater for a wider range of players.
She said after various meetings one of the key areas that emerged "was we don't really have a comp for those players when they leave juniors at under 15 and have to go to seniors''.
The T (transition) grade comp will hopefully provide that.
"It's a transitioning phase from juniors into seniors that's helping them to develop their skills and gain the confidence to be able to then play in senior grades,'' Mantell said.
"Because our sport is such a skill-based sport, it is quite a challenge for someone to enter it in their teens.''
Players aged 16-20 will be invited to join the competition in the new year. It may be played as a nine-a-side mixed competition at a set time, depending on numbers.
"It's a work in progress,'' she said.
"We're hoping for club teams. We need the skills there to coach and develop the players.
"We're looking at maybe for the first few weeks there won't be any points.
It may be along the Hookin2Hockey lines of doing a skills session first and playing a game.''
Such a transition competition could also be more affordable, with registrations offered at a cheaper rate for "sub senior (up to 20 years)'' players.
As she completed the last of her season stocktake at the Ipswich Hockey Complex this week, Mantell rated Ipswich's Hookin2Hockey program among the highlights this year.
The program for kids aged under-5, under-7 and under-9 has continued to grow beyond 200 players.
Mantell was pleased how all the clubs provided support in delivering the Hookin2Hockey at Raceview.
The parents and coaches in particular have encouraged the young enthusiastic players to enjoy hockey and share in dress- up theme and carnival days.
Next year, the format will undergo some slight changes to fit in with Hockey Australia's nation-wide directive.
In the same way Auskick (Aussie rules) and Milo Cricket have a national focus in their sports, Hockey Australia wants a more uniform program.
"Each association basically ran their introductory program different ways,'' Mantell said. "Some called it Hookin2Hockey, some called it Minkey Mod. There was all different names.''
However, Mantell said the Ipswich association had to make minimal adjustments next year as its program was similar to what Hockey Australia requested.
"They're still working on certain components of it that they have not finalised either but fortunately for us, it pretty much fits in with exactly with what we've been doing.''
That includes one hour come and try sessions leading into eight-week blocks of skills in action for under-5 players.
"That's the really beginning with learning the basic skills,'' she said.
"Our season goes for 17 weeks so take out our theme day, we can run two eight-week blocks which fits in perfectly,'' she said.
She said Ipswich Hockey could continue running modified games for under 7s and under 9s during an 8-16 week program.
Ipswich's successful Hookin2Hockey initiative will be demonstrated at their annual come and try and sign-on day at the Raceview complex on February 5.
Clubs will offer information and can register players for the 2017 season.
Ipswich Hockey's annual come and try/sign-on day is on Sunday, February 5, from 3pm at the Raceview complex. A range of activities are planned for juniors and those wanting to see hockey played, as well as an exhibition challenge between young and masters men's and women's players under old rules.
The 2017 AGM is on Monday, February 6.
Next year's popular Hookin2Hockey program will start on March 11.