Juniors show love of hockey is alive and well across all the Tangerines’ age groups

St Albans Hockey Club's U12 side won the county cup.

St Albans Hockey Club's U12 side won the county cup. - Credit: Archant

Part of the joy at any sport club is to see youngsters learning the game and progressing to be the best they can. The next part of our look at the St Albans Hockey Club season focuses on the junior section.

It has been a difficult season for the U18 girls. They were entered in the England Hockey competition but struggled to field a team in a few games and were forced to concede their place in the tournament.

The future does look bright though with a number making the step up from the U16s this year and the club are confident of getting the age group off the ground.

Those girls moving up the ages will do so off the back of a fairly good season for the 16s.

A record nine girls represented the county and while the Home Counties League didn’t go to plan, the England Hockey Cup tournament was far better and they qualified for the regional finals.

Most of the girls also played for the fifth team this season, with a few performing even higher and all gaining valuable experience of senior hockey.

The U14 girls squad numbered 38 this season, many of whom showed an excellent commitment to training, meaning a new slot was required for sufficient pitch space. It also led to two teams being run and allowing the girls to progress individually during the year.

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The A team had a strong season, finishing in the upper end of mid-table in a very disjointed league while the B side played in the development league, where despite being the only second string in the competition, they recorded a couple of battling wins, and also showed character in some tough defeats.

The entire squad also included 17 who earned county honours at U13, U14 or U15 level.

There was a big selection pool at the U12 level, around 36 players, so the club ran four sides in the various Chiltern Leagues in order that all the girls could play at the right level.

All four enjoyed solid campaigns, including the D team who started with quite a few beginners. They quickly bonded though and showed good improvement during the season.

There was a special mention for the goalkeeper training which has been hugely beneficial to the two goalkeepers in our age group.

The U10s were another group who improved throughout the season, culminating in impressive performances from the girls at the county In2Hockey tournament.

Across in the boys’ section the U18s lost a hard-fought Tier Two Cup encounter with Southgate but progressed to the semi-final of the Tier Three Cup, beating Barnes, Bedford and Holcombe.

A spokesman for the team said: “Thanks to the coaches and also to the wider club in recognition of the support that the youngsters get when progressing through the playing ranks on Saturdays.”

Due to cancellations, the U16 boys had limited games to allow them to gel in their teams this season but despite this they held their own against some good quality opposition.

The U14s saw many new players coming up from the U12 group and they blended with seasoned old hands as well as handling the change to a full pitch, full match times and a new formation.

The first match was a memorable win against a strong Hampstead & Westminster team and there was also a last-minute winner in a classic 6-5 clash with rivals Blueharts to savour.

Eight of the team also represented Hertfordshire.

It was a mixed season for the U12s who fielded three teams in the Chiltern league. The A squad were promoted back to the Premier Division and the Bs also went up, this time to Division One.

The C team meanwhile gained valuable exposure to competitive games.

The U10 boys improved throughout the season and fielded two teams on a regular basis in the Herts league. They also came third and fourth in the County In2Hockey tournament.

In the younger age groups the U8s spent their first season outdoors and playing tournaments this year. The focus was on drills that mimicked game play and small-sided matches, making them fun and competitive.

They finished the season with 27 regular players.

A spokesman said: “The enjoyment and progress of our players is our abiding memory of this season, which fitted our aim of instilling a love of the game as they move through the club.”

The combined U6 and U7 team had a great season and finished the year with 25 regulars. They learned how to hold a stick, dribble, play with both normal and reverse stick and shoot.