Rio 2012 medallist Crista Cullen is inspiring more children to get involved in hockey as part of the Quick Start programme.
She visited Raynes Park High School in Wimbledon last Friday, March 16, to celebrate them becoming the first state school to be named an accredited Tim Henman Foundation and BECSLink Community.
Cullen, 32, led a workshop and even got involved in a quick hockey rally with the former tennis player.
She said: “It’s part of the Quick Start hockey programme with Wimbledon Hockey Club.
“What we’ve done is we’ve partnered with ten state schools to give opportunities for after-school clubs, for kids to take part in sport, such as hockey, which they wouldn’t have been able to be involved in.
“We provide coaches, facilitates, and then we get the kids in, bring them hockey sticks, bring them equipment, and they get to run around and enjoy the sport that we’ve all been lucky enough to play for so many years.”
The children play in a tournament, where they can be scouted and, if they show real promise, could move into the Wimbledon Junior Programme, which currently has 750 children participating.
Cullen said: “We’re looking to sponsor those kids from those ten state schools and try to get them into our programmes to see if hockey can be their thing.”
She also believes this can be a great initiative to get young girls interested in sport.
She said: “We had an 80% increase in participation in our sport of the back of our gold medal, in kids, and so it’s important for us to nurture that, because we’re not the only women’s sport that’s been doing well.
“There’s the cricketeers, the footballers and the rugby players, so we’ve got to try to make sure that people play hockey for as long as we can possibly get them interacting with it.
“We’re not telling kids to not play other sports, go out and try everything!
“If you want to try hockey, then give it a whirl, because that’s the opportunity this programme creates.
“It’s about everybody having this opportunity, and not just about people who can afford the facilities.
“It’s about the fact that we’re missing a large percentage of people and that’s what Quick Start hockey is all about.”