Another week of PE teaching, and another chance to reflect on my lessons. Sure, there were plenty of highs, but equally there were opportunities. I choose my words carefully here because I try to never see a lesson in a negative light even if it didn’t go the way I had envisioned. Rather, any ‘lows’ I experience are written down in my reflective session notes as ‘opportunities’, opportunities to improve my teaching practice as I strive to be better than I was yesterday, last week and last month.
The focus of this post however, is not to reflect on my ‘opportunity’ moments, but to look at the opportunities the children I have taught this week have had in their hockey development. In addition to this, I feel there is an opportunity for many primary schools to improve the hockey experience that their children currently receive. Allow me to explain…
“What are we doing today Mr Ellis?”
“We are starting a unit of work on hockey!”
Cue loud groans of disappointment/annoyance followed by:
“Oh great we get to use those silly plastic things again!” (In reference to the delightfully versatile red and yellow hockey sticks that have become a staple in very many primary school PE cupboards.)
Now one thing here I do understand, and that is the odd groan will have likely come from an individual, who, for whatever reason, has a dislike for hockey. It was alarming to myself though; just how many children were put off by the fact they had to use ‘plastic’ hockey sticks!
This was a year 5/6 lesson and I could completely understand their frustration. Not to mention the frustration of secondary PE teachers in a year’s time when their new batch of year 7’s are staring at a wooden hockey stick like an alien object. It almost felt that the children were embarrassed to be using the same equipment they did upon starting school five years earlier. They were more than ready for the transition. I am of the opinion that wooden hockey sticks should be an essential piece of kit for year 5/6 and I even taught a session at a different school this week to year 3/4 using the standard wooden sticks.
In the few primary schools I teach in that do have wooden hockey sticks, there is a huge sense of anticipation, excitement and pride when they use ‘the real thing’, it really does make them feel more ‘grown up’. It provides them with an ‘opportunity’ to step up. Surely it is essential that by year 5/6 we are introducing our children to the ‘correct’ form of the game and are allowing them to develop key fundamental skills to play field hockey, not to mention skills that are transferrable across a range of other sports.
Just so we are clear, this is not a vendetta against plastic hockey sticks. In fact, I love using them, but feel they are much better suited to KS1 and perhaps lower KS2 due to them being (arguably) slightly easier to use and perhaps a little safer. However, I have also had lots of tennis to teach recently across all year groups, and I have used metal-framed rackets across the board (plastic rackets seem to be few and far between these days).
A child can learn to play hockey whatever the equipment they are given, and, providing the teaching/coaching is of a good standard, will undoubtedly make progress. My point, then, is that I feel the transition to wooden sticks sooner, is vital for the enjoyment and self esteem for children playing the sport, and this is something I would like to see in plenty more primary schools.
Of course, I only work in a tiny fraction of schools in the greater scheme of things and for anybody reading this, what I speak of may have no relevance. I would however, like to hear the thoughts and opinions of you on this matter and if you have had any similar experiences.
Just before a sign off, it may be worth pointing out that YPO have small wooden sticks available for £5! So with the primary PE funding still well and truly here, why not take this opportunity to grab a set of thirty sticks for £150. Check them out here.
I look forward to my week ahead and as always, any ‘opportunities’ that I stumble across to improve my practice. Catch you next time ‘under the umbrella’