Every event that happens, big or small, would not happen without the heart and dedication of volunteers. For the Hockey Makers this is taken to an unparalleled level. Although their involvement stems as far back as 2007, it wasn’t until the London 2012 Olympics that the Hockey Makers and the idea of volunteers being a mainstay of events really took off.
The Hockey Makers are an open group of volunteers, tied closely to England Hockey, that support indoor, outdoor and international hockey events. Their motto is charged around “being part of the Hockey Family” and of course the benefits at a minimum include having fun, meeting people, learning new skills and building your CV. Since the London Olympics their volunteers have extended their experience internationally. Three Hockey Makers brought their expertise to Lancaster for the 2017 men’s and women’s Pan American Cup in the USA – Katie Bent, Chris Wardale and Alex Bandurak,
Bent is an “original” so-to-speak, having been a part of the first event the Hockey Makers were born from at the European Championships in Manchester in 2007. Now, Bent enters her 10th year of volunteering and her resume includes two European Championships, two Champions Trophies, the Men’s World League Semi-finals, the 2012 Olympics and now the Pan American Cup.
“The Hockey Makers is such a diverse group of people,” said Bent, who is involved with the teams as a liaison at the Pan American Cup. “No matter ages or experience in the sport there is a role for everyone. Having such a diverse group is what makes it so great. I've grown up with the Hockey Makers in the UK and its helped me learn different life skills over the years that have supported me in my career and the group grows at each event which adds more diversity each time. It's fantastic to see people of all ages involved at any event as each individual brings something different to the group and event.”
For Wardale, his first event was with the 2010 Women’s Champion’s Trophy in Nottingham, England. His aspirations of working at an Olympic Games came true when he was selected to work at the 2012 London Games and has been able to work a major competition each year since including the Champions Challenge 1, 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2016 men’s and women’s Champions trophy and the men’s Hockey World League Semi-final.
“For some people, just going to watch would have been enough but I have been fortunate enough to receive some great coaching and support growing up so wanted to give something extra back to the sport that has taught me so much,” added Wardale, who is in Lancaster working with USA Field Hockey team’s operations around the field of play. “I have been around a hockey environment since I can remember and it's a huge part of my life, so having the opportunity to be involved in the highest level of hockey is great from a development point of view but it's also amazing to be working with so many people who are just as passionate and interested in the sport as I am.”
Bandurak has been involved with the Hockey Makers for eight years now but involved in hockey for over 20. Bandurak, like Bent, is working with the teams and the Team Liaison officers in Lancaster.
“The Pan Am Cup had been an amazing experience for us to come to out here,” said Bandurak who has done a variety of international level events but is still waiting to tick a Commonwealth Games and World Cup off his bucket list. “Every tournament is different, and so seeing the way the tournament is run out here, by both USA Field Hockey and PAHF, has been beneficial because we can see how things may differ slightly to back (in England). We can observe that, compare it to things we have done back (in England), that have either worked better or not quite as well, and then feed that back, either here or to our own governing body. This sharing of experiences would benefit both future tournaments here, and those we hold in the UK.”
The Hockey Makers boast a diverse age mix as well as a wide range of skills and talents. Skills from day jobs can be benefit in specific volunteer roles, but the learnings at events are also easily transferable to a volunteer’s day job or activities.
Bent works in soccer in the UK working with athletes on match days and behind the scenes preparations for competitions. Those skills have transferred over to her volunteer roles, while in her experiences she has done a variety of work ranging from mascot services to spectator service and working with the competing teams.
“Most of the skills that have helped me move forward with my education and now career have been learnt by working with such a diverse group of volunteers at events,” adds Bent, who started volunteering at age 17 and also plays and coaches throughout the hockey season.
This is the first involvement of the Hockey Makers in a Pan American event and while volunteers are not unfamiliar, the concept of a cultured volunteer club branching their skills and efforts internationally can hopefully be spread to this side of the world.
“What makes volunteering so special is that you are there to facilitate the athletes event, with a group of like-minded, passionate volunteers,” adds Bandurak. “People come from all walks of life, with varying degrees of involvement with, and knowledge of, hockey. What they share (and develop) is a love of the sport. Being with such passionate and hardworking people, with a common interest, means everyone comes together and gets on amazingly well on events, even if they haven't met before. They also all chip in and help each other, providing additional help, filling in, or just being on hand in case anything is needed.”
When you meet a Hockey Maker you won’t be surprised to find common traits amongst them. All three in Lancaster agreed that communication and team work are essential to being effective Hockey Makers. From language barriers to problem solving, these volunteers have strived for the necessary experiences and events to continually improve themselves both as people and professionals.
As far as the Pan American Cup goes, this trio of Hockey Makers has been committed to 35 games over 10 days at the remarkable Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Pennsylvania, USA. This is just one more event and country for them to add to their impressively growing CV. Their local hockey seasons begin in September where they will be involved in all capacities from playing to coaching, mentoring or umpiring. Aspirations are high for all Hockey Makers for the upcoming 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia, the 2018 World Cup in London and the 2018 England National Indoor Finals and while not everyone can be at every big event, that doesn’t seem to stop them from being a part of any and all domestic competitions that they can.
“It's an incredible venue here at Spooky Nook Sports and it's great see there are people just as passionate about the sport as there is back at home,” adds Wardale. “I am very thankful to the staff at USA field hockey who allowed us to come out and also to the volunteers who have all made us feel very welcome.”
For more on the Hockey Makers visit hockeymaker.co.uk .