Each September, Greg natters me to write the Chairman’s welcome to the new season for the website and I am usually able to rattle off a quick update on our activity and the plans and outlook for the season ahead.  This time around, its not been quite so easy…..

This season sees the Club celebrate its 75th anniversary in existence, although how we are able to celebrate this event is not without challenges in the current environment!  Some of our more longstanding members might recall the 50th anniversary celebrations in 1996, which almost coincided with the arrival of the first Adel Astro pitch in 1997.  Once we are hopefully through this tricky period for everyone on and off the pitch, I hope that our social secretaries, Ellie and Tim, along with the Committee can find someway to mark this milestone in our existence.

This will be my 6th season as Chairman of Leeds Adel HC and 35th season as a member.  I think it is fair to say that the last 6 months have been the most challenging we have faced in not just my time as Chairman or as a member but also since our formation.  Some of the things we have taken for granted at Adel have had to be carefully reviewed – showers, teas, changing rooms, access to the pitch and several people have worked tirelessly over the last 6 months to help us not just survive, but also to be well prepared for the new league season ahead which is due to begin this weekend with the curtain raiser between the Mens 5ths and 6ths teams.  But we are probably more fortunate than a lot of other clubs in our area, who rely on schools, sports centres and Universities for their facilities and have therefore not been able to get back on the pitch as quickly as we have at Adel.  The fact that we have been able to do so, is down to the commitment and dedication of Hannah, Ellie, Gaby and Ian in getting policies and procedures in place, Lucy and Will in submitting risk assessments for coaching sessions and AWMA for allowing us to return in accordance with the EH guidelines.  For some people, the season ends in March after the last league game and then begins again in September.  These people have probably put in more time and effort over the last 6 months than they would in the winter months and I hope you will show your appreciation to them for their efforts to get us to this stage where we have started playing “proper” hockey again.

Last season ended with many disappointments, the Mens 1s being denied promotion after the North leagues decision on the outcome of Brigg’s last unplayed game determining the final standings, the lack of any summer league hockey, no Easter tour to Blackpool and no end of season dinner at Weetwood Hall.  We hoped to make this a start of season dinner this month but sadly this is still not possible (unless only 5 of you plan to turn up and join me…).  The end of season dinner is also when we announce the winners of the awards for the season and we now plan to try and present these trophies either at midweek training when there will at least be a few people to congratulate the lucky recipients, or at a Saturday match.  If you have a trophy from last season please can you return to me, Ellie, Hannah or Gaby as soon as possible.

This season we have some new people in key committee roles as well as some new faces to the club.  After last season’s near miss, the Mens 1s will be hoping that new coach, Martin Sutherland can make the difference needed this season to secure promotion.  Martin brings with him National League playing experience with both Sheffield and Leeds and is already getting to know the talented first team squad.  Lucy Horsfield begins her second season as Ladies 1s coach, and will be looking to improve on last seasons 3rd place finish.  Both teams look to have competition for places, some talented juniors coming through and some wise old heads to pass on their knowledge.  Continuity is provided by James Stroomer and Sophie Powley keeping the skippers armbands for a second season.

Will Powley has taken over from Bally as the coaching coordinator and already managed to ensure we have coaches present at all senior and junior training sessions this season, so please support those leading your sessions by turning up on time and participating enthusiastically and positively.  Numbers at training are already at maximum levels which bodes well for the season ahead.  In the ladies section, Sandra Clarke and Charlie Surridge are back for second spells as skippers of the 2s and 3s, Taryn Reynolds begins a second season as 4s skipper and Alex Fox takes over from Zoe as 5s skipper.  The Mens 2s welcome Matt Aldred as their new skipper replacing the injured Luke Meaton, Joe Morris takes over from the injured Greg Hilton with the 3s but continuity is provided with Ross Nichols, Stefan Palenski and the evergreen Richard Poll leading the 4/5/6s.  Good luck to all of them for the season ahead.

We do have some roles that still need filling so please contact me or Hannah if you are interested.  Firstly, mens club skipper, Tom Beale, along with partner and ladies 1s stalwart Clare “Sammy” Hesselwood will sadly be relocating to the south when Sammy takes up a new role with the fire service.  Both have provided sterling service on and off the pitch for many years at Adel and I hope we are able to plan an appropriate farewell for them before they leave for pastures new.  We have also created a couple of new roles to try and spread out the workload of the committee.  First we require a Grounds Secretary to oversee everything to do with the pitch (liaison with the groundsmen, the AWMA Grounds Secretary and sub-committee, lighting and maintenance inspections etc).  Secondly, if anyone is interested in joining the committee as our Diversity Officer please shout up.  Whilst I hope that Adel is a club that welcomes anyone and everyone from all backgrounds, in the current climate we need to make sure that we are doing all we can to embrace diversity, respect everyone and avoid discrimination on any grounds.

At one stage, there were doubts as to whether the new season would start on time but based on the current situation, it looks like we will begin this weekend with the first league games.  I don’t want to repeat here all of the forms you need to complete, the declarations you have to make and the things you have to do and not do before, during and after a game as these have been well documented already elsewhere.  However, if you read my welcome post from this time last year you might recall that I had 5 objectives I wanted to achieve in my time as Chairman, some completed already and some ongoing.  I have no doubt that we have a much improved and enhanced reputation with governing bodies and visitors to our club and we get positive feedback on the hospitality we provide.  Our facilities continue to improve (largely driven by Sam Jackson and Ian Phillips) and we have more of a single identity playing in the same colours.

However, the stated aim to provide a safe and secure environment for everyone is much harder to achieve in these testing times.  Please can I ask all of you to take not just personal responsibility for your own safety and well being by following all the guidance and procedures, but also to take collective responsibility and call out others who may not be as “on the ball” as others.  We cannot afford to be complacent or lax in the current climate and the last thing we need to see is a suspension of hockey activity at Adel through not following the correct procedures.

In summary, I hope you are all able to continue to enjoy your hockey this season, maintain the social side of the club as best we can and support one another in an activity that we are currently allowed to do.  Good luck for the season ahead.

Mark (the non-playing Powley of the club)