England National Programme - A New Beginning

During the 2015/16 ice hockey season, the England programme has had a major overhaul, being reduced from 6 teams to 4.This was soon made up to 5 teams, when the clubs voted at the AGM at the start of the 2016/17 to reinstate the U13s programme. Further more, as of the start of 2017/18 season, we went back up to 6 teams, with the introduction of an England U17s girls team.

IHUK introducing a GB U16 male and female teams into their programme, also drove the decision to remove the England 16s male and female teams.

So, we now have age groups at,

  • England U13s boys
  • England U14s boys
  • England U14s girls
  • England U15s boys
  • England U17s girls
  • England U19s boys

What the National Team programme is aiming to achieve over the next 5 years, is to help the GB programme, by getting our younger players ready to play at this level. This is going to include lots of different opinions being taken into account. Understanding what the GB coaches at the various age groups, want our younger players to be able to do. All parties need to have a joined up way of thinking, as there needs to be harmony between the EIHA and IHUK, as we all work to develop young hockey players, for the benefit of our GB programme.


Ben Pitchley - Head Coach of England Teams

Ben has been involved in the ice hockey world for over 25 years, as a player, as a parent and as a coach.
Ben has represented GB at the 20s age group, and had a playing career with the Romford Raiders up until the age of 32. He then threw himself into the coaching. Ben is currently the Head coach of the Junior programme in Romford, South East Mentor Coach, and has previously coached the England U13s team for 6 seasons. Ben has also been an instructor for the coaching programme.


Gary Apsley - General Manager of England Teams

Its safe to say Gary has many talents across many varied fields both in business and sport he is best known in the world of Ice Hockey for his involvement with Sutton Sting building it from nothing with two other club members into the thriving club we all see today. Using the knowledge and experience Gary has gained
in managing systems, processes and financial matters will be a huge asset the National Programme and lets not forget his incredible enthusiasm to move things on and challenge to get the best for the people in the programme he is working with. I know this programme will be no different


Then the interviews were undertaken for the managers and coaching staff, and the following personnel were appointed

England 13s boys

  • Head Coach - Mark Saunders
  • Assistant Coach - Alan Blyth
  • Assistant Coach - Dave Capps
  • Manager - TBA

England 14s boys

  • Head Coach - Chris Salam
  • Assistant Coach - Darrin Laishley
  • Assistant Coach - Sean Alderson
  • Manager - Donna Balmer


England 14s girls

  • Head Coach - Nikki Wardell
  • Assistant Coach - Kirsten Deighton
  • Manager -Yvonne Roberts

England 15s boys

  • Head Coach - Martyn Etheridge
  • Assistant Coach - Alex Green
  • Assistant Coach - Andy Dainteth
  • Manager - Sue Green

England 17s girls

  • Head Coach - Tim Healand
  • Assistant Coach - Paul Burton
  • Assistant Coach - TBC
  • Manager - Lyn Burton

England 19s boys

  • Head Coach - Ryan Aldridge
  • Assistant Coach - Ian Pound
  • Manager - Paul Kelsall

Technical Support Paul Woodhouse


England Teams and the Pathway.

So, the question on many peoples lips is, why have England teams anyway? As someone who has been in the programme a number of years, Ben Pitchley offered an answer. "The goal of every young hockey player is to play for their country! To pull on the GB shirt meant the world to me, all those years go. I only got to do it for one season, but what I experienced in that one season, hockey wise, will stay with me for the rest of my life." Pitchley added. "Going forward it is our intention to ensure the England teams will be used as the foundation for preparing our young players for the GB teams! It's part of the player pathway that starts when they first strap on a pair of skates on a learn to play session."

This pathway Pitchley talks about is the route a player takes as he/she moves forward from when they play their first real game of hockey at club level, and continue developing their hockey skill set. Conference hockey is the next step, as the players become more accomplished through developing a skill set that they require to play this game at the Conference level. Conference weekend is used for the recruitment of players that England Team staff feel will be able to play at the National team level. The recruitment starts with player selection for the team selection camps traditionally held in the summer.

Once players are selected for the camps, there is a certain amount of buy-in, that both the players and the parents have to deal with. Players have to be in shape for the camp, so they are issued with a strength and conditioning programme, that has to be adhered to, so that the players come to camp ready. Parents will also be expected to attend the camps, as there will be a parent education programme running along side the first on ice session, around, nutrition, hydration, relaxation, and schooling. Schooling will play a big part in the programme this year, as we are making our programme open to every Head Master/Mistress that has player in the England programme. Any issues at school, will be notified to us, and could result in players being removed from the England programme. Education is key to success, and something that we are going to be instilling in our players straight from the very beginning.

During the selection camp, it is our intention to invite senior GB personnel and players, along with other senior hockey players and coaches, as well as the current England staff to share their knowledge and experiences with the young players.
If we surround the players with these role models, they should pick up one of their traits, no matter how small or minor.

To play for GB is not about 1 hour a week its lifestyle, it's a way of life that all have to buy into be it player, parent or coach.

Please understand conference is a major part of the EIHA National Programme to support GB.

Once selected for an England team your England trip will be funded by the EIHA your on ice and off-ice uniform will be provided by the EIHA, yes there will still be camp and training costs to be incurred but the overall cost will be considerably less than previous.

Your commitment to this programme has to be second to none it has to be a way of life.

Education – Fitness – Healthy life style

Work to Pull on your Club Shirt – Work to Pull on your Conference Shirt – Work to Pull on your England Shirt – Work for the right to Pull on your Great Britain Shirt – the shirts are there waiting and ready - WILL YOU BE READY WHEN THE TIME COMES IT STARTS RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW!!

So the question is, who wouldn't want their child to be a part of this player pathway?

We are committed to provide and develop the very best programme we can to develop your child and give them the best opportunities we can.

Geoff Hemmerman EIHA Director Responsible

Ben Pichley Head Coach

Gary Apsley General Manager

Your Team Staff