Apr 20, 2017
I don’t think I can remember field hockey featuring very much, if at all, during my first stint in Suzhou. During my second time it wasn’t until a few years ago that I can recall even considering to play. Established by a passionate member of staff at XJTLU in 2014, the club spent most of its first semester being run as something of a novelty for its reasonably sized continent of student and staff members on both the weekday evenings and weekend mornings up in Du Shu Hu.
Fast forward a few months and it was only the most avid that attended the bi-weekly training. The weekends often proved to be more of a social opportunity to catch up as much as a time in which to play anything more competitive than small sided games, after running through a few warm-up drills beforehand. Kept alive however by occasional trips to Shanghai to train with the field hockey club there and with well attended one off team competitions the club entered a cycle of decent recruitment at the start of an academic year followed by gradual attendance attrition as time progressed.
In fairness, this seems to be a trend facing many student and expatriate clubs in the city where, as people get increasingly busy, other interests vie for time and people naturally come and go, club survival is as much a case of player replenishment as it is maintaining a hardcore group of regular and, where possible, enthusiastic members. This year proved no different with regards to field hockey as impressive early numbers gradually tapered away to a core of committed regulars.
One notable difference this year however has been the transfer of club ownership to a new president and vice president. Taking on the mantle and really driving the club forward has seen the number of regular attendees double, trips to train in Shanghai with the club there become a more regular feature, and membership expand away from simply the institution to also feature invited players from the expatriate community, most notably staff at both Dulwich and SSIS.
The hockey club is now at a stage where weekly training has enough players who have committed sessions in to their weekly schedules to make training increasingly valuable, competitive and fun each week. It is equally good to see the possible emergence of regular training for more experienced players being discussed. If it comes to fruition it is quite possible in the near future that Suzhou will have a city wide hockey club that can not only boast high quality training facilities, but also provide inexperienced players with the opportunity to learn from more established ones, and the latter to play competitively.
The last couple of weeks have seen the annual Hong Kong hockey sixes event take place, and for Suzhou based players the chance to compete lies at present with the need to train and play for the Shanghai side. This is a good opportunity with a nice group of high quality players, but numbers are restricted and in reality perhaps opportunities too. On that note, hopefully it won’t be too long before both cities are sending strong teams to competitions.
About the Column
Gareth Morris is a university language teacher. He is also a part-time doctoral student. Gareth first moved to China in 2005 and, after spending a couple of years back in the UK studying for his PGCE and Masters, has now returned to the city he calls home. During his time in China Gareth has travelled extensively. His travels have taken him from Beijing and Xian to Kunming and Haikou. He has also spent time in Hong Kong and Macao. In addition to this, Gareth has lived in a number of countries across Europe, North and Central America and Asia. Closer to home, Gareth has enjoyed visiting numerous localities within Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui. His Livingsu column will explore local places of interest found within walking distance of Metro line 1.