Sutton Sting update

1 MAY | BY ALISON FROST

Last Friday we had a Sting Exec meeting. The purpose of this meeting was twofold – to take stock of where we are this year, and to kick off preparations for next. With the season still incomplete and the new one still in planning pretty much everything we discussed is still somewhat in flux, but we thought you’d appreciate an update on where we are…or at least where our thinking is. Our intention is to provide opportunities for every member of Sutton Sting to be able to play hockey to the maximum limit of their ability; No matter if that is GB, England, Conference, Club Team or just managing to stand up for a whole game. A lot is preliminary and subject to change, but Bob and Dave gave a similar ‘preview’ at this time last year and that was well received, so we thought you might appreciate one now.

Finance

We remain financially stable. Our year finishes on 30th May and we will call an AGM shortly for sometime after that once we’ve got the accounts reconciled and audited. We still have a target to have a £10K reserve to enter next year but that’s looking like a challenge. We are still carrying significant stock, and the other factors we will provide you with more information about at the AGM because they’re still being worked on. At the moment, it looks like we’ll finish the year with around £6K in the bank all debts paid. I know we keep mentioning it, but the major stockholding in the shop right now is skates, and those are an incredible bargain because they were bought at a time when the exchange rate was very favourable. Having your kids next pair of skates on the shelf is a very worthwhile investment….

Shirts

Pretty much everybody (not least me!) will be pleased to hear that we’re in advanced discussions with a new shirt provider. We actually have two companies we’re looking at and we have samples from one which look very promising. We’re investigating production capability to make sure they can turnaround shirts quickly to avoid the problems we’ve had this year. One nice thing is that they’re offering to sponsor the club in exchange for having their logo on the shirts, which brings us to the next point….

Sponsorship

Sponsorship is now open! We want to get this sorted out quickly because then we can finalise the shirts. If anyone has any suggestions for sponsors or anyone who might be interested then let us know NOW. Costs are pretty straightforward. A small badge (e.g. on an arm or whatever) starts at £1000 and the main sponsor, front or back, is £10K….everything else we can offer is between those two and we give full invoices etc. which often means companies can write these things off against taxes.

Recruitment

The Monday night have-a-go session has proven to be incredibly popular with 47 kids on the ice last week. We will have a ‘draft day’ on 27th May to bring some of these children formally into the club and to complete the process of revitalising the bottom part of the club. At that day we’ll have a load of coaches and other staff on hand to help with enquiries, kit fitting and the 101 questions you get when someone new joins the club….it’s also going to be great opportunity to shift some of the stock we still have. We’re also intending having some on-ice sessions and potentially even some demonstrations from the older age groups. More information on this shortly.

ENL

After a few scary moments, we’re pleased to be able to tell you that our ENL team retained it’s Division 1 status for next year. That’s nothing short of an incredible achievement given that last August we weren’t even 100% certain we could raise an ENL team! Hearty congrats to Simon and the team for making that happen. The target for the ENL team next year is to make the playoffs (a top 4 position) and to keep providing opportunities for our most capable juniors….from the foundation this team now has, both of these things are achievable. The way things look at the moment Chris Wilcox and Lloyd Gibson will be leading this team next year. Alongside the ‘formal’ ENL roster we’re expecting an increased number of juniors to be able to participate in this team.

Those of you who follow such things will have seen that the EIHA English Premier League (EPL) has folded due to becoming financially unsustainable and there are numerous press releases being produced by different clubs espousing their positions. Rest assured we are fully plugged in (as much as anyone can be) to the discussions that are currently underway and we are working hard to make sure that we are not disadvantaged by any changes that might take place….indeed, Dave’s phone bill is a sight to see at the moment! We have received assurances from the EIHA that our Division 1 status will NOT be affected by all of this and that no existing ENL team will be disadvantaged by any ex-EPL teams joining the ENL. We will keep you posted when we hear more but for now the discussions are pretty heated, so it needs a little time for this to all calm down….and don’t believe everything you read in a press release. A lot of what is going out at the moment is for political, rather than informational, reasons.

U20s

We are intending running an U20 team. Charles Glasby will be the ‘named lead’ coach but he will be supported by Bob Saunders, Jamie Templar, Simon Butterworth and Gary Shaw to deliver the next step of our development strategy for our players. We know we won’t have enough players for a full U20 roster so we will be playing up some of our more capable U18s to U20s to make up the shortfall. We need to know NOW the intention of every player who would be eligible for U20 next year to know if they are interested in participation so we can make sure there’s a space kept for them.

U18s

We are expecting our U18 team to participate in Division 2 next year, lead by Carl Neenan, supported by Lee, Craig and Patrick. This year has shown that this is a competitive and close league division and it will be well suited to the capabilities of the players we’re expecting to have in this team. To some degree we can adjust the balance between U18 & U20 to make sure both teams have full rosters. We also know that we’ve got a few players who are not really ready (or leastways, don’t feel ready) for U18D2 hockey but don’t worry, we’re making arrangements to accommodate everyone. Those players will train with the team and we will have an in-house league to make sure that every player, no matter if they’re part of the ‘touring team’ or not, gets enough games to continue their development. We will provide more details about this in-house league shortly.

U15

The U15 team will be led by Simon Priestley, supported by Simon Butterworth and a couple of others that we’re not ready to announce yet. It looks like we’ve retained our D1 status for next year for this team and it will provide exactly the right challenge this years U13s are going to need.

U13

It is highly likely that this team will be returned to D1 status next year. Matt Veal will be the lead coach. For those of you who don’t know Matt is by far the most highly qualified coach we have in the club, with a degree in sports science. He’s now completed his formal Ice Hockey exams and will be a Level 2 coach in time for next year. The fact that we will return to D1 is a concern for us given that the roster will be largely newly promoted U11s. We are in discussion about if we want to go to D1 or request to be kept in D2. Whatever happens, U13 will be a great opportunity for a lot of our children who are now ready to take that next step into ‘proper’ hockey.

U11

Our U11 team has been building through the year, and we’re now able to field a full U11 roster at every game. We expect more children to join us at U11 next year and we are expecting a similar ‘touring team’ and in house league structure to the one for the older age groups….children who are just learning to skate and are starting out in hockey do not need to do that at a rink a hundred miles away; they need as many games as possible to develop their ‘ice legs’ so we’re looking to increase the number of game opportunities these children get beyond the maximum of 16 or so the formal EIHA structure delivers. We’re expecting Matt to lead this one alongside U13 given that he’s got children in both, but see below…

U9 and below

This will continue to be the entry point into the club and as such it will always be in something of a state of flux. On the other hand, training we deliver at this level has a huge impact and its important that its as structured and consistent as possible. This is also the age group at which the sting parent-coach approach falls down; It’s very rare for a parent to join the club with a full set of coaching badges and it takes time to grow them, so we’re always short of high quality coaching at this level just due to the nature of the beast. At this level (and covering U11 as well) we’re considering bringing in high quality paid coaching support as an investment into the future of our club. This represents a change in direction for the club in that we’ve never had junior paid coaches in the past but our feeling is that it’s essential to give the best possible start to the children in their hockey careers, and this will be a worthwhile investment.

Executive

We are not expecting any resignations from the executive this year, but that’s not to say that we can’t be replaced. We are always looking for new blood and next year we will be actively pursuing a continuity strategy to ensure that individual exec members do not become disproportionately important to the well being of the club. In real terms, this means that next year we’re going to be looking for people to start getting trained up in some of the exec roles with a view to becoming the next exec team in due course.

Well, that’s about it. As we said, everything is still in flux, but at least you’ve got some idea of where our thinking is.