MARLOW Hockey Club are living proof that amateur sports clubs can win the numbers war.
While many clubs battle to field teams amidst falling levels of participation, Marlow are bucking the trend in spectacular fashion.
Last year they were the fastest growing hockey club in the south of England and that escalation shows no signs of slowing down this year.
Membership from September 2011 to September 2012 went up by more than 30 per cent and, apart from increasing the men’s section from four to six teams and the women’s section from three to four, there are now upwards of 150 six to 11-year-olds training at the club every Saturday morning.
Chairman Keith Packer says there are three factors behind the increasing numbers: The new Astroturf pitch at Pound Lane, the appointment of Mike Irving as director of hockey, and improved links with Sir Williams Borlase’s Grammar School.
He said: “Ten or 15 years ago we had to play away from Marlow – at Cressex, Bisham, Handy Cross, whereever we could [the club has even played in Naphill and Aylesbury].
“Now we’ve got a new Astroturf and people can play their games and then stay on and watch the next game. That’s made a massive difference.
“At junior level, the main reason [behind the numbers] is that we’ve generated much stronger links with Sir William Borlase’s.”
It sounds simple, but it’s effective and the club has this year been able to introduce an U18 boys and girls team for the first time to complete the U12, U14, U16 and U18 set.
In fact, Marlow are almost becoming a victim of their own success.
With so many players now jostling for pitch time, demand at Pound Lane is starting to outstrip supply and the club are developing links with Great Marlow School with a view to utilising their Astroturf.
Of course, success on the pitch helps and six promotions out of seven at senior level last season – with three of those teams going up as champions – is just about as good as it gets.
Packer said: “We’re having a fantastic time at the moment. We’re booming.”