Exploring inclusion with Spencer Lynx Hockey Club
The Club Matters team recently connected with Spencer Lynx Hockey Club located in South-West London, to explore the successes, challenges and any advice they have for other clubs and groups when developing an inclusive organisation.
Spencer Lynx, founded in 2019, was developed after a group of parents realised that their children’s club (Spencer Hockey Club) was not reflective of their local community. They identified minimal state school representation and very few members and families from ethnically diverse communities, with little capacity to expand the offer without changing the club’s performance and competitive focus. A fundraising dinner was facilitated by Spencer and enough money was raised to start Spencer Lynx.
Spencer Lynx offers 2 years of free hockey training to children in school years 5 and 6. The programme is completely free to engage with weekly, with kit and equipment supplied to all.
The club relies on engagement with the local schools, specifically those with the highest pupil premium and numbers of children accessing free school meals. The Spencer Lynx team have sought to develop their relationship with the nearby schools and build trust to host school events and learn more about the community and their needs.
Initially the team went into local state schools to provide hockey training and identify those in greatest need (whether that be through free school meals, access or otherwise), who were then given talent spot letters to take home, inviting them to join Spencer Lynx. The trustees wanted children to feel a sense of pride in receiving a letter and happily engage with the club as a result.
The club is made up of 5 trustees, 2 employed head coaches, and 5 or 6 assistant coaches who engage as part of their gap years, for their Duke of Edinburgh awards, or as a way of giving back to the Spencer Club community. All volunteers had previously been engaged in the club and were passionate about hockey, and the power of belonging to a club.
The trustees noted an easy process of getting buy-in from volunteers to the programme because of the family-focused values of Spencer. Trustee Donna explained that part of the appeal is the obvious benefit to the children, making it easy for volunteers to engage and stay committed to the club.
The original club, Spencer, has a traditional sports club feel, with a drive and focus on competitive hockey. This meant the introduction of an inclusive, cost-free programme was something that was more readily achieved through the introduction of Spencer Lynx, as a satellite club to Spencer.
Donna highlighted that there can be difficult conversations around free or subsidised provisions, but Spencer Lynx aimed to interact with those that need it most through the talent spotting programme. In fact, the club decided that self-referral or attendance requests would not be accepted, to ensure that underserved community members are the focus.
When Club Matters went to visit Spencer Lynx, the impact of the club on local children and young people was apparent through the parents and carers of attendees.
There was a resounding appreciation for the cost-free nature of club involvement, positive responses regarding the inclusion of different schools from the area, and general gratitude for how much fun their child has at the club. This sense of enjoyment was reflected in conversations with the participants, all of whom seemed happy to be at the club, mentioning their love for match play, tournaments, and playing with their friends.
Since its inception, the club were able to provide opportunities for 50 children in the first year, 40 of which remained for the second and a further 60 were recruited for 2020. So far 36 children have been able to move from Spencer Lynx to Spencer Hockey Club, to continue their hockey journey. While the intention of the club is not to act as a steppingstone, this development is very positive and reaffirms the connection between the two clubs. Spencer Lynx were able to expand their operations in 2021 and 2022, recruiting around 100 children in each of those years.
Additional success for Spencer Lynx has been found in the funding and support from the community. Some independent schools in the area have linked with the club and provided kit, coaching and equipment to aid the club’s long-term sustainability.
The challenges faced by Spencer Lynx are much like any other sporting organisation. Volunteer recruitment can be difficult, the increasing costs of hiring facilities are a great burden, and ultimately the club, particularly with no costs to attendees, is expensive to maintain. Whilst there have been successful grant applications, the club feel as though they’re in a constant cycle of requesting money that can be tiresome and thankless.
A further challenge is the sensitivities around engaging children from lower-socio economic groups. There is a desire to remove stigma around offering free provisions and ensure that those engaging are simply enjoying their time, developing their physical literacy and linking with their local community.
The team at Spencer Lynx would encourage anyone looking to develop a more inclusive club to put effort into doing so in the following ways:
- Understand that it is not easy and will take great time, energy and resources.
- Look at what you provide and compare with the community needs around you.
- Forget about tricky terminology and labels, focus on elements that are easy to change.
- Find your passionate people.
- Always consider who would benefit the most and ensure that reflects your community.