The Nepean Nighthawks are the fastest growing field hockey club in Ontario. The club that started with ten kids four years ago now has over 200 boys and girls participating in their junior program. What is the secret to their success? According to co-founder Sandeep Chopra – it’s all about youth and community.
When the Nighthawks began offering youth programs, kids were able to get involved with field hockey as early as age ten. Many athletes are not exposed to field hockey until high school, at which point they have already developed strong relationships within other sports.
“Even if athletes pick up field hockey in high school, their family doesn’t know anything about the sport and they have no relationship to the field hockey community,” says Chopra. “When we pushed the age limits down at our club, we enabled athletes and families to develop a community. Kids started bringing siblings and friends, and truly began developing a life-long relationship with field hockey.”
While the Nighthawks are one of the largest youth field hockey programs in Ontario, they are relatively small when compared to the colossal ice hockey or soccer clubs. The smaller size of the Nepean Nighthawks is actually one of factors that attract many families to field hockey.
“Kids don’t get lost in our program and there is a close knit, sense of belonging at the club,” says Chopra. “The atmosphere creates a place where kids take ownership of their team and club. There is a sense of pride.”
In June that pride was boosted when the Nighthawks were able to spend a day with their Honourary Captain – field hockey legend Ken Pereira. Many young athletes were inspired by the two-time Olympian and current record holder of the Most International Caps played for Canada. The opportunity for beginners to interact with stars like Pereira is another example of what the close-knit field hockey community offers.
As the Nepean Nighthawks introduce kids to field hockey, they introduce them to a sport they can participate in throughout their lives. We look forward to watching many of these young athletes go on to compete for their schools, clubs and provinces. And we will watch as some reach the highest levels of competition where they will play for their country on the international stage. The path to the podium truly begins in programs like the Nepean Nighthawks.