OLYMPIAN NICOLA White made a special visit back to her roots at Oldham Hockey Club to see the “fantastic” development inspired by her Games success.
Nicola, whose grandparents live in Delph, helped the Great Britain women’s hockey team to the country’s first-ever gold medal in the sport at Rio 2016.
The former Saddleworth Hockey Club player had a key part in the competition, including scoring a vital equaliser to send the final against the Netherlands into a penalty-shootout.
Since her return from Rio, with her gold medal proudly hanging around her neck, she has made around 40 visits to schools across the borough to talk to children about the sport.
Inspired by Nicola, almost 50 new players of all ages have joined Oldham Hockey Club, who train every Thursday at Newman RC College in Chadderton.
Club captain Amanda Smith said: “Every new member has come along off the back of visits to schools by Nicola.
“It is great she has come along to support the club and see the fruits of her labour. It is amazing for the club, and we’ve found some cracking new players.”
Amanda, who visited schools with Nicola, praised her influence and help in raising the profile of the club and attracting new members.
And they got to meet their idol as Nicola, recently named in the England and Great Britain squad for the next Olympic cycle, recently visited their training evening.
Nicola said: “I was really excited to join Oldham Hockey Club for their training evening. It was a chance for me to meet new faces who have joined and maybe tried hockey for the first time.
“My hockey sponsor ‘Grays’ kindly donated 12 sticks for me to give to the club to help support their growth and make the experience of playing as good as possible.”
She added: “I have continued to hear positive news from the club with a massive increase in participation, and they have now had to bring in extra coaches to cope with the numbers.
“This is fantastic news. The club had a vision to grow from just ladies, to men’s and juniors also and this is starting to take form brilliantly.
“Oldham was my first club which I joined at about 11 and so there will always be that element of remembering my roots here and where my journey started.
“To be able to share my success in my hometown is a great feeling but more importantly to share that dreams do come true. I want youngsters to dream big as anything is possible.”
The evening included the unveiling of Oldham Hockey Club’s new white home and blue away kits, with one presented to Nicola by Amanda.
The new junior members – both boys and girls – are already taking part in tournaments and will be looking at playing in leagues.
The club also has a new men’s team from aged 15 upwards, and they are seeking recruits to join their ranks.
Amanda explained: “We’ve formed a new men’s team as a lot of the dads or older brothers who bring their children to training decided they wanted to play too!
“The plan is for them to play seven-a-side in the summer league then get involved in the full men’s league next season. We are looking for new recruits so come and give it a try.”
Anyone interested in joining the club should contact Amanda Smith on: 07866 617530 or visit their website: www.oldhamladieshockey.org.uk
The club trains on Thursday nights at Newman RC College, Broadway, OL9 9QY from 6.30pm-8pm.