Oundle School - Tour of a lifetime
29th September 2014

This summer saw Oundle School’s girls’ hockey club tour make the most of the long School break, departing for a three week tour of a lifetime across the Pacific Ocean. Tour destinations across Asia and Australasia, included Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney and New Zealand’s North Island.


In the heat and humidity of Malaysia, the sun of Sydney and the rain of New Zealand’s winter, the group of 34 girls played a total of 20 matches against local schools and clubs. They soon found that playing on tour is very different to playing school matches during the hockey season - one of the major benefits of such tour experiences.


Large squads and some challenging conditions (not to mention weather variances!) helped develop the players’ understanding of the fast and frequent substitutions that are now part of hockey. The girls made the most out of the opportunity to play in new positions, therefore gaining a better understanding of different types of defensive press and formations. New skills and ideas were tested out in competitive matches, something which is not always possible during term time. This helped boost the girls’ confidence and soon saw them trying aerials, drag-flicks and transferring the ball more often, improving their game considerably.


Overall, the tour offered much in the way of developing the pupils’ hockey, not least by playing both club sides and school teams whose patterns and ideas were well established. The girls were also lucky enough to train at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium under the guidance of Larry Macintosh, Head Coach at the NSW Institute of Sport. Throughout the tour, the standard of hockey was well-balanced, with the Oundle girls winning nine, drawing three and losing eight of their games. For coaches, such balance on tour is important as it shows that the challenges faced were appropriate for developing the teams.


As with any school tour, time away from pitches and planes is a must as it gives pupils valuable opportunities to expand their cultural and linguistic horizons. Highlights are often those times spent with host families, with the pupils learning about the places they are visiting. Over the three weeks, time was spent exploring the cities, with surfing in Sydney and climbing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge being two memorable experiences. Malaysia and Australasia offered tremendous contrasts - from the bustle of Kuala Lumpur’s markets and temples to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo and then onto the crafts and culture of New Zealand’s Maoris. Travel, matches and exploring meant a packed and challenging itinerary, but the girls returned eager to start the hockey season in September and with a strong appetite to explore the Far East further in future years. 


The Great War commemoration on the 4 August coincided with the tour’s stop in New Zealand, and the girls took the opportunity to mark the 100 years since war was declared by laying a wreath at the New Zealand Cenotaph in memory of the Old Oundelians and the ANZACS who gave their lives.


Lower Sixth former, Polly Baker (16), commented, “Travelling with 33 other girls from different years to Australasia and Far East Asia was an amazing experience, be it on or off the pitch. We were all fortunate to share many cultural experiences together which included; bartering in a market in Kuala Lumpur, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, attending a traditional Maori feast and watching an amusing sheep show in New Zealand! The standard of hockey was very high and we enjoyed both victories and defeats which have allowed us to move forward as a hockey club in preparation for what we hope will be a very successful season." 


Gareth Terrett, Head of Hockey at Oundle, commented, “The tour offered a tremendous amount for the girls. Not only did they have a lot of fun travelling together and exploring new places, but they improved their level of hockey significantly thanks to the amount of tour time dedicated to matches and skills.


Ideas on the pitch have now been established and these will filter into teams at all levels in the School. All the tour members had the opportunity to play against older and more experienced players, and in doing so, they learned a great deal about team-play and ways in which to develop their own skills. I am now very much looking forward to seeing their experiences being put into practice this coming season.”  



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