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The Hockey Family
By: Taff Ahmed
Days away from my wife and two daughters.
Sacrificing vacation time.
Long hours, late nights and early mornings.
There are hundreds just like me. A family of volunteers with a common thread; our unquenchable love for the same stick and ball sport. I’m Taff Ahmed, and I’m a Hockey Maker.
What is a Hockey Maker? I’m glad you asked. To truly understand what myself and others like me have been doing for almost a decade, it would be best to start at the beginning. It all started back in 2007 when England’s national governing body won the right to host the European Hockey Championships (Eurohockey). The venue was in Manchester, which is my local city and not far from where I live, so I decided to apply to become a volunteer. Back then we were called ‘The EuroCrew’ and I still have the kit although I can’t fit into it anymore. This was my first ever major event for England Hockey, and it was actually the same for England Hockey too, as they had not hosted a major event in recent times. I didn’t know it then but it would be the start of my personal Hockey Making legacy and an England Hockey Award later ‘Hockey Maker of the Year 2016’, I’m still volunteering at hockey events and extending ‘The Hockey Family’ with lots of amazing, dedicated, selfless people.
The event was amazing, and I met some great people from all over the world. My role was to be a Team Liaison Officer (TLO) for the Ukrainian Women’s Hockey Team. The event was for both men and women and a total of 16 TLOs, one for each team. There are many highlights from the event but the one stuck in my head the most is when a two-time Olympian who sat next to me in the stands suddenly turned to me and uttered these immortal words, “Do I know you from somewhere?” My response was, “I’m sure if we had met I would have remembered.” A short conversation later and to this day we still stay in touch. The Eurohockey 2007 was maybe the start of the Hockey Makers as they are now known.
I have volunteered for many other events over the past decade including National Indoors, European Indoors, Champions Trophy, European Cup Winners Cup, Hockey World League, London Cup (Investec Cup) and the London Olympic Games, although I was only able to do the test event and not the actual Olympic Games. There are many different roles you can do as a hockey maker. These include Ball Patrol, Access Control, Hospitality, Umpire Liaison, Officials Liaison, Transport (Driving), Mascots, Field of Play, Team Liaison Officers and many more. If you have a speciality or want to be in a certain area of an event, then there is a role for you, whatever your experience. Each role is essential in helping to deliver a world class event.
So you might be asking why I give up my time and money, just like others, to volunteer as a Hockey Maker. There are many factors that go into it and I will try to explain the bug of volunteering. When I first volunteered it was to give something back to the sport that I love and have been coaching and playing for more than 25 years. Now it is so much more than that, it has evolved over the years and now it’s about helping to deliver a world class event successfully. It’s also about having fun, making new friends and meeting up with old ones. We have become a ‘Hockey Family’ and that is what makes me want to do events year in year out. I look forward to meeting up with them every year and sometimes two or three times a year. We have become an extended family and I have made some amazing friends. Some of these include people like Bruce Danbury, Amo Soar, Allen Orient, Alex Bandurak, Amy Carter, Katie Bent and of course Phil ‘The Iceman’ Bootland, He is referred to as Ice Man because of ice baths as he is the expert in that field. I wish I could name all the amazing people who I have met over the years and who are definitely my ‘Hockey Family’ but the list is too long to mention them all. We even try to make sure when we volunteer that we stay at the same hotel or accommodation so that we not only work together during the day but also socialize in the evenings together. This also helps us to look out for each other in making sure we get enough rest and food on a daily basis.
Being a Hockey Maker is one of the most amazing and fulfilling things I have ever done in my life. It’s about making new friends, helping one another no matter what role you might be assigned to at events, going above and beyond what is expected, not because you are asked to, but because you want to, helping the general public have the best experience they can possibly have, and being encouraging and positive all of the time even when energy levels are low. Smiling even when the weather is getting you down or the work load is intensive at certain points of the event, thinking on your feet and being alert, and most importantly it’s about having fun, making new friends, meeting old ones, having a laugh and extending ‘The Hockey Family’.
I can whole heartedly recommend being a hockey volunteer. It’s the most fulfilling thing you will feel once you have done it, and it’s a chance to give something back to the sport you all play, coach, support or even manage and love. Anyone can become a hockey volunteer, even people who are not hockey enthusiasts. You will learn new skills, have fun and meet some amazing people, create some amazing memories and not to mention all the hockey you will get to watch for free. So come and join the ‘Hockey Family’ and be a part of something awesome. We did it in the United Kingdom and as hockey continues to thrive it is mainly due to the dedication and commitment of ‘hockey makers’ giving up their time at regional and national events throughout the year. Every nation has people like our group who want to help and donate their time. They just need the opportunity to do it. The Hockey Makers will thrive as more and more events are hosted and more hockey volunteers take part in delivering a world class event and sharing their experiences with others around the country. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be part of something absolutely amazing all while growing the sport we love!
*** Feeling motivated and inspired? Visit usafieldhockey.com for more details about volunteering for the 2017 Pan American Cup in Lancaster, Pa. in early fall.