Small Sticks provides a great foundation for rising hockey player


Like many of today’s promising hockey talent, Aimee Mitchell first picked up a stick as part of the Small Sticks programme. With 11 years of hockey under her belt, she’s now a key member of North Harbour U18 and will captain her beloved St Mary’s College at next month’s Auckland Secondary Schools Festival.

Aimee Mitchell was always under the impression that netball was the sport for young girls. Aspiring to be a Silver Fern was the natural order, but Aimee had two older sisters who broke the mould.

One day Aimee’s sisters came home with a permission slip to play winter hockey for Stanley Bay School. They told their father they were “too short” for netball, and hockey would be better because it was played close to the ground.

Once Aimee’s sisters started playing, she soon got dragged onto the turf when the team was short of players. Taking to the turf for the first time can be a daunting proposition for any young hockey player. For Aimee, this is where Small Sticks came in.

“If it weren’t for Small Sticks, I wouldn’t have had that base that led to the hockey I am now playing.”

With a focus on the fundamentals and enjoyment of the game, Small Sticks has provided many children with a strong foundation for playing hockey. And the social aspect has left a lasting impression.

“I learned to love hitting the ball around and having fun on the turf with my mates. That has not changed even to this day.”

Now an experienced midfielder, Mitchell admits the transition from playing ball sports using your hands and feet to one holding a stick was initially difficult. She found tackling the most challenging skill to pick up.

“I thought the aim of the game was to swing your stick around until you somehow managed to get the ball and just go on a dribbling rampage around the field.”

Mitchell has grown into a leader, captaining her beloved St Mary’s College team for three years. She has also been a crucial part of a resurgence of the sport at the school. St Mary’s have gone from playing in the Auckland D grade and only having one team to now having ten teams and playing in the Supercity Premier Grade for the past three years.

But it’s been a tough final year at college, with Covid-19 meaning Auckland schools couldn’t attend the September tournaments.

“Not having tournament week this year was upsetting for all the girls. I don’t think we understood how much it meant to us until it wasn’t there this year.”

Like most of our hockey community, Aimee has loved giving back by getting heavily involved in coaching at North Harbour and St Mary’s. It has also provided her with opportunities off the turf. Next year Aimee will be attending Massey University where she has received an Academy of Sports Scholarship which will help her achieve her lifelong dream of studying Veterinary Science.

From being “too short” for netball and a good base with the Small Sticks programme, Aimee continues to play hockey with lofty future goals.  She has been playing for the North Shore United Premier side for the past four years and has found the mentorship and guidance from former Vantage Black Stick Kat Henry invaluable.

“I would love to see how far I can get within hockey and test myself against the best players.”

About Small Sticks

Established in 2012, 17,000 children were given the opportunity to give hockey a go in the first year of the Small Sticks initiative. The programme has since grown exponentially, with more than 62,000 taking part last year.

Contact your local Association to find out how to become involved in Small Sticks in your area.

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