It was pretty much a last minute decision for me to go to the uni hockey tournament in Derby on Saturday 1st July. I’d devoted the morning to spending money - I ordered a new motorbike - but I was ahead of schedule and arrived while things were still being set up.
I’d not known what to expect, but was well impressed with what I found. There was an awning to provide shade, a table laden with high-calory uni-fuel, a promising-looking ice box with the name of a well-known brewer printed on it, and chairs for us to sit in while we watched Roland setting it all up.
The 5 a side court where the group plays hockey every Tuesday was booked for the entire afternoon, which meant there was no pressure of time. A few people had a practice (way too keen!) and some took the opportunity to have a quick ride on The Bacon Slicer. (See other threads - my new 700c with a 23 mm race tyre and 102 mm cranks.)
Roger from UDC pronounced the tyre unsuitable, and suggested I would get a livelier ride with 80 mm cranks. Meanwhile some other struggled to mount it, and struggled to steer it when they had. It’s definitely an acquired taste, and lacks the common-sense practicality of a more typical uni.
But back to the tournament. We had 20 players, and various WAGs, some of whom were also unicyclists, but not playing today. 20 players gave us 4 teams of 5, which we imaginatively named A,B,C and D.
It was the hottest day of the year so far, and 10 minute matches were pretty demanding. Players were coming off the pitch at the end and heading straight for the waterbottles. Without this careful planning, the day may well have fizzled out - dehydration was a real risk. However, there was more than enough water, and it was pleasantly cold.
As for the hockey itself… well, I am one of the least experienced and least talented hockey players in the known universe. My tactics are limited to accidentally impeding my opponents’ progress, and, on those occasions when the ball fortuitously comes within range, either missing it completely, or whacking it up the pitch to an opposing player. In my short spell in goal, I managed two genuine saves, but let a couple in. Out on the pitch, I twice made the pass that led to one of my team scoring. I also managed a couple of deliberate deflections. Other than that, I was just happy not to fall off.
However, there were people here who knew what they were doing, and some were playing to waht I regard as a very high standard. I have a few enduring images in my memory:
Roger, waiting for someone to get ready to take a free hit, was idling by one foot wheel walking, whilst chatting away merrily and appearing to pay no attention to the physical impossibility of what he was doing.
Andy Parry who shows neither fear nor mercy, and feels no pain, was scooting about the pitch like a Saturday morning cartoon character, the ball apparently stuck to his stick with a blob of chewing gum, and his long hair and beard flowing behind him, giving him the appearance of a deeply unfashionable comet.
James, wowing the ladies when he chose to bare his finely-honed torso and ride in just his skin tight Lycra shorts. Joe Marshall, receiving a somewhat different response when he bared his own torso.
And talking of Joe: the inexplicable attempt to climb a tree. 10 million years of evolution can’t be wrong, Joe. Trees are for sitting under when it’s hot.
I don’t know everyone who was there. (My job brings me into daily contact with the public and after 25 years, I have developed an almost perfect inability to remember names.) However, I do remember there was a wide mix of riders, male and female, young and old, and all good riders. The games were played with plenty of good-natured banter and teasing, but the play was to quite a high standard, and it was clear that everybody was playing to win.
Our team won three, drew one and lost two, I think. That put us somewhere mid table, and was a far better performance than some cricket teams, football teams or tennis players I could mention.
Talking of which, the end of the hockey more or less coincided with the second half of the England-v-Portugal match. Of course, we were all conspicuously disinterested, but someone forgot to turn their car radio off, and as the game drew ever nearer to its inevitable anticlimax, many of us just happened to be sitting close enough to overhear what was happening.
There was an excellent barbecue, with plenty of vegetarian options. After that, we finished off with a last hockey game for as many as still had the energy. Legs were tired, and after a tough, competitive match in which no one recalled the score, but everyone was sure they had won, we called it a day.
A brilliant afternoon, and thanks to those who organised it and made it possible. Nice to meet some of you from the forum for the first time.