April 4, 2017

University of Birmingham Hockey win 4th successive BUCS title

Written by:
Kenneth Rae

The University of Birmingham Hockey side were last week crowned BUCS Women’s champions for a 4th year in a row after a 1-0 triumph over Loughborough University. The BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) final is part of their #BigBUCSWednesday; the culmination of the team sport league programme. Goalscorer Lily Owsley proved she's clearly a fan of the big occasion having scored in the Rio 2016 Olympic Final for GB.

Their 4th title in a row is testament to the work that coach Phil Gooderham has put in over the past twelve years as Head Coach. As a Coach Logic user and all-round top guy, Phil was kind enough to speak to us after the final about the game and share some of his coaching insights.

UOBHC vs. Loughborough

The game versus Loughborough was very tight. It is always a tight game when we play Loughborough, and that proved to be the case again. The first half was tightly contested but we managed to get the goal. As hindsight shows you one goal is never enough and did create some nerves amongst the team. I’d say we dominated most of the second half however and played really well.

Their goalie made some good saves and we missed some chances, but at 1-0 you never know. Loughborough are always dangerous on the counter.

We’ve been in nine successive BUCS cup finals and ten in twelve years, managing to win 6 of them. We’re pretty chuffed with that but are already looking forward to the remainder of the season and preparing for next season also. On Saturday we went down to Canterbury, where in my 12 years, I don’t think we’ve picked up many points and managed to get a win which was extremely pleasing.

There is a real buzz around the team at the moment ahead of the play-offs. Outdoors wise, we’ve matched what we did last year which is pleasing; it’s not easy to replicate success year on year.

What’s behind the success?

Last Wednesday’s title wasn’t just about now or this season; it’s been the development of a squad and club over many years. I’ve been here 12 years now and the success now is what we began putting in place ten, eleven, twelve years ago. The girls back then started the process and culture. They created the desired attitudes, the disciplines, the team ethics, everything else.

Each year the girls develop and spread the culture throughout the squad. I don’t have to do that now – the girls instil the culture into any new player that joins the squad.

The commitment required at this level of hockey is a lot, but the girls rise to the challenge. In hockey it needs to be a holistic approach within the overall commitment. That was initially driven in the early years by players, such as, Sophie Bray, Sarah Page, Susie Gilbert, Sarah Haycroft who have now progressed onto National squads. Once you create that initial culture and start to achieve success, the ball is already rolling and it is a lot easier to keep the momentum going.

We were lucky in a sense that we had those girls. It was then passed onto girls such as Anna Toman, Emily Defroand and Hannah Martin who picked up the reigns, together with long standing players still in the squad, Bex Condie, Tina Evans and Lily Owsley.

Could Football learn from Hockey?

Massively so. You just need to look at Ferguson and to a certain degree Arsene Wenger. Ferguson could have been sacked in his second season, but survived and didn’t look back. Culture takes times to develop. He had the Beckhams, Giggs, Nevilles, Scholes etc and developed it very much with those players who were actively involved. In football with the money going around, they want immediate success and feel that money should automatically buy short term success.

When I worked in the Corporate world, if you were able to find a dealer who’d give business first time of asking, I began to understand they’d become the first to pull out. Building a long term relationship whether it be business or sport is imperative. Short term success = long term failure. In the Corporate World, there are similar thought processes to sports coaching. There can be heartaches in the development process, such as a lack of trust, but building a team is always going to have certain hiccups.

Success breeds Success

We’ve always had alumni players and were fortunate in the initial years as we had four or five alumni who stuck around and played Saturday hockey and looked after the 18 year olds. Tina Evans, who’s been involved in the Welsh squads and with us for ten years helped enormously. They made sure the new girls fitted in with the culture. Bex Condie being another one. You need those leaders within a squad. People come in at 18 years old and need support, not just as students. Having a supportive player group is vital. The leaders have helped develop the culture and success breeds success. We’ve been lucky to an extent, but we also haven’t been lucky.

It’s been a hell of a lot of work building and continuing to adjust goals and targets. The girls did so much work to commit to get us to where we are.

If a young person is a hockey player and looking at Universities, they say “I have to go Birmingham” because of what we’ve achieved. Each year from the beginning the aim was to keep getting better players. With recruitment, it’s easier to bring in a high standard of player when there are already quality players in a squad.

We’ve worked immensely hard to develop the second team also. There is a large turnover of players between Wednesday and Saturday, especially during International breaks like earlier this year when we lost 9 of the first team who went to Chile. You need a strong second team that has the same culture so they can easily slot in and feel comfortable.

We’d like to think we have similar values for effort, discipline and determination across all five teams where it is as much developing the person as it is the hockey player.

What’s next?

We’re always fighting on both fronts – University hockey on a Wednesday and Club hockey on a weekend. We do have slightly different teams. From a marketing perspective, people look at what we do on a Saturday first and foremost. A strong Saturday side creates a strong Wednesday side, which probably wouldn’t be the case switched around. History shows that. Saturday is the flagship competition for the girls. Some of the 17 year olds who join don’t even know there’s a Wednesday competition. In saying that, playing well on a Wednesday is important and success in both competitions is good. It’s good for team confidence, team spirit.

The University has backed hockey fantastically well. We’re the only sport that has a team scholarship, which allows us access to nutrition, psychology, S&C and physio support. This means we’re developing 24/26 girls and giving them exposure to the best development opportunities.

There are two types of people who look to come to Birmingham. 1) people who know who we are but who decide they’re not coming because they believe they won’t get in the first team and go elsewhere. 2) those who decide they want to improve as a hockey player and get better, simple. We love the type that aren’t immediately first team players but realise the development opportunities available are excellent. Some start in the second team and don’t progress to the first team until their final University years. There’s plenty of examples of players like this who’ve gone on to become excellent national league players elsewhere.

I’ve no doubt missed some good players also. People, of course, develop at different stages.


Bex Condie is the Saturday captain and helps massively. I like to chat through strategies with her. Tina also as an international player with lots of experience helps my role enormously. These girls have created an environment where other girls want to step up and learn. They want to develop and ask to take on added responsibility.

Lily Owsley has added plenty and helped with how we’re going to play. She really enthuses the girls. There’s a number of other girls keen to put in their thoughts as well which is healthy. It’s certainly not me standing here and telling them what to do, they all get a chance for input. It can take time to build up the confidence, understand the culture. Not being afraid of being told off. After a few games, this grows and girls want to take responsibility on the pitch, not leaving it up to the older girls. It helps with their development.

We always say it’s their hockey career and their path. It’s their ownership. That helps create the required buy in.

Thank you to Phil for giving his thoughts. Birmingham Hockey have used Coach Logic for the past three years.

read more

Recommended Articles:

Get Started

Coach Logic offers a fully-functional free trial, no credit card details required.

Free Trial