Enforced half-term break in women's hockey league causes rift among players
As schools break up for half-term, disquiet has broken out in a ladies' hockey league over a corresponding pause in the fixture list.
While many mothers and teachers welcome the break, several players without children have said the start-stop nature of their season leads to a loss in momentum and holds the league back from expanding. There is no corresponding pause in the men's season.
One player within the league, who did not wish to be named, said: "Due to mothers who need to look after their kids at half-term we have two slip weeks. It doesn't happen in the men's league.
"I think people just accept that this is the way our league has always been so they don't think it needs to change. However, the problem is a little more deeply rooted because the men don't have a break."
The half term period, that runs from October 19-31, is labelled as slip weeks for the women. These are the weeks where games are rearranged if they are cancelled for things like bad weather.
However, players from within the league say these are not used correctly, with teams refusing to play due to it being half-term.
The player added: "Regulations allow us to rearrange games for slip weeks. Teams which may have many mothers or teachers playing for them always say 'no we can't do these weeks'.
"I think we should be able to play, even mothers who have children should have the option to play."
Despite the player's claim, the chairwoman of the Surrey League says teams do not have the option of whether to play in allotted slip weeks.
Marilyn Walker said: "The clubs can't refuse, you have to play on the next slip date available unless you have already got a rearranged match date."
The player added that the league's competitiveness was hampered by the break as it was seen as a reason for other clubs deciding not to join.
Another player from the league agrees there would be more teams if it were not for the break and that half-term means momentum is lost due to the start-stop nature of the season.
She said: "I can see a benefit of there not being a break, you could probably get more teams involved in the league. [The season] would be the same length of time without those breaks.
"The league would become more competitive with more teams.
"Sometimes I do welcome it [the break] as you can dedicate a lot of your weekends to hockey, but there is also a thing of momentum as a team. You take time off and you lose that momentum which can be tough.
"I play for a bigger club with lots of mums and half-term is when they would be on holiday. So they would see the break as an advantage."
Although the women play at mixed clubs, interacting with their male counterparts on a regular basis, the men's and women's leagues are governed by two separate committees.
The player continued: "It is interesting when you play at a mixed club and effectively the guys continue playing and the girls don't.
"The joke at the club is always 'oh the girls have to take a couple of weeks off to look after the kids because it's half term'."
Walker added: "The Surrey Hockey Association Ladies League come together to debate the big decisions. This is made up of representatives from all the clubs that have one or more teams in the league.
"Whenever we have voted on it (the break) people have come down on the point of view that it will upset more clubs if we don't have the break."