Have the GB men bitten off more than they can chew?

The Great Britain men’s squad is enjoying a very different experience this week as they spend the week in the Netherlands with a group of young people from East London. 

The group’s four day trip to the country that is set to host the European club finals and the women’s Champions Trophy later this month comes as part of their work with Community Links. 

Community Links is an innovative East London charity based in Newham, which the Great Britain players and coaches have been working with since late 2010.  For the Olympic side, the relationship with Community Links has been a real eye opener, with the players learning at least as much from the children as the kids have from them.  Months of joint sessions, hockey training and off-the-pitch workshops have provided ample opportunities for learning and for getting to know each other ahead of the trip.

See how ITV's London Tonight built up to the trip here.

Before they met the GB squad, most of the young people taking part in the Hockey Internationals project had never picked up a hockey stick but this week they are taking part in a hockey festival in Nijmegen.

Catching the bus early on Wednesday morning from GB Hockey HQ at Bisham Abbey, the GB players and coaches collected the youngsters before crossing the channel using the Channel Tunnel en route for Nijmegen and the FRE Hockey Festival at Union HC.  

Frantic preparations took hold at Bisham Abbey earlier in the week with plenty of favours called in as the players did their best to beg, borrow and swap tents.  That’s right.  They’re camping! 

After arriving in Nijmegen, the group attended an opening ceremony before learning about the Olympic history of their hosts, the Dutch, and splitting into small teams.  One of the most important aspects of the programme throughout has been that the athletes are so heavily involved in the planning and creation of sessions and this trip is no exception with a number of activities organised and run by the GB squad.

The festival involves a varied mix of such activities in which the team preparing for next year’s Olympic Games will work hand in hand with the young people from Newham, whose team name for the tournament is the FRE Flyers.

Today, the FRE Flyers have received skills training from the GB players before playing in small sided matches before lunch.  This afternoon, the group from East London will play the role of ball patrol as GB play a training game against a local side before taking to the pitch themselves to learn tactics and penalty corner routines.

On Friday, Great Britain’s players will turn coach, umpire and ball patrol when the FRE Flyers take on Union in the big match of the day.  It will be the moment of truth as the FRE Flyers put into practice what they’ve learnt from the GB squad.   Another training match against a local side will be followed by a barbeque and disco before the group’s final night under canvas.

A number of the Great Britain team and staff have been tweeting about their experiences so far.  You can see what they have to say without even signing up to Twitter and can keep an eye on things on your computer or your phone. 

Simply go to Twitter and search for the following people:
@andyhalliday3 – Andy Halliday, Team Manager
@RATMAN05 – Richard Alexander
@johnhurst59 – John Hurst, Goalkeeping Coach
@MensHockey2012 – the team’s collective account
@jimmyt20 – James Tindall