“We need to better ourselves and never be satisfied with that.”
This is dedicated to the grandfather of Vikings defenceman, Jamie Parker, may he rest easy…
Who’s fancying a game of ball hockey then? Well, to be honest, Benny Tring, the Head Coach, and Peter Allen, the Captain, of the Nottingham Vikings do, they really do.
After all, it’s been close to a year now since they last slapped their sticks and smashed a ball around their Clifton Sports Centre home, their season having ended back in March 2020 – covid has knocked so much.
The Vikings have also only been in existence themselves a matters of seasons, they being born from the embers of the Reapers and went on to claim an undefeated ‘Tier Three’ Central Conference Championship and Play-Off-winning campaign in 2019, one which afforded them promotion to the BHUK Tier Two Central Conference.
The Reapers, immediately before the Vikings formation, were set up as respective A and B sides, and, although the A’s were highly ranked in the national leagues, the feeling was that there was little option but to disband.
“The Vikings came into existence following a little break and it’s a case of so far, so good for us,” began Coach Tring.
“Granted we started off in tier three, and we knew then that, if we didn’t win it then we knew that there’d be something wrong,” continued Captain Allen.
As It happened, they were successful in that first season with relative ease and with it earning promotion, which to the delight of Tring and Allen whom coincidentally, are long-term friends off-court.
Following on from promotion and, in adding new personnel to what was already a successful set up, a new league will always bring new challenges, greater expectations and, unfortunately for the Vikings, the rare taste of defeat – it was however their generic wake-up call.
Tring and Allen though have been around both ball hockey, football, and ice hockey, to know how the game works, the former having played recreational ice hockey whilst the latter having played football, Tring adding: “I stumbled across ball hockey when I was on an away trip to Edinburgh.
“We bought some sticks, and some balls, then, we got back to Nottingham, we tried Rushcliffe and it just went from there.
“It’s certainly been a constant learning curve along the way, especially coming up with differing game-plans.
“We both however see the similarities between ball hockey and say, five-a-side football (with a much bigger squad) and players from that background, it’s the same kind of positioning, and they’re better suited to the game.
“That’s what makes my job relatively easy.”
Another ‘similarity’ Coach Tring sees in ball hockey is that of American Football, well for his utilisation of game-plans that is and, for a Miami Dolphins fan – they play in the NFL’s AFC East and last claimed their holy grail, the Super Bowl, back in 1973 with a 24-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings (the Dolphins also boast an undefeated season, the only NFL side to do so, the previous year, 1972).
As is with all sports there’s also a rivalry, sport wouldn’t be sport without rivalries now would it?
“For me, the big rival has to be that of the Hull Riverkings,” added Peter Allen, the Vikings defenceman and captain.
“That and we have a local rivalry with the Nottingham Wolves, they’re the leaders of, and instrumental in, ball hockey in the area and we’ve played them before, especially in our Reaper days.”
Heartily laughing in response himself, Coach Benny Tring immediately adds: “Anyone that stops me from winning trophies and affects my win-loss ratio.
“Game-wise though I’d say the Sheffield rivalry is always a good one to have and moves over from the Panthers, and Hull, for obvious reasons, however, my biggest rivalry is that with myself and keeping complacency out of the team.”
Now, and having been inactive for a good ten months, and with a stop-start, minimalistic training programme due to the ongoing, global pandemic, Coach Tring’s main criteria, other than his players’ fitness levels, has been keeping them interested whilst also trying to attract new players into the fold for the eventuality a new season does start – something that’s not looking likely until after March/April 2021 with ongoing restrictions in place.
But they’ve been busy the best they can be, especially having gone a little soft and needing to right some wrongs from last season, the arrival of the pandemic preventing a Play-Offs push.
“This situation has allowed myself, and the team, to push the reset button,” insists Benny.
“We’ve been able to get back to basics, rebuild, and have brought in some new people, and all that without the added pressure of having to be game-ready.
“In addition we’ve been doing some sessions with Dan Powell, a Paralympic judo athlete from GNR8 Academy (Leicester).”
“Of course it’s been hard keeping players interested, even though we’ve been kept updated by BHUK along the way,” continued Peter.
“What Dan brought to the table was a breath of fresh air, dietary requirements, fitness training, and more.
“It’s changed mind-sets and people’s attitudes in life and has certainly helped with the mental health aspects.
“His competitiveness, and the fact that he’s an Olympic athlete he has four years between major competitions, so he’s spoken about how to utilise the longer time restraint and we’ve slowly been building up from there.”
“Now, moving forward, whenever we start up again, I want us to achieve that unbeaten season again, then look to maintain that the following season as well.
“Then I want us to become a household name, and to be a name that is feared within the sport.”
Right now though, it’s all about the waiting game, and a long one at that, as they ready themselves for a new season, whenever that may be.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @NottmVikings the team last played as far back as March 2020.