Three of the 16 clubs in the Uganda National Hockey League (NHL) are institutional Clubs. These are; Makerere University (MUK) Stingers (men) and a male and female team from Makerere University Business School (MUBS).
The other teams in the league are; men: Weatherhead Vikings (debutants), Weatherhead Men, Weatherhead Historicals, KHC Stallions, Wananchi Men, City Lions, Rockets, Kampala Originals and women; Weatherhead Women, Wananchi Women, DCU Club, Rhinos and KHC Swans.
University outfit MUK Stingers were the first institutional side to grace the NHL following their debut last season.
MUBS outfits will make their debuts in the men and women’s leagues next season and this could lay down a pathway for other institutions to join the league.
The first thing the institutional clubs bring to the league is numbers. These numbers imply to both league participants and also the fans.
In regard to the issue of fans, ever since MUK Stingers debuted last season, there has been a sharp increase in numbers of fans who flock the national hockey stadium in Lugogo to watch the games.
Athletes in universities are some of the ‘coolest kids’ in campus and have a following especially from the opposite sex.
Now with MUBS bringing in two teams to the league, it will be easy for the boys and girls from the Nakawa-based institute to make their way to the Lugogo turf and possibly this season the stands will be filled to the brim.
With the league now having a cast of student-athletes, the hockey custodians are assured of budding elite athletes.
Since education is believed to be the key to life, elite athletes are an asset to hockey in a way that even if they hang their boots, they can still be useful to the game especially if they succeed in the corporate and business world.
Institutional Clubs are less likely to struggle financially hence a less burden to the Uganda Hockey Association (UHA).
By the time a university outfit joins a league, relevant authorities at the institute are aware of the development. Issues like funding and athletes welfare are fronted first before a team is giving green light to join the league.
Unlike other teams that publicly showed financial constraints last season, MUK Stingers had a smooth season without any financial hazard in display.
With other institutional clubs outside just learning institutions likely to join the hockey league, there is more that comes with such teams including; discipline already instilled in learning institutions, life skills, temperance by many athletes, spirit of higher achievement and the like.