Bristol hockey team win mixed championship in touching tribute to late coach

Bristol beat Lichfield 2-1 in an emotional display at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London

Bristol University’s hockey team have won the England Hockey Mixed Tier 2 Championships and touchingly dedicated their victory to their late coach. Ben Dudley has been described as a “legend” and “inspirational” by the students he coached as Head of Hockey at the University of Bristol.

Ben had been battling a cancer diagnosis with a seemingly endless supply of good humour since 2017 until his passing in April 2023 aged 36. Ben’s devotion to the game and his generosity to players is writ large in his achievements: as a goalkeeper, he played for England and competed in the top European club league, and as a coach, he took his teams to success at the highest level.

It was Ben’s decision to enter the club into the mixed league, and the team were determined to continue his legacy by winning the championship.

On the back of each University of Bristol shirt was the name ‘Dudley’ and ‘13’. The University’s number 13 shirt has now been retired in honour of Ben and will only be used again if his son, Ruben, decides to join the University.

Co-captain Amy Salmon said: “Winning that game and wearing those t-shirts is something I will never forget and I am so grateful that I was able to not only be a part of it but co-captain the team. It was a very special day.”

It took 60 minutes for the game’s deadlock to be broken, when Bristol’s Phil Barnett scored during a penalty, before co-captain Archie Sansome grabbed a second. Archie described the final as “one of the most special days of my life” and one he wished “could’ve been shared with Ben over a Corona or two”.

He added: “I honestly could not explain in words what he has done for me. Ben pushed me to be a better player and more importantly, made me believe in myself as a man. I considered him not only a coach but a friend and someone who made me laugh even in his darkest days.”

In his six years at the University, Ben took the men’s squad to the National League (the highest level of club hockey in the UK) and promotion to the British Universities and Colleges (BUCS) Premier Division twice.

Ben is survived by his wife, Sally Dudley and Ruben, now five. He is remembered by students, alumni and staff around the world whose lives he touched.

You can read more about Ben’s life here.

Featured image via Smif Sports Photography.