I wanted to write a very very quick post to congratulate the England Hockey Ladies on winning the coveted award for the Vitality Team of the Year Award at the 2015 Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards. #SWOTY2015
This is a team that have come back from the depths of despair, after finishing 11th in the World Cup 2014 At The Hague, beating Belgium in a penalty shootouts to avoid last place in the tournament. As a devoted supporter of this team, I was as disappointed as everyone else. Seeing a team I believed in struggle to secure any results was heart breaking. Knowing players that I have watched and supported for years were excluded from the squad and others not playing to their full potential was frustrating. This squad seemed to be missing some of the flair I had witnessed at the London 2012 Olympic Games and tournaments thereafter.
The Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Valencia, June 2015, brought about a change in the squad, new management, new players and it was like witnessing a completely different side. Their endless training, mental and physical preparation, guts and determination secured them the top spot, beating China 2-0 in the final. On top form, England entered the Euro-league championship in August with one dream in mind.
I was lucky enough to attend most of this tournament, held at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, to watch a number of the girls games and I saw a fire and momentum I hadn’t seen in this team for a long time. It was exhilarating, they were exciting to watch, inspiring generations to pick up a stick and go play their beloved sport. They had the whole hockey family behind them and they were not going to let any single one of them down. Even after exhausting matches, the girls gave their time to remain at the pitch to meet their fans, speaking to every single person, thanking them for their support, signing sticks and paraphernalia.
In a tense and exciting final game, the England hockey ladies showed their salt. This was their opportunity to shine. They were 2-0 down with about ten minutes to go and they made the most dramatic comeback , playing World and Olympic champions the Netherlands, to equalise forcing the game into an agonising penalty shoot out.
I unfortunately was at work and not pitch side for the final game, but managed to steal the TV from a room full of boys watching Top Gear. At first the boys showed little interest in the game, but by the shoot out, they were addicted! Eyes intently glued on the final plays. Shouting at the TV for the girls to win.
The girls showed such character, such a calm nature, one more job to do, and Maddie Hinch, GK for England, had nerves of steal, securing victory for England. Victors for the first time since 1991. #smashedit
Amongst the shortlist with the prestigious winners were, Chelsea Ladies, England Football, and Rowing – Helen Glover & Heather Stanning.
The Chelsea ladies nominated for winning the league and cup double.The England Ladies football team nominated for their performance at the World Cup, sealing them a Bronze medal. Glover & Stanning for retaining their world title after an unbeaten run of 28 races. Each team worthy opponents for the award, however I was thrilled to see the girls win the award.
On receiving the award, Alex Danson paid tribute to the England Ladies football team, spotting them as inspiration, after watching their performance in the World Cup. The support amongst the international women in sport is phenomenal, and truely inspirational not only to the international superstars, but to us, everyday people, who enjoy the world of sport and aspire to improve every day.