Posted in captain, Coaching, Field Hockey, Hockey, live sport talks, sport, Women in Sport

Live Sport Talks….

…with Olympic hockey Gold medalists Georgie Twigg, Hollie Webb and Shona McCallin.

 

Firstly, I would like to thank Live Sport Talks (@LiveSportTalks) with Charlie Rowe for hosting such a great event at The Dickens Inn, St Katherine’s Docks, London on Thursday night. An insightful chat with three of the Olympic hockey gold medalists, and definitely worth the trip out on a school night.


Georgie Twigg, Hollie Webb, Shona McCallin and their Gold medals.
Photocredit: @LiveSportTalks – courtesy of Graham Hodges

“A group of players coming together with
that collective belief can be so powerful.”

Georgie Twigg makes a very valid point in that statement. The physical and mental preparation that contributes to the lead up to the Olympic Games not only incorporates skills and team play, but how those individuals function as a team. Group and individual mindset shines throughout these players and the importance of the squad dynamic (#31) and the squad contribution is the overriding message of how this team worked towards winning the Olympic Gold medal.

After the tough, disappointing performance at the World Cup, (the girls agreed that this was not a controversial point, but indeed a valid learning and turning point for the squad), this appeared to be the start of a driving force behind the momentum that propelled them into the Olympics.

Rio 2016 was Georgie Twigg’s second Olympic Games, and a first for Hollie Webb and Shona McCallin. The passion that comes across from these three ladies was inspiring, and hearing about the hard work and meticulous preparation in the cycle leading up to the games showed these girls deserved every success they had achieved, both on and off the pitch.

The squad is currently in a re-building phase and as Shona so gracefully put it “after an Olympic games there is a big clear out”. Georgie, choosing to concentrate on law and players such as Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh, Crista Cullen, Hannah Macleod and Sam Quek no longer training with the England/GB set up. But this means there is a new breed of talent, waiting to shine through. Players like Emily DeFroand, Hannah Martin and Rose Thomas, to name a few of the fifteen new additions (full list: Here).

 

Following ‘that’ game, the profile of hockey shot through the roof. People who had shown little interest in the game were now watching the pinnacle of women’s hockey live on BBC One. The interest in the sport increased overnight, in schools, in clubs and people were just talking about hockey. Georgie shares,

 “I have been told it was the stand out moment of Rio 2016 – compared to ‘Super Saturday’ from London 2012.”

The girls spoke about the number of people who have approached them to speak about the team, about their passion, and most of all about their sport. Hollie still seemed genuinely surprised about their elevated status amongst Team GB, the reception they received at Heathrow on their return and how great it was to have young fans travel especially to the airport in search of autographs.

Olympic village: A stand-out moment for Georgie Twigg was a topless Usain Bolt, wearing one of his gold medals, dancing on his balcony, shouting to passers by below. A surreal time, with a realisation that they were all there, amongst many of their idols, to do the same job.

A meticulously planned training regime, to be carefully executed over a period of fourteen days meant the girls turned up prepared, physically and mentally in the exact place to execute their plan. Replication of tournament conditions throughout the training phase, eight games in fourteen days, and consistent monitoring of their strength and condition ensured every member of the squad was at their peak and ready. But it wasn’t all hockey in Rio, the girls did manage a one day trip up Sugar Loaf mountain, away from the hockey pitch as part of their preparation.

 

The tournament: They knew every game would be tough, they knew the challenges they would face,  and they had video footage to study,  with homework to do. The squad took into the Olympics, from previous tournaments a “take one game at a time” mentality, allowing them to purely focus on that one game ahead of them.

Shona talks about their grit and determination showed during the Argentina game with ten minutes remaining, down to a field of nine or ten players, playing against a strong Argentine team in full attack mode, with hundreds of fans behind them, in awful weather and coming out victorious. A proud and defining moment for her during the Olympic Games.

Hollie speaks about the first game against Australia and their meticulous planning leading into the game to secure such an important start to the tournament. Mentally, this set the tone for a good tournament. Georgie talks about the New Zealand semi-final. She eludes to her thoughts as she received a ball to the jaw,  “I’ve broken my jaw like Kate, ” she squeals, “so not dramatic at all!”. And once stitched up and ready to go, she remembers with a giggle, “we were still only in the third quarter, still only one-nil up. Helen had hurt her hamstring, Lily had hurt her shoulder and Sam Quek was on the forward line. Karen Brown was like, Twiggy, get back on the pitch!” The chaotic game was a real battle which made it a special game to win, and of course she states,  “and we had just made the Olympic final.”

They shared the moment after the game when Kate [Richardson-Walsh] looked at everyone in the team and said “one more game” recalling it as such a powerful moment. They weren’t going to settle for silver.

 

The final: Shona states, “The Dutch do not like playing against Great Britain. We were quietly confident.” Twiggy then shares the moment before walking onto the pitch, for the Olympic final, “In the line up to walk out towards the pitch, the Dutch were whacking on the scaffolding. I just thought the cocky things – we may be the underdogs and we are not going down without a fight.”  This seemed to be the ignition needed for the fire and passion the girls displayed on the pitch. Shona adds, “That game (the finals) showed hockey for what it really was, it had everything – amazing goals, end to end play, a team on top for most of the game, and of course the amazing penalty shoot out.”

And how did they cope? Well, they had practiced performing under pressure and being able to think clearly. They knew exactly what they were doing, and they managed to do it, despite it being the Olympic final. And this was the moment they had trained for, endlessly. And boy, did they do it! Out of a group of nine girls, five are selected after the game to step up for shuffles, and Hollie is nominated for the first time.

“I was hoping Unsy would score and I wouldn’t have to take one.”

She knew what she was doing though, so calm and collected. She had practiced the night before, she had watched footage of the goalkeeper, she had every move, every step planned in her head the night before. But what was she thinking?

“If you think about the occasion and you think about what this means, and what it could mean, then you’ll let yourself get so nervous, and if you mess up you’ll be kicking yourself for years, so I was like right, that’s just not going to happen.”

She jumped a clear metre in the air, and I think half the nation jumped just as high. I was in a little static caravan in Blakeney, Norfolk and I’m pretty sure it almost fell off its bricks that night. Still humble in the part she played, ensuring that people knew that it was a team win, a collective effort, a squad dream, tireless training hours and a brilliant goalkeeper that made that dream a reality. But as I pointed out to her, they couldn’t have won without your ball in the back of the net. Her advice to her younger self would be to concentrate on your strengths as well as your weaknesses. She made sure that she was the best at passing, the best at hitting and the best at tackling that she could be, doing the basics well, and remembering that the strengths, as well as your weaknesses can be developed.

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Hollie Webb, scoring her penalty shuffle in the Olympic Final, Rio 2016
Photocredit: Scorescan.com

Captain Kate: With Twiggy as spokesperson, the girls agree that Kate is a pioneer for hockey, a phenomenal woman, captain for so long, epitomising what a captain should be. She led by example, set the tone in training and in the gym. She showed professionalism and thats the way she led the team. They state the experience she brought to the side, knowing the right thing to say at the right time, being very wise, was invaluable and she will be sorely missed, a great leader and role model for everyone.

Olympic Gold legacy: The legacy moving into the future will continue with the outstanding work the team, and individuals in the team have engaged in. They will continue to promote the love of their sport around the country, in schools and in hockey clubs. What can the hockey community do to continue to help? Get more people onto the pitch, youngsters playing the game, or people who are getting back to the game.

Their motto was “Be the difference. Create history. Inspire the future” and that is their promise. They will inspire people to get onto the pitch, they will help make hockey more visible, get on tv more, and aim to get it as a main sport into this nation. The more competition there is, the better chance to get better, from grass-roots to national and international level. That is their promise to hockey clubs and schools across the country, not only theirs though, the work of volunteers in clubs is invaluable.  These three girls add,  “What we can do to help you make it sustainable is to keep developing and make it better.”

You can see the live Q + A session on Live Sport Talks Facebook page (Live Sport Talks – FB) or on their website (http://www.livesporttalks.com) along with the other hosted Live Sport Talks.

 

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Posted in captain, Coaching, eurohockey, Field Hockey, Hockey, Role model, sport, Women in Sport

Farewell not bye? 

It’s no secret that I like hockey. In fact, I shout it out from the rooftops at every opportunity because I have always believed in hockey as a sport. I started playing at the age of 11 as hockey wasn’t a sport that was accessible to me before (Lacrosse was the school sport of choice). And from the moment I picked up a stick, I loved it. Through playing and now coaching, I continue to love it, to watch it grow and develop and I will tell anyone and everyone who is interested (or not!!) about our sport.

It does slightly annoy me when our sport has been dismissed. For example; During a recent discussion with my former work colleagues pre-Olympics about which sports were going to win medals. The obvious sports were mentioned, Swimming, Athletics, Gymnastics, but when I put out there that the Hockey girls were going to win a medal, if not the Gold, I was shot down in flames; “No-one cares about hockey!” was the snipe, before continuing their conversation.

Well – we certainly showed them!


Photo credit: @Getty Images – Gold medals

It was four years ago, I first had the pleasure of meeting the current GB squad pre London 2012. Running around the country as part of the 35 strong Olympic Torch security team for 70 days, the minutes spent at Bisham Abbey were definitely ones to remember.

Day 53: Bisham abbey – GB Squad 2012 + Torch Security Team

It was the 10th July, 2012. We had no idea where the torch would take us today, or who any of the torchbearers would be, just specific timings, locations and numbers of torchbearers in each location. By day 53, the day’s were pretty routine – up, out and run. We barely had time to work out where we were, just where we needed to be in terms of on the road with our torchbearers. Today we were the running team. There were four main rotations of duties on the relay – running, support (the guys and girls on the pedal bikes), driving or rest.

Our coach was heading into the driveway of Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre and fellow hockey player Gunny [Claire Gunn] shouts, “OMG it’s Crista Cullen, that’s Kate Walsh, wait, is that all the hockey girls?” Scrambling to look out the side of the bus, we could see a lot of Team GB had lined up to see the arrival of the flame, taking a break from their preparations for London 2012.

I was so excited. We had already been the running team with Georgie Twigg on the 24th May, down Henleaze Road, Bristol and we were the support team on the 4th July for Captain Kate [Richardson] Walsh as she ran through Norwich. So to see the national squad of the sport I loved prior to a home Olympic Games was incredible.

I jumped off the bus, probably when it was still moving, I was so excited to see them and wanted to have the opportunity to have a selfie with the squad. Catching up with Annie Panter as she was walking back to resume training, I asked (probably begged if I’m honest!) if I could have a photo with her and the squad.

But at that moment I had a revelation. I had the Olympic flame! Surely they would want a photo with us? Ok, well at least with the Flame? And with that temptation the next thing we knew, Gunny, Neil and I were surrounded by the GB hockey squad holding both the Olympic torch and the Olympic Flame.

A few of the girls asked if they could hold the actual flame, or the lantern at least, including my absolute hero Helen Richardson [Walsh]. I remember giving her strict instructions to hold both the top handle and secure the bottom of the lantern as previously when I had given it to Ben Fogle at the Eden Project, he was waving it around and we were unsure how stable the flame was at the time. So sorry Helen for being so strict!! I didn’t want that flame to go out on my watch, and only a privileged few got to hold the actual Olympic lantern.

I have been lucky to continue to meet the hockey girls along their journey. And they are girls that will help anyone who is passionate about their sport. When I was at a particularly rough crossroads with hockey, Helen Richardson-Walsh provided these wise words. “If it wasn’t for people like you, who give their time, energy and passion to our sport, players like me would never have the opportunities to achieve success” that statement stays with me and will always inspire me to continue to be the best I can be. It picked me up from a dark place and saved me from somewhere I didn’t want to venture. The kindness of a stranger can be an immense gift, a re-motivation and a huge inspiration. A gift I shall always try to pay forward and pass on to everyone I coach and play with.

Supporting each match has become easier with a large number of tournaments being broadcast to watch, however the real buzz is being present, live, living the games, feeling the atmosphere and celebrating or consoling with other fans of our sport. I was there for the Bronze medal match in London, I was at the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships for the highs. I was also at the Hockey Champions trophy and watching the World cup for the lows. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn!

 The ultimate gift of Gold in the Rio Olympics 2016 was the reward for pain, devastation, hard work, blood, sweat and tears. The road wasn’t always easy, the road often had many pathways, but in the end, you create your own path.

It will be sad to see Kate leave the squad (I’m still keeping fingers crossed Helen will still play!) – When I was captain at Stevenage HC, having taken over the role with seven games to go, in a particularly turbulent season, deep in the relegation zone of the league, I reached out to Kate, Helen and Alex on Twitter to ask if they had any advise on how to avoid relegation. Kate’s response was simple, and is now engraved on the back of my end of season gift from the team that was saved that year.

Play each game like it’s your first, and each second like it’s your last.” And what a last second to for you to play!

  

Thank you for all you have done. We love you and wish you all the best for your future, may it be coaching with me! Haha! 

 

Posted in captain, Coaching, Field Hockey, Hockey, Role model, sport, Women in Sport

A Captains (B)Log…

Welcome to the ‘Friends Friday’ blog, where I hope to cover some player/coaching profiles. Giving you an idea of various roles within a club level environment. The first profile I wanted to cover was the role of a captain, for the top ladies team within a club.

The honour is given to close friend and player/coaching mentor Helen “Clarkey” Clarke of St Ives Hockey Club (no, not Cornwall!) in Cambridgeshire.

Who are you?

Clarkey. I will be taking on the role of Ladies 1st team captain this season at St Ives Hockey Club. 

What job do you do?
I’m a regional tennis participation manager in the East for the Lawn Tennis Association. Which basically means I work with local priority areas to increase participation in tennis, focusing on community environments, e.g. parks rather than clubs. 

What is your hockey experience?
Player : I’ve played since I was at school, so for about 15 years at St Ives Hockey club. I arrived at the club as a junior, but started playing more frequently as a senior. My dad played at the club so it was a natural progression to join St Ives. I had a game in the threes, aged 14, then I played in the twos for the rest of the season. I then kept the bench warm for the ones until finally making the starting lineup on the pitch aged 15. I have been playing for the ones ever since. 

Coach : My boss at the time, at Living Sport (Living Sport), suggested I do my level 1 in hockey coaching. As a coach himself, he recognized something in my commitment to the club and promoted the opportunity. Professionally I was working with a lot of sports coaches and thought it would be a good idea to know what it felt like to coach. I did my level 1 in 2009 and carried on to do my level 2 in 2011. 

Who have you coached? 
Since taking up coaching I have coached at St Ives Hockey all age ranges from U7 to the senior men, including the men’s first team. I have coached in primary schools, delivering Quick-sticks and in the single system at JDC and JAC with Cambridgeshire, U13 – U16 girls. 

What stick do you use and why?

I am currently playing with a MAZON, but I’ve never bought a stick, sticks don’t really matter to me. My dad works for a sports equipment distributor so I have always had the sticks he has given me. I don’t mind what stick I play with, you just play, don’t you!

What shoes do you wear and why?
I don’t get on with Adidas, so probably Asics, are my shoe of choice, generally whichever the pretty ones are on offer!

What’s your top skill? 
Natural goal scorer – that sounds arrogant, I don’t mean it to be, just a lot of girls are not natural goal scorers. Having coached many young girls, a natural eye for goal is not very common. 

And how do you do it?
A lot of practice. I am a confidence player, so when I’m scoring I feel like I’ve had a good game. If I don’t score I feel responsible, my job is to score, especially if we’ve lost. 

 

Why did you take the role of Captain?

I’ve been avoiding it for years, then we got relegated last season, which wasn’t a real surprise. I recognised within the club, the reason that we got relegated wasn’t purely down to the first team, but more a build up of the wrong sort of philosophy in the club. I want to use my tenure to change the current philosophy and ensure there is a real opportunity for young players and old players alike to develop individually and progress through the club, providing a much longer term future for all of the teams competing in leagues. I want people to know they are not playing for the first team, they are playing for St Ives Hockey Club.

What does the role of Ladies 1st team captain entail?

Management. A group of girls are notoriously difficult to maintain. You can’t please everyone, all of the time. I can only try to be open, honest and fair and do the right thing for the club. 

There should be an element of tactical understanding and implementing tactics. I think that’s vitally important, so much so, that I am mentoring a manager (retired player and all round hockey guru) who will attend games and training to take pressure of me whilst I am playing, to give me another set of eyes and support me so I can continue my role on the pitch as a player. 

I have chosen to delegate my administration within the team to enable them to feel part of the team. This is part of the long term plan to develop the next captain in line, to give players an understanding of what it takes to be a captain. 

What is your aim this season?

Promotion this year or next. I am not going to sacrifice the long term philosophy in the club to push for promotion this year if its not an option. Although it would be great to bounce straight back up into the league we have spent 11 seasons in. 

I am planning on bringing players into the team that are not necessarily the best players in the club, but players that have the right attitude, work ethic and on pitch contribution.

Why do you think this is a good approach?

To reward effort, encourage other players to give 100% commitment, both in training and during games, and to plan for the future. 
Will you set individual objectives for individual players as well as team objectives?

Yes, we have a level 3 coach that we’ve engaged, who coached us last year. This is a long term vision to support our long-term club development. I hope to work with him to identify areas of weakness within individuals that we can develop, support and build. This is particularly important as some of the players that will be playing in the first team won’t have experienced that pace, aggression and intensity. 

What league are you playing in next season?

East region, division 2NW

What do you think people expect from a captain?

Commitment, honesty, motivation, role model, lead by example. I don’t think you have to be the best hockey player in the team to be captain. 

 

What qualities do you have as a leader?

I  think it helps that I know and understand hockey and have played at a reasonable standard. I have the respect of the players that I have worked hard to earn over the last 11 seasons and the wider club, due to the work I am prepared to put into running the club. I have been very focused on direction and goal outcome for the season and have been very passionate about what I want to achieve with rebuilding the team hoping the players will follow me. I can be motivational at the right moments to ensure fire and passion passes through all players. I have the support of some of the senior members of the team who are not afraid to keep me grounded and tell it to me straight. 


What do you expect from your team members?

To reciprocate what I give them, a symbiotic relationship…..

How are you preparing for the season?

Personally I have put more emphasis on my own fitness so that I can lead by example. 

When is your training?

We have an hour and a half on the pitch on a Tuesday night from 8-9.30pm at the outdoor St Ives leisure centre, with a half hour whiteboard session at 7.30pm prior to pitch time. This is hockey specific, so I do expect people to look after their general fitness during the week and maintain match fitness in their own time.  

How will you carry out your team selection?

The three ladies teams captains and club captain meet weekly to discuss availability of players. I will get my pick, being first team captain and it will be based on qualities such as commitment, attitude, hunger etc….

What do you think the hardest part of being a captain?

Not taking it personally. So if we get beaten, its not necessarily because I haven’t played well. There may be several contributing factors. If we lose, then I have to look at why we lost, which is different to being beaten. 

And the best part? 

Leading the whole team in the same direction and achieving a mutual goal. 

How would you develop potential players that are striving to be in your team?

Build a channel of communication with them. Avoid the ‘clicky’ nature of teams. I would like for people to feel they are able to approach me and will try to do this by integrating myself into wider groups at training. I want to try to inspire players to want to play higher and better themselves. I am also going to set up a buddy system so more senior players take a less experienced player under their wing, to forge a relationship and bounce off each other. 

There will be players in the team that you just want to push a bit harder. For all players, including players that have been playing for a long time. 

Who is your hockey hero?
My dad – no one can stand on the back post like he did. He’s my inspiration to play. 

Favourite GB player? 

Hannah Macleod – I taught her everything she knew. (Said with a massive smile! They did go to school together!)

What are your plans for the future?

I don’t want to have to umpire! We need to recruit more umpires though. 

I will get back into coaching, once my objectives as captain have been completed. I want to focus on building the club for the future. Then I’m just going to play hockey until my hip or knees give out… (Hopefully a few more years yet!!)

Do you have an inspirational quote?

 “the interesting thing about coaching is trouble the comfortable and comfort the troubled.”  Ric Charlesworth. 

St Ives HC is located at the One Leisure St Ives Outdoor Centre, California Road, St Ives, PE27 6SJ. They currently have five men’s teams and three ladies teams, mixed teams and junior hockey, providing opportunities for all members of the family to play hockey. If you fancy picking a stick up and joining in, log onto the website to see times and dates.(St Ives HC website)