It was only the second time I’d picked up a hockey stick on that dark November evening. I’d turned up alone, no previous experience, not knowing what to expect.
The first time was a couple of weeks earlier, at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, where the Hockey World Cup is taking place this month. I’d been invited to meet some of the England team and try out the sport as part of Vitality’s Women In Sport campaign. My task: to join a hockey club for six weeks and blog about it.
As This Girl Can Ambassador for Sussex, trying new sports isn’t alien to me – I’ve tried skateboarding, trampolining, cycling, cricket, and even synchronised swimming, each with varying success! Was hockey to be another sport that I loved, and would somehow have to fit into my already bulging fitness schedule?
I arrived early for my first training session with Southwick Hockey Ladies, which is not like me at all, I must’ve been nervous! Would they welcome me? What if I showed myself up? Would my inexperience stop everyone having a good session? I didn’t want to be the one everyone had to stop to help.
I needn’t have worried. I got home absolutely buzzing, with an achy bum, (who knew there was so much squatting in hockey?!), achy legs and an oh-so-happy heart. All of the team and the coach were so friendly and supportive, not just to me but to everyone, cheering the good tackles and strong passes, and sharing tips on how to improve the ‘bad’ ones.
I knew after that very first session that this was where I belonged.
It’s been a long time since I’ve played a team sport. I used to play rugby when I was a teenager but stopped when I went to uni and have always missed that lovely team vibe.
I played my first match that Saturday, with absolutely no idea what I was doing, but a smile plastered on my face the whole way through. A Benny Hill soundtrack would’ve been the perfect accompaniment to my gallavanting round the pitch wondering what to do. Luckily my team mates kept telling me where to be and what to do so I learnt on the job. And it worked – after another couple of training sessions I scored two goals in my second match to help my team bring home a 4-0 win. Fast forward a few weeks more and I was voted player of the match after scoring another two goals to help us win 7-0!
I don’t always score goals, or play well, or have 100% idea what I’m doing on the pitch, but one thing that remains is the support from my amazing teammates in helping me learn.
I will be forever grateful of that day with the England team at Lee Valley – because it introduced me to my new favourite sport and my brilliant team of new friends.
If you’re looking for a sense of belonging and a reason to get active fuelled by fun, friendship and fitness, find your local hockey club and give it a go. (We’re looking for new players, find us on Facebook.)