I remember once when I came in from a match and my team mate had a chat with my Dad by the door because I had enough and had to walk upstairs and Dad said “it really means a lot to her, doesn’t it?”. Yes. This was the first thing I thought of when Wales Women’s Hockey lost to Russia in the EuroHockey Championship II Semi Finals after such a hard fought 60 minutes where they displayed every emotion possible from courage to grit, to determination to resistance, to passion to grief. They did it with so much grace it was nearly unbareble… yet they showed the utter essence of strength that I think I’ve witnessed for a long while.
A big statement from a small brunette, yes… but honestly, I think I speak for everyone who had the beating red heart beneath their chests during that match. Sport doesn’t separate, but it really does bring people together. And hockey is a sport that has that certain something that bring people together like nothing I have ever experienced.
OK, I’ve played hockey since I was 11 – up in North Wales for Caernarfon initially, then Ardudwy, then Lancaster before back to Ardudwy and then Hoci Cymric here in Cardiff. Why does that matter? Because the ethos is the same, whether we’re in the same team, club or country – other sport rivals the camaraderie that is intwined into the sport that we are raised within. We are brought up with values that echo positivity, companionship and grit. We are a family, and if we meet people who play hockey we’ve not met before, they suddenly appear as a distant relative that we are destined to meet, yet when we do we already know we share so much with them.
Weird, but only hockey players know this.
Beth Fisher, ex-Welsh international and BBC Hockey guru, asked earlier “how do we get others involved in this?” – an absolutely fundamental question but the only solution I can think of is be who are. We need to be such great role models, whether we are players, umpires, coaches, hockey parents, volunteers or organisers: we are advocators of what hockey really stands for, what we relish and are proud of, what other sports crave but we are bountiful.
When I witnessed how much it meant to Hockey Wales’ ladies this evening when they were denied a promotion to Hockey Championship I tier after narrowly losing 2-1 to Russia after a gruelling 60 minutes of utter passion and determination, I only felt utter compassion. These ladies gave more than all. It was absolutely everything and I hope each and every one knows that what they’ve done is revolutionary to hockey in Wales. Each hour they spent on that individual run, each minute they wanted to be sick during an S&C session, each icy drop of freezing-wind rain that pierced their skin during bleak mid-winter training: we appreciate it. We know, and we understand because each Saturday we live it too – not to the same extent, but to some extent, because we love it as much as you, but you’re just a bit more talented than us. and that’s amazing.
As a community, as a family, we know what it feels like – to be elated beyond belief, or to dust ourselves off when we gave it our all and it was just out of our reach. That’s why we chose this sport, because we could have done anything – but we thought, nah, hockey. Hockey is what I’m about, and that’s why I play, because those people on the pitch are more than people, they’re family – no matter where I go, they’ll be there. It’s a sport that includes, accepts and understands – no matter what.