My love for team sport started about eight years ago. I played various sports at school and thoroughly enjoyed them all, but went through a rather lazy period in my teens, and gave up everything bar lifting a drink or cigarette to my mouth. Luckily when I hit my mid-twenties, my rather rotund frame got me realising that I needed to get fit and I started running. When I then got together with my husband, I knew he played hockey but thought very little of it, other than it frustrated me that it seemed to take up his entire Saturday and involved a lot of beer afterwards. This didn’t fit in with my new couples plan of, ‘spend Saturday’s lazing around, reading newspapers, lunching, planning our future, etc’. I found myself a ‘Sports Widow’ and spent most Saturdays bored and alone. So, a decision was made, I decided to start playing a team sport, and given there are two clubs very near where we live, I chose hockey. It was time to dust off my old wooden stick.
Probably the biggest thing that hockey gives me, is that feeling of ‘being part of a team’. From playing my first match, when admittedly I was laughed off the pitch due to my ancient wooden stick, apparently things had moved on a bit design and technology wise since I was 15, I have felt like I was part of a ‘team’ even though I was a total newbie. I have always felt like I fitted in at my club, which can be a rare thing when you join a sports club in your later *cough* years. Moving schools a lot when I was younger due to my Dads work, meant I always had a sense of not quite fitting in, so it’s amazing to walk into somewhere and instantly make friends and feel at ease. Team sport can be hugely competitive but everyone is generally there for the same reason, they enjoy the sport and love playing, and with that tends to stem friendliness and camaraderie.
Another big thing I get from playing team sport is ‘friendship’. I play with a great bunch of women who I happily would say are all my friends, and I mean that in a sincere, non-cheesy way. We all get along, we all turn up to training every week and commit to matches, we are all there to support one another when we play, and from this stems friendships. There are often social events and I’ve been on a few away trips, and they have always been great fun. This is a group with whom I can have a laugh and be myself with, there are no airs and graces here, there’s no competitiveness or bitchyness, because that’s not what we are about. Also since having a baby, I now see a few ladies more outside of playing hockey, and that for me, is a nice thing to be able to do.
Playing a team sport gives me a huge amount of ‘confidence’. When I started playing I was dreadful, so much so that during one of my first matches I got so confused that I kicked the ball rather than use my hockey stick *cringe*. I’ve made many more howlers, but consistently playing has meant that, whilst I will never gain any real skill I have learnt enough to improve over the years. I also get to play against and with men and it’s great for ones confidence to find yourself pitched against the guys. When we play, whether it’s mixed or just ladies, we always encourage each other. If I do something good during the match there’ll be a shout from someone and it’s those little moments that make you feel good, regardless of whether you win or loose. Even if you stuff something up, your team mates support you and that is always a confidence boost.
Playing a team sport gives me ‘freedom’. Being a mum is amazing but also bloody hard and at times, scream-out-loud crazy (just the odd occasion!) Having a weekly distraction or commitment gives me something to go along to and forget about being a mum for an hour or so. Other than chatting to other mums whilst I’m there, I don’t think about the kid for the rest of that time and actually, to be able to shut your mind out for just a short while is a good thing I think. When we play matches, I often get a few hours away on a Saturday, maybe even with a cheeky drink thrown in at the end and that’s a wonderful reminder at the end of the day that I am still Emma, as well as ‘Olivia’s mum’. I think I need the headspace being a full time parent, and team sport gives me that much needed break.
And finally, yes it’s an obvious one but team sport means I get to ‘exercise’. Playing hockey over the past few years has shown me that when I go to training once a week and play as regularly as I can, I feel so good about myself. I’m getting a good dose of fresh air, I’m keeping active and that can only be a good thing when having an energetic two year old to run about after as well. Okay I might not be as fast as I used to be and the joints may be a bit creaky, but getting out and doing something keeps you going. I hope to be playing hockey for many more years to come