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 popular clubs 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, admittedly I was laughed off the pitch due to my wooden stick (apparently things had moved on a bit design and technology wise since I was 14) I have felt this, even though I was a total newbie. You all play together and support each other on the pitch, physically and with voiced encouragement. You work together. You also commit to a match every week, which means that you are needed, and there is the weekly training too. This motivates me, as when I don’t commit I am potentially letting people down.
Another big thing I get from playing team sport is some great friendships. I play with a lovely bunch of women who I happily would say are all friends. We get along, we have a laugh. We train every week and play in 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 (my liver may not agree). I can have a laugh with these people and be myself. Also since having a baby, I now see a few ladies more outside of playing hockey and that is an extra bonus.
Playing a team sport gives me a huge amount of confidence too. When I started playing I was dreadful, so much so that during one of my first matches I got confused and kicked the ball, a moment to forget. I’ve made many more howlers, but consistently playing has meant that 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.
A huge part of playing a team sport is that it gives me freedom. It gives me freedom and time off from not being, ‘Olivia’s mum’ for a few hours a week. Having this regular distraction gives me something else to focus on, and for the time I’m playing I’m genuinely not thinking about her, which is not bad thing! Being able to shut your mind off from family stuff, for just a short while is a positive 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. 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 really good about myself. I get a good dose of fresh air, albeit sometimes freezing cold or wet. And I’m keeping active with cardio work (well, slow cardio it may be). I love the fitness aspect and I hope to be playing hockey for many more years to come.