The Hockey Paper - - FEATURE - EMMA THOMAS Read­ing cap­tain

Once you find a club that you like, espe­cially when you’ve had a lot of suc­cess, why go any­where else?

This is now the end of my 12th sea­son at Read­ing, which is a re­ally long time. I’m like the grandma of the team now!

I started play­ing hockey when I was 11 years old. One of my friends at school played so I thought I would just go along as well.

She was the only girl at a boys’ club, at the time, so it started out with me think­ing I would go along so I could keep her com­pany! But I just took to it from there.

I was for­tu­nate enough to go to a school that was very strong at hockey and I found it was a sport that I could do.

I was one of those kids that was re­ally sporty – I played ev­ery­thing un­til I was about 16.

But then I got to the age when I wanted to play in the Na­tional League, and knew I had to fo­cus on hockey.

So when I was 17 I came to play at Read­ing. They were in Divi­sion One back then so I spent a cou­ple of years play­ing there.

I went to univer­sity rel­a­tively lo­cally so car­ried on play­ing at Read­ing – it’s not that far from where my par­ents live. I had a stint abroad briefly but then came back, as I’ve al­ways felt that Read­ing is my home.

Hockey was the one sport that I was prob­a­bly best at, but I also re­ally liked the team el­e­ment. It’s al­ways just such a nice group of peo­ple. Hockey clubs are of­ten re­ally friendly places.

Peo­ple talk about the hockey fam­ily and I think that is such an at­trac­tive thing about the sport as well – it’s just so in­clu­sive and any­one can play.

There is so much go­ing for it and it teaches you life lessons, which is some­thing that re­ally ap­pealed to me and ap­pealed to my par­ents. It is also bet­ter for your knees, which makes it bet­ter than netball!

Team­work is re­ally im­por­tant – I have been re­ally for­tu­nate to cap­tain for the last six years and play with some fan­tas­tic lead­ers.

Hockey has taught me a lot about my­self, and what my strengths and weak­nesses are, but also how to lead, how to en­cour­age peo­ple and how to be part of some­thing that is suc­cess­ful.

Ob­vi­ously this sea­son we haven’t had much suc­cess, and that has taught me some very dif­fer­ent things, but I think you still have to lead even when things are go­ing badly.

There are lots of lessons and lots of pre­cious things that I can look back on across my ca­reer, and be re­ally thank­ful for.

I’ve seen Read­ing Hockey Club change mas­sively in my time here. Our ju­nior sec­tion is prob­a­bly the big­gest dif­fer­ence and it’s gone from strength to strength.

Also we were rel­a­tively ama­teur ini­tially. We are not by any means pro­fes­sional now, when we still pay to play, but the years we have been in the Pre­mier Divi­sion, in par­tic­u­lar, have rubbed off.

The pro­fes­sion­al­ism has just been com­pletely dif­fer­ent espe­cially with hav­ing cen­tralised play­ers in our squad.

You are forced to play like you are an elite ath­lete, and think like an elite ath­lete, even if you are do­ing an­other job on the side.

If you have got cen­tralised play­ers in your squad, and their whole life is hockey and they do ev­ery­thing to be the best that they can be, you have to keep up with them.

Even if you’re work­ing a job you have got to try and keep up with them, sleep like them and train like them.

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