King has her new Spanish revelation
SINCE the Rio Olympics, PE teachers’ stocks have risen considerably after Team GB’s hockey gold medallists heaped praise on those who set them on an early pathway to sporting glory.
In future years, then, could we be retelling the story of how an Ulsterwoman in Norwich set a Spanish-born talent on the road to Great Britain stardom?
Jose San Millan could be one of those who makes the grade – and he might look back on a coaching session given by David Ames as the catalyst after the Olympian gave the budding junior his stick last year.
However, this particular tale starts with Rachel King, who moved over from Northern Ireland to the UK to study teacher training at the University of East Anglia. She loved Norwich and ended up staying in the city where she worked at Notre Dame School.
“One of the kids moved over to the UK from Spain having represented the Under-13s there,” recalled King, 26. “He said he played a bit of hockey so I told him to come to practice. There were kids there who were just starting out and then there was Jose. The kids just loved to try and tackle him.”
Millan currently plays for Norwich Dragons, where King also plied her trade as a goal-hungry forward in the ladies’ team.
“Last season, Jose played in our development boys’ team, who were crowned league champions for the first time in the club’s history, and he also won player of the season,” explained Mike Hardy, Dragons’ president.
“This season he has played adult hockey and has been in our men’s 2s, joining a squad of vast experience, including former National League star Richard Gill.”
To underline Jose’s potential, his dream, says Hardy, is to play for England, having been invited to England Hockey’s Under-15 High Performance Assessment Camp this season.
“He is a very talented young man and one of the best I’ve seen in his age group,” added King. “I remember one game for Norwich Dragons where he nutmegged this guy five times and he didn’t know what was happening.”
Notre Dame was primarily a basketball, netball and football school before King started. She immediately wielded her magic wand and soon 40 girls and boys were being introduced to hockey. She then managed to get Ames, who she knew from Ulster hockey days, to teach a session at the school.
“I spoke to him and said that all these kids love hockey and it would be great if a GB international came up,” she added. “It was an amazing session, a quite wonderful day and Jose was inspired.”
King’s own career had seen her begin in football until her PE teacher, who played hockey for Ireland, told her to “turn to the dark side”. She played for the Ulster Under-16s before being capped in the region’s first Under-21 match against England.
Her career has been blighted by injuries which has included three knee surgeries and breaking her ankle playing football in a five-a-side staff match. It forced her to miss the whole season, bar one match, in her second year with Norwich Dragons.
“It really hit me hard. My whole career has spanned around knee injuries, but this was ... ‘my goodness’,” she said. “But I know how to get on with it and try to get back to it.”
At the same time she was headhunted for a position in Chile, while her fiancé – former Irish Under-21 international Ewan Butler – also landed a post at Craig House in Santiago, a school we featured back in November.
The couple’s sabbatical is set to last for three years in the Chilean capital, where she will hope to leave a legacy mirroring that of her Norwich experiences.
“Hockey is such a great sport and has such transferable skills to everything,” she concluded.
“Some of the teachers’ kids at the school now take them down to the Dragons. There is some unseen talent there too and now some of them are leaning towards doing hockey with their GCSEs. It’s been great.”
Hockey fanatic: Rachel King loves the sport
Visit: David Ames