King has her new Span­ish rev­e­la­tion

The Hockey Paper - - NEWS - by Rod Gil­mour

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.”

PIC­TURE: Rod Gil­mour

Hockey fa­natic: Rachel King loves the sport

Visit: David Ames

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