Beckie Mid­dle­ton

The Hockey Paper - - NEWS - Beckie Mid­dle­ton (nee Her­bert) is a for­mer Eng­land & GB hockey player, Com­mon­wealth and mul­ti­ple-Euro­pean medal­list, cur­rently play­ing for Sur­biton. She has an MA in Cre­ative Writ­ing and writes a reg­u­lar sports blog­www.thatink­ingfeel­ing.word­ @ink

Why it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber your roots as a player

Ire­ally en­joyed read­ing both He­len Richard­son-Walsh and Si­mon Or­chard’s ar­ti­cles in last week’s The Hockey Pa­per. As well as pro­vid­ing in­ter­est­ing in­sight into how two bril­liant, suc­cess­ful play­ers started out, they pro­vided an im­por­tant re­minder about never for­get­ting where you’ve come from.

I re­cently helped out a univer­sity stu­dent with his dis­ser­ta­tion. He is hop­ing to show that it is harder for sports­peo­ple from Jersey to make it at elite level. I’m not sure if I did much to help him prove his the­ory.

I ac­cept that ex­pense, lo­gis­tics and ac­cess to club hockey can make grow­ing up some­where re­mote a dis­ad­van­tage. How­ever, in terms of what I learnt to han­dle and how I ap­proached the op­por­tu­ni­ties I had, I think it helped. The 14-year-old ver­sion of me was in­de­pen­dent, fo­cused and de­ter­mined – and be­cause I had limited chances to play in the main­land, I can hon­estly say I never took a train­ing ses­sion for granted.

It’s a long and de­mand­ing jour­ney be­tween first pick­ing up a stick and pulling on an in­ter­na­tional shirt or step­ping onto an Olympic podium. In­ter­na­tional play­ers and even strong club play­ers don’t mag­i­cally ap­pear. Be­com­ing a good or maybe even a great player is partly shaped by how you start out.

For Si­mon, a dou­ble World Cham­pion and Olympic medal­ist, this meant learn­ing some­thing from ev­ery coach he worked with and the im­por­tance of re­mem­ber­ing to en­joy the jour­ney.

He­len de­scribes her­self prac­tis­ing ba­sic skills and learn­ing about at­ten­tion to de­tail as a young­ster. These are ma­jor fac­tors that de­fine her as an Olympic cham­pion and one of Bri­tain’s great­est ever play­ers.

As a kid, Lu­ciana Ay­mar prac­tised drib­bling golf, ten­nis and snooker balls. She used weighted sticks of dif­fer­ent lengths and put thou­sands of hours into hon­ing her skills. Is it a co­in­ci­dence she is ar­guably the best fe­male player in his­tory?

For me, re­mem­ber­ing where it all be­gan is what can al­low a top player to truly in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion. Gold medal self­ies and talk­ing about what it’s like to step onto the pitch for the Olympic fi­nal might be in­spir­ing, but I’m not sure they are par­tic­u­larly re­lat­able for most kids in a school as­sem­bly or at a com­mu­nity coach­ing ses­sion.

Be­ing able to tap into how you felt when you were new to the game or try­ing to go up the per­for­mance lad­der is the key to mak­ing a lasting im­pres­sion. This doesn’t mean don’t talk about your later suc­cesses, it just means con­vey­ing these ex­pe­ri­ences in a way that makes sense to your au­di­ence.

Having a chance to hold a gold medal might make a kid re­alise, “That’s what I want to do!” but to in­crease the chances of this ac­tu­ally be­com­ing a re­al­ity – or sim­ply for that child to reach their po­ten­tial as a club or so­cial player – inspiration must be about what they can do to­wards that goal now.

This is why I be­lieve talk­ing to kids about han­dling set­backs is re­ally im­por­tant. Kids have to deal with in­juries, se­lec­tion, los­ing and crit­i­cism too.

Not be­ing picked for the school A team might be their equiv­a­lent to miss­ing out on Olympic se­lec­tion. It’s a mis­take to tell a child that hard work and ded­i­ca­tion mean ev­ery­thing al­ways works out per­fectly.

In­ter­est­ingly, when I spoke to He­len about this she ex­plained that it had some­how been eas­ier to em­pha­sise the idea of striv­ing to be the best you can over the end re­sult when she was wear­ing a bronze medal rather than a gold one. Per­haps it’s harder for peo­ple to un­der­stand that a ‘per­fect re­sult’ of­ten emerges from the most chal­leng­ing jour­neys?

Es­sen­tially, gen­uine inspiration is about em­pa­thy. As well as telling your story, it’s about mak­ing the ef­fort to con­nect and lis­ten – maybe even be open to a child in­spir­ing you back! You con­nect with peo­ple when they feel like you’re try­ing to see things through their eyes, not gold-tinted glasses.

So well done and thank you, He­len and Si­mon. Top play­ers re­mem­ber­ing their roots, the tiny de­tails and im­por­tant peo­ple who in­flu­enced their early jour­neys are price­less lessons to any as­pir­ing young­ster – and maybe ev­ery­one else too.

A per­fect re­sult of­ten emerges from the most chal­leng­ing of jour­neys

In­spir­ing: Lu­ciana Ay­mar (cen­tre) goes back to her roots

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