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GB Women’s Hockey – how every team should dream to be

GB Women’s Hockey – how every team should dream to be

On Friday 19th August 2016, I was caught in a flood of tears and emotion, because the GB women’s hockey squad had just made history by becoming the first ever GB women’s hockey team to win an Olympic hockey gold medal. I have never been so proud to call myself a hockey player than I am right now, because the girls displayed everything that is so great about our game and team sports in general.

The team had defied all odds to beat the world’s top ranked team (Netherlands) in a dramatic final. There are so many lessons and inspirations to take from their journey that I could go on forever, but here are my key highlights from this amazing journey…

It really is about teamwork.
One of the reasons why I love team sport so much is because you win or lose as a team. The outcome is never entirely down to one individual, and the players showed precisely this through the way they played and conducted themselves. There was a constant flow of communication around the pitch; as Danson called a player to step right and cut off a passing option, the trust was evident as her team mate shifted right without question or hesitation.

Every time someone scored a goal, the team came together into a huddle to celebrate the goal. Why? Because they know that the goal is not just down to the individual who put the ball in the goal, but it’s come from the movement and skill of the collective team. Take GB’s second goal in the final; in just 5 seconds, at least 4 players touched the ball before Owsley scored the eventual goal.

It’s not just about the players.
The players themselves gave testimony to a much wider team of people that contributed to their success. A team of 18 went to Rio, but it was a 31 person squad that trained relentlessly during the 4 years leading up to the Olympics; some players knew that they may not go to Rio, but that didn’t stop them from giving 110% passion and commitment to maximise the team’s chances at Rio.

Let’s not forget the immense coaching team led by Danny Kerry, where the bonds of teamwork are just as strong. The communication and understanding between him and Karen Browne were evident throughout, as Danny watched and provided direction up in the stands, trusting Karen to work directly with the players during each game.

The medical support team were also a tight unit, as evidenced during the semi-final against New Zealand, where Team GB suffered a series of crunching injuries in quick succession. Whilst the doctor was occupied stitching Cullen’s head wound, another member of the team stepped up to support Twigg’s ball to the face, whilst another then had to react to Helen Richardson-Walsh’s injury.

Leadership comes in many forms.
Kate Richardson-Walsh is the team’s captain, and is a true leader in every sense of the word. From putting her body literally in the face of danger, to encouraging her team mates constantly on the pitch, Kate leads by example in everything she does on and off the hockey pitch. That is why she was rightfully chosen to be Team GB’s flag bearer at the closing ceremony.

But as Kate said herself, there were leaders all over the hockey pitch on the team. Maddie Hinch radiates confidence which inspires everybody in the team, whilst Helen Richardson-Walsh’s sheer grit and determination drives everybody forward. Let’s not forget the girls who stepped up to take a penalty during the final shoot out.

Sheer grit and determination goes a long way.
Nobody will forget the epic performance of Team GB against New Zealand in the semi-final. Cullen sustained a head injury after a player’s knee hit her. There was blood and stiches involved, and yet Cullen was back on the pitch less than 10 minutes later. Twigg took a ball in the face at point blank range, and after going off for treatment she was back on the pitch. Helen Richardson-Walsh suffered a clash on the pitch, but stepped up to score the flick before having to leave the pitch.

Every time a player got knocked down, she was straight back up again with no theatrics. Every time a GB player lost the ball, she turned and recovered to win it back. Every time a GB player got fouled, she continued play without whining. Driven by a common goal to win, the team focused on doing everything they needed to win the game and nothing more.

The success of Olympic gold is down to the greatest team performance I have every witnessed. Every team, be it at work or in sport, should take a lead from this team’s inspirational and incredible journey. Well done girls, I am so proud and inspired by you all!

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