The first thing I have to say here, is that my post today is not going to be the one I had planned. The one I had planned was either going to be about the first/best piece of sporting equipment you’ve ever owned (i.e. stick, ball, boots, gloves, etc) or the best sporting festival that you’ve ever been to. As normal I was going to recount my answer to the question, and then sit at home and pray that someone might take pity on me and post a comment. The reason that this post is not the one planned is…..well because of my weekend. I managed to watch (on the TV) some of the Olympic Test Event hockey from the Riverbank Arena on Olympic Park. I really enjoyed watching, which I can’t always say despite my many years as a hockey player. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m not playing, the commentary, the viewing angles, lack of replays, or just missing the kind of angles that I’d like to see it from, but sometimes I find it really hard to get into. Oh how I’d like the kind of technology that Sky apply to their football coverage to be available to cover hockey matches…..how totally and utterly amazing would that be?
Anyhow, I really enjoyed watching despite some dubious commentary at times, my TV showing that Argentina were playing China, when in fact it should have been Argentina playing Great Britain, and the timing disappearing and reappearing, seemingly at random…..anyhow, I digress. The hockey was great in each and every one of the games…and you know this is the case when you are still thinking about it, hours after it’s finished.
As well as the hockey, one of the things that played on my mind was ….injuries. Watching Crista Cullen score two goals and then have to leave the pitch with a damaged ankle, and then watch Alex Danson join her on the sidelines shortly afterwards really stood out, and played on my mind. “How would they both recover? Would they be fit and ready for the Olympics?” were important questions. While the GB team played well after they’d both gone off, with I have to say some magnificent defending (I seem to appreciate that more than the attacking, what with being a defender myself and having been so for what seems like a million years), the team as a whole did seem a very different prospect, with Argentina not facing nearly the attacking threat that they had been. Wondering about all of this sent my mind racing back through a history of hockey matches and all of the injuries I had suffered. During numerous trips to A&E, I’ve given the wonderful doctors and nurses cause to treat me for two cracked ribs (twice in the last four years), stitches in my face (twice), a broken finger (in two places that had to be operated on that night), my top lip being hit by a stick and split apart (requiring thirty-two stitches from the on-duty plastic surgeon), not to mention numerous torn ligaments, chipped bones, bruises, grazes, etc. Casting my mind back over all of this makes me think …one…just how injury prone I’ve been (is it just me, or does everyone know of players that pick up no knocks at all?), and…two…however badly I’ve been hurt, I’ve always been desperate just to get back on a pitch and chase that stupid little ball about. When I was hit with a stick in the face and needed thirty-two stitches, (and this next bit is very stupid looking back on it, I can see that now, but probably would still do the same again if I had to choose), it was at my home hockey festival at Salisbury and, yes, I played in a game the next day. The game I played in the next day was as the only ‘grown up’….hmmm…that doesn’t sound right….the only ‘adult’ in a team of junior girls that I helped coach against the ladies 1st XI. While the game was a drew, and as games go, might not have been that memorable to everyone else, I can still remember vividly everything that happened, and I have to say, it sticks out as being up there in my top ten games that I’ve ever played in.
“What is my point? ” you might ask. Well….I’m not really too sure. Only that as a hockey player, and almost certainly any player of team sport, there’s an almost desperation to get back out and be part of the team. Looking back on that game…was I doing it to be part of the team?, knowing that me being in the team would have made a difference….sadly I think not. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to be part of the team and play against the ladies 1st XI, but I think it was for a more selfish reason…..because I knew how much I would enjoy it, and essentially carry the memory with me…which I have. So to return to play, we do what we have to, sometimes still going back injured, even when it’s not such a good idea. Why, I don’t know…perhaps you could let me know your thoughts, and the injuries you’ve received playing your sport….(not in too graphic detail).
I wish Crista Cullen, Alex Danson and anyone else who has been injured playing team sport this weekend, a speedy recovery.
While hockey watching, I also found myself tweeting at the same time, something that’s very new to me, not something I could ever really see myself doing, but thoroughly enjoying the banter with everyone else. During the afternoon a tweet flicked across my screen about Lizzie Watkins, a hockey player in Australia who had died from being hit by a hockey ball. There was me, thinking about injuries, the hockey on the TV, and a young hockey player in Australia had died, doing what I love to do. This new is still going around my head now, which I suppose is why I’ve seen fit to write about it. My thoughts go out to Lizzie’s family…I’m so very sorry. The sad news about Lizzie and all the injury thoughts don’t seem to want to part from my head (if you knew how little room there is in there, you’d think they’d be fighting to get out), all of which brings me to my children. Both love playing hockey, and the eldest one (who’s 9) and I are supposed to be going along to Lacrosse sessions in less than a week’s time, something I’m really looking forward to trying. But all the time turning over in my head is………do I really want my kids doing all of this…particularly in light of what’s happened to Lizzie? I love my kids more than life itself and would do anything for them, but do I do something as simple as let them play? Hockey for me has been more than just a sport. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s been a way of life. ..how I conduct myself on and off the pitch…it was how I was taught, and I know that there might be people reading this now (good one eh? people reading this!) who don’t understand what I’m talking about, but I also know that there will be people/players reading this who do. I have friends who understand what I’m talking about and conduct themselves in the very same way. So it’s all of this, and the fact that hockey has been so life changing and enjoyable that makes me think that I have no choice but to let my children play, despite the terrible sadness of what has happened in Australia to Lizzie.
So to all parents…let your children play. Ferry them to the pitches in the cold, the wind, the rain, the snow, and let them experience all the joy and friendship that can spring up from playing a team sport…I know I will!