There were few surprises at the Women’s Sport Trust #BeAGameChanger Awards last night, as the Women’s GB Hockey team won Best Team Sporting Role Model, and retired Captain Kate Richardson-Walsh was awarded Outstanding Contribution to Sport.
It’s hard to forget the nail-biting round of penalty shuffles last summer that saw the team winning the country’s first ever Olympic hockey gold against reigning champions The Netherlands.
A lot of work went into building the outstanding team that brought home historic success for the nation, and not just on the pitch. Training the body to perform when it counts is one thing, but they went one step further, and trained their collective minds to believe.
“For me, it’s about having a common goal,” says Team England Board Member and GB/England hockey player Alex Danson. “We were striving to try and win in Rio, and it’s amazing how much that brings you together as a squad because you have that mutual respect and close bond between you all.”
To get the win, the team did more than train hard on the pitch, and employed a sports psychologist to work with them to set out their visions, values and behaviours.
“We sat down in a room for hours and hours over weeks, and came up with a really strong vision,” says Alex.
Be the difference
Inspire the future
“Being the difference meant day-to-day behaviours had to be brilliant. We always had to focus in the gym, always be on time, give everything we could in training, and make really good life decisions, that was being the difference every day.
“Creating history - we felt we had a great opportunity if we could to be the first women’s team to win a gold medal, so it was about making sure we put everything in place to give us the opportunity to do that.
“Inspire the future - we want our sport to grow, we want as many people as possible to pick up a stick to play. By behaving in the right way, and striving to win a gold medal we could encourage people to get out and join clubs. We already have an ambassadorial programme where all of our players go out to these clubs.
“We felt if we could do that we’d be successful. And if we could do those three things, then the gold medal would look after itself, and that’s kind of what happened. It was just an amazing feeling in the end when it felt like we’d ticked all the boxes and had won as well.”
There’s been a change in the ranks for the team as they head into the final 11 months towards the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in April, and then to the Women’s Hockey World Cup in July.
“I think our culture will always be the same, we work incredibly hard, we’re full time. There’ll always be a larger squad, and whatever our vision is, it’ll be something that collectively we buy into together, to suit the players and phase that we’re then in.
Alex is confident that with the support of Team England in making sure athletes are the very best prepared, success will be theirs at the Gold Coast, with some unfinished business to take care of after having the gold medal cruelly snatched from them in the last 11 seconds at Glasgow in 2014 by Australia.
“That’s why I love being part of the Commonwealth Games England Board, there is that absolute passion, that sense of clarity and team and everybody at CGE wants the Commonwealth Games to be the best, most high-performing team when you go out.
“I think having a strong culture, and really bonding sense of identity, and really giving yourself to something entirely to try and achieve the same thing as people on your team is the strongest foundation to being successful.
“Culture is the foundation to performance, and then processes and everything you do, and hopefully that leads to success, rather than the other way around. Team England has all of that at the forefront so I just know the Gold Coast is going to be incredible.”