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24 September 2014

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Rachel Walker playing for England

Rachel Walker, England midfielder

Hockey: A national treasure

With the EuroHockey Championships looming, I spoke to England Women’s and Olton & West Warwickshire’s Lucilla Wright and Rachel Walker.

Lucilla Wright and Rachel Walker are the perfect people to talk to when it comes to hockey in Warwickshire, as well as the country. With over 260 caps for England and more than 25 years experience at Olton & West Warwickshire Hockey Club between them these ladies can tell you a thing or two about the sport.

I called them just after they had completed a training session in preparation for the European Championships which are being held in Manchester and begin on Saturday, 18 August.

“The preparations are going very well”, said midfielder Lucilla Wright. “We’ve had to work really hard and it’s been quite intense, but we’re feeling confident and home advantage should play a big part”.

Lucilla Wright playing for England

Lucilla Wright, England midfielder

Fellow midfielder Rachel Walker agrees that there is a positive mood in the England camp: “We have a lot of talented players and we’re expecting to compete for a medal”.

As an added incentive, the top three teams from the tournament also qualify for the Beijing Olympics, but Walker reiterated the fact that this has been put to the back of the players’ minds: “We have made it clear that our priority is to do well in the Championships and not to let our minds wander to thoughts of the Olympics”.

Speaking to these two talented players about how they first got involved in hockey they both put it down to the influence of PE teachers.

“My PE teacher at secondary school was the Olympic captain for the women’s team at the Seoul Olympics, so she was very enthusiastic about getting me involved and helped me to progress”, said Wright.

Walker also cites her PE teacher as a key influence: “She really encouraged me to play, but I was very raw to begin with as my background was in athletics”.

And what of the next generation? With the extraordinary sums of money in football and its popularity across playgrounds, how can we expect to see youngsters following in the footsteps of Wright and Walker?

“It’s difficult to compare football to hockey because it’s in its own league in terms of popularity”, claims Wright. “However, if the England hockey team can be successful then the popularity of the sport should grow”.

Rachel Walker playing for England

Rachel Walker playing for England

Walker believes money can help increase the profile of the game too: “The financial side is a massive factor, but more TV coverage is also an area that can help a great deal”.

“There also needs to be better school and club links, and hockey should be played at primary school too” said Walker. The grass roots level is the best place to begin, agrees Wright: “More kids need to get involved at junior level and schools need more enthusiastic teachers”.

Both players are quick to point out that England Hockey has been making great strides, but more needs to be done at school level.

A great sport with pace and skill, which is not only accessible but enjoyable, hockey should be a national treasure, a game that we invented and should be proud to play and promote.

I will certainly be keeping a close eye on how the women’s team do in the Championships, and especially cheering on our two local stars.

last updated: 22/08/07

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