As the England Hockey campaign #BehindEveryGreatPlayer highlights, the wide support network behind the sport’s greatest athletes is crucial to success. In recognition of this, our regular blogger Susannah Townsend has handed over the mantle of writing about her countdown to the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 to her mother Lesley.
Her story of keeping her daughter calm and happy before a major event will resonate with parents around the world.
As Susannah is busy with Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup preparation, I’m taking over her blog this week to tell you a little about my own World Cup training. Preparation for a major event starts long before the first match. I always arrange to do something with Susannah on selection date to either celebrate if she’s chosen or to take her mind off it if not.
The priority is keeping Susannah happy during this time and, with apologies to my other children, this impacts all of us. I always try to post an embarrassing photo of Susannah on social media on selection date. This time around she emphatically rejected the one of her with braided hair in a bikini (I can’t imagine why!).
It is normal for Susannah to panic about her hair just before a tournament starts so we end up scrabbling around for an appointment just before she leaves. Whenever you see Susannah talking to me after a match, she is generally asking how her hair looked and whether her roots were showing. I’m sure that this doesn’t happen in other sports.
Having paid yet another parking ticket for her this week, it’s always a bit of a relief once the team goes into the camp as I can hand my daughter over to her hockey parents and start my own training.
As this a home World Cup, I’m relatively relaxed. When we support the team at an away event I always try to do a dummy run of the route before the first match. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to be late for the first game and most tournaments have a few issues early on. In Rio, we tried a number of routes to the venue but it always took around two hours, which was factored into our match day. When the team win however, the long journey home doesn’t seem to matter quite so much. Those trips home from Rio seemed to fly past.
People often ask what we parents sacrificed to get Susannah to this top level of sport. To be honest, it hasn’t felt as if we sacrificed anything as we’ve enjoyed every moment. I suppose our other children might feel a little put out as they spent a large part of their childhood travelling with me to Susannah’s training, eating a packed tea on their laps and doing their homework on the side of a hockey pitch. Thank goodness for the Harry Potter book tapes. I think we had them on a loop to the extent that Stephen Fry now feels like part of the family.
We have had our low moments over the years when Susannah hasn’t been selected or an event hasn’t turned out as expected. It’s hard to find the right language when this happens, especially when we feel it is unfair. I always try to make Susannah laugh and play it down until she’s over it – to be honest she is very resilient and this often only takes a day.
Looking back, these low moments have been followed by a serious improvement in her game so maybe there’s some tricky psychological stuff going on here. I thought of this last Monday when the parents of the girls surprised them as they entered the team hotel and presented them with their match shirts. It was an incredibly emotional morning and one I will never forget – we never expected to be thanked for doing what we’ve done to get the girls to the top of their game; we just feel privileged to be part of the journey.
I’m now starting to put my event bag together. Plenty of flags (England red cross, not Great Britain Union Jack – I’ve made that mistake in the past.) My lucky raincoat which is one of Susannah’s old Kent Hockey Association jackets. Some tea bags, just in case, and the usual sun cream, plasters and mints. It’s rather like packing a nappy bag but without the nappies and there’s always something you forget. Friends and family are planning on replicating a sea of red in the stands for this World Cup so I’ve had to go clothes shopping as I never wear red. Then it’s time to double check the tickets and get in position for that first match to support these wonderful girls as they look to extend their winning form at this Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup.