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Pitch perfect: Maddie Hinch and her journey to Olympic gold

Meet Maddie Hinch MBE, an England Hockey and Team GB Goalkeeper who never gave up on her dream of playing hockey professionally

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | October 02, 2017 | Sports & Leisure

Maddie Hinch MBE is now the world number one female goalkeeper and has over 100 caps for England and Great Britain. Plus, you might remember her as an Olympic hero at Rio 2016 as she saved all four penalties to claim a historic gold for team GB. Here, Maddie reveals her journey to Olympic success and beyond...

What first attracted you to hockey?

I joined Hazelgrove Prep midway through their summer term. My dad was in the Navy, so we travelled back at a funny time in the year and I had to find a school. 

I was playing rounders and apparently I was incredibly dramatic diving around for balls. So they said to me, “Right Maddie, next term we must get you in a hockey goal”. I didn’t know what they meant by a hockey goalkeeper as I’d never really heard of the sport before. First it was a position where I didn’t understand what was so enjoyable about picking the ball out of the back of a net and then the more I learnt to stop it, the more I learnt to understand the feeling that comes with it when everyone appreciates you.   

How did King’s College Taunton support you with your ambitions? Are you still in touch with the school? 

King’s College were great. Firstly, they spotted my talent at Hazlegrove and encouraged me to apply for the school. They are big on sport, smaller than the giants like Millfield, but have always done well considering their numbers. Hockey is a big focus and they clearly saw something in me because I got a sports scholarship which was a big help; I don’t know if I would have been able to go there without that scholarship. 

As I realised hockey was something that I could do well in, my PE teacher at the time allowed me time to go and train with local clubs, so I joined Exmouth at the age of 15 and they made exceptions so that I could train with them in the evenings and sometimes be released after my game at school on Saturday so that I could go and play club hockey. I was playing with current internationals at the age of 15 and was surrounded by people that I aspired to be when I got older. I think if they hadn’t been that supportive of me, would I have eventually made it? I’m not so sure.  

 The PE teacher that got the ball rolling for me, Rosie Davies, will ask me how I am on social media or drop me the odd text. I am so grateful to her, because if she hadn’t spent the time to drop me off and pick me up from those clubs twice a week, I don’t know whether the same thing would have happened. 

What sporting memories do you have of King’s? 

Loads! The main thing is just how much sport I played. Even though hockey was clearly the sport that I was going to do my best in, I was always encouraged to take part in everything and not get too focused too early. I think that’s really important - I did every sport that I could: swimming, athletics, squash, tennis, netball and I think that has also been a big factor in where I am now because there is so much that you can take and learn from each sport. I went on to be the captain for the hockey team and it was pretty special. I just love sport! 

What was life like beyond the hockey pitch at King’s? 

What I loved about King’s was being a boarder and it was not something that I had ever done before. People tend to say, but do you actually like boarding? Honestly you couldn’t drag me away from that school when it finished - I loved everything about it and what it encompassed. The fact that when school finished there were so many extracurricular activities and I got involved with everything that I could. I was in the army there at the school, I was doing piano lessons, there was bee keeping... They had everything and I just loved it. Then there’s the social side of just being with your friends in the evening. 

What have been your career highs and lows? 

Highs are definitely European and Olympic gold last year. Lows - the World Cup in 2014 - that was a real low moment and I think the turning point, not just for myself, but for us as a squad. 

In a recent interview you mentioned that you always carry a notebook, why? 

I always have a notebook! I am a bit of a geek and I’m always trying to stay up to date with what’s happing around the world in terms of who is playing who, what players are doing in different situations under pressure, not only in a penalty shootout situation, but corners and their strokes. I’ll always have an up to date database just in case I am up against a certain player then I will know what that player has been doing or routines that team has been executing on corner attack or corner defence because in those situations I have to make the calls on what corners we are going to run to defend them, so I have to know who does what around the edge of D and in that 20 seconds make a decision quickly. The more I stay up to date the more I can make better decisions. 

What are the key strengths of a goalkeeper? 

Athleticism, confidence and quick reactions. 

What do you like most about playing in this position? 

Weirdly, I like the pressure. It’s a unique role in that it comes down to you as the last line of defence and if you can stop the ball going in then you can re-start the momentum. At the same time, if you let it in you can feel incredibly guilty as it’s your only role, but the I’ve learnt to enjoy the pressure that comes with it. 

Why did you decide to set up a goalkeeper coaching camp?

Goalkeeping is something that I’ve always had a huge passion for and it’s a position that I feel has always been misunderstood. To be able to launch my MH1 camps and to give people an insight into what I think goalkeeping is about is something that I’ve always wanted to do. After Rio there was a surge in interest of people wanting to become goalkeepers or to gain more goalkeeping experience or develop their game. Launching the camps is basically about me being able to give back to hockey and give people the opportunity to experience what I do because it's not that easy to get goalkeeper specific coaching. 

It surprised me that people signed up! I honestly didn’t think that anyone would come and it sold out in about half a day. 

What are the benefits for playing team sports for girls? 

I think the whole team aspect of hockey is great and you get to go through the highs and lows with your friends. The great thing about being in a team is that you all have a passion for the same thing. You’re all trying to achieve the same goal. 

Where do you see yourself in five years? 

Still playing hockey! 

What advice would you give to girls at King’s today? 

Go after your dreams. I dreamt of being a hockey player for a living - ten years ago there was no such thing, or it seemed to be an unrealistic dream, but I’ve gone on to prove, not only to my parents, that this is something that you can do. If you’re 15 years old and you’re saying to people that you want to become an Olympic Champion, most people will not take you seriously. If that is your ambition and your passion and I knew that I was happiest on a hockey pitch, then you have to do everything that you can to fight for it. 

It took me five years of being told no, I’m not good enough or I'm too different. If you don’t believe that you can do it, then who will?

Maddie Hinch is an Investec Hockey ambassador, Investec support women’s hockey from grass roots level through to the national team.

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