Hockey evolved from the desire of cricketers in Middlesex to keep fit in the winter without playing football. The first games involved hitting cricket balls with sticks, abiding by rules largely borrowed from football, on grass pitches. Now it seems everything is synthetic, from the pitches, to the balls and even the sticks. Men’s hockey first appeared at the Olympics in 1908 where the medals were shared by England, Scotland and Ireland (the only three competing teams)! Women had to wait until the 1980 Olympics before being able to compete at that level, despite the first ladies’ club being founded in 1887.
I caught up with our senior potential Ladies Hockey Olympians as they trained under the watchful eye of Miss Katie Collins (who enjoys playing hockey in the winter as a way of keeping fit for the cricket season – she plays cricket for Shropshire) and Mr Cook, who has given up keeping fit! Miss Collins is very keen on the right approach to hockey and was quick to tell me how important the right type of footwear is for fast-flowing hockey. “The right type of footwear is very important for fast flowing hockey” she said. The session always begins with a quick trainer check, as studded boots have been banned since the synthetic revolution and in any case would not be very comfortable. I was extremely impressed by the colourful display of high quality trainers and wondered if I might enhance my own chances of Olympic selection should I invest in a new pair.
Before the fast-flowing hockey training session began, I had a quick chat with this year’s club captain Mary Parrott. I have not interviewed Miss Parrott before and as I handed Mary a nut while she perched on one of the new and very smart Shrewsbury school hockey goals, I asked her what her first impressions of her squad were. She told me that she was pleased with the teams early season form. “I am pleased with the teams early season form, I am pleased with the teams early season form, I am pleased with the teams early season form” she said.
Mary felt that the team was gelling well and their early season 12-0 win over the Sixth Form College was a clear indicator of their potential. A 6-2 defeat by Malvern St. James was a setback but given that half the team were missing as they were away on university open days, there were a lot of positives to be gleaned from the performance. I broached the subject of another defeat to King’s Chester. Mary gave me a quizzical look with her head on one side and explained that she felt she had not had enough lunch. “I require plenty of polyfilla,” she laughed. There was certainly a feeling that there was no justice in their defeat to King’s, as new signing Lady Luck deserted them at half time.
Emily Skelton, the new ‘keeper’, was very philosophical about the match. ‘I am in goal therefore I am a goalkeeper,’ she told me. Emily originally took up goalkeeping to get out of hockey but found she was quite good at it and ended up playing for Leicestershire. She felt strongly that rather like Manchester United, the new squad will improve as they get used to each other’s style of play. As a drama student and musician, Emily enjoys being in the spotlight, and dramatic saves and a harmonious relationship with her defence are what keeps her going. “If music is the food of love, then hockey is the cheese and biscuits,” she told me.
Vice-Captain Esme O’Keeffe, who is renowned for her reverse tackle, was dismayed by the recent team reverse. “I am dismayed by the recent reverse,” she told me. Miss Collins feels that a number of talented players currently out injured will boost the morale of the team when they return. Phoebe Ingram who loves to ‘storm down the left’ hopes to be training again in the next few weeks. “I have been really missing storming down the left,” she told me. Daisy Raichura, who has just returned to training, is also hoping to add attacking options in midfield. “I am very attack minded,” she shouted in a somewhat aggressive manner.
With Cecy Price storming down the right, Amy Mobley putting the ball in the net along with fellow forwards Molly Beharrell and Nicola Spruyt, Millie Dean magnificent in defence, Edie Whittingham being her usual creative self, Susy Watts electrifying the midfield, Sarah Jackman, Jess Moeran and captain Mary Parrott taking the game to the opposition, there is plenty to be excited about when it comes to Shrewsbury Ladies’ Hockey. I expect more success from this impressively shod select group of hockey maestros.
Please can I leave you with a final parrot joke?
A policeman in the big city stops a man in a car with a miniature parrot in the front seat.
"What are you doing with that parrot?" he exclaimed. "You should take it to the zoo."
The following week, the same policeman sees the same man with the parrot again in the front seat, with both of them wearing sunglasses. The policeman pulls him over.
"I thought you were going to take that parrot to the zoo!"
The man replied, "I did. We had such a good time we are going to the beach this weekend!"