Kate Richardson-Walsh, the former GB and England captain, is closing in on her first season at Dutch club HC Bloemendaal. Here, she speaks to The Hockey Paper on what she’s learned since Olympic gold
British hockey is more akin to structure – you kind of know what is going to happen. In Dutch hockey, there is more flow.
If you’re any of the half-backs, midfielders or forwards, you have the license to attack; defending is slightly secondary.
For me as a central defender, this is slightly infuriating! But it’s about instilling those methods while not detracting anything away from the positivity.
Can English hockey follow the Dutch model?
There are four pitches at HC Bloemendaal. It’s a huge base and huge membership. All junior hockey takes place on Saturday, whereby adults can coach.
On Sundays, it’s adult hockey and everybody knows when the top teams play. Kids can run around and they can cycle there as it’s so close.
There are some elements that we can take from the Dutch model; we can have closer links with clubs in a catchment area.
I coach the five and under players called ‘Little Birds’. They run around and are getting used to being at the club. I also help with an under-12 talent pool, which trains three times per week and play at the weekend.
Even National League clubs in the UK don’t do that.
Tradition holding back clubs
What would be a really important area is that all the state schools working with the local private school and a sharing of knowledge and facilities.
Looking at my own experiences growing up, if we’d got together with all the other state schools in the area, we could have used an astro turf.
If we can get people into clubs earlier, they will stay and play longer. But it’s naturally hard because of the tradition. Can we get over that and amalgamate clubs? Would amalgamating with other sports work?
Why I miss international hockey
I miss it when I don’t have it. It’s cathartic for me. I need that physical exercise to get rid of some that emotion in a positive level.
I don’t know how much I can play at the top level, but I think coaching will take over some of that itch; the same emotive intensity, but in a different way.
That’s because teams totally fascinate me – and how you bring a totally random set of people to create one vision.
Then there are the intricacies and how you get all those individual people to get the best out of themselves while all of the time putting the team first.
That’s been the absolute key for me over the last 17 years.
Kate Richardson-Walsh is an ambassador for Pitchero, the UK’s largest digital grassroots sports network. To find out more, visit www.pitchero.com