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Back to Hockey for Alison

Alison Mitchell
Sports broadcaster and journalist Alison Mitchell tells us her journey of picking up a stick and getting back to hockey. 

I honestly can't remember exactly when I last played hockey prior to going to the Back to Hockey session at Chiswick HC, but my stick definitely hadn't been touched for at least 10 years. I had to retrieve my stick bag from my parent's house, and the stick, which, being about 15 years old is wooden of course, was still fine to use, as were shin pads (fairly new when I last played..) and I still had a myriad of socks from various school, county, uni, club teams. I threw out the old gum shield(!) and treated myself to a new pair of astros. So I'm committed now! 

I went to one Back to Hockey session with a friend, which was at the end of the season, then I heard about the mixed Summer League, which is perfect for having fun, getting back playing, and meeting new hockey people as well. I'd forgotten what it's like to have that instant thing in common, and was surprised how immediately I felt at home in the familiar surroundings of an AstroTurf pitch, kit bags and balls. It was like having a huge hug.

It all came about through bumping into an old Uni hockey friend of mine who had moved into my area. She mentioned she'd been to a session - and did I fancy going along.

A number of old hockey friends had come out of the woodwork and we'd all been in touch on Facebook when the GB women won gold in Rio. I had the good fortune of presenting from the hockey for BBC Radio 5 Live for both the GB semi and the final, and the obvious excitement aside, watching hockey at close quarters again made me wish I was out there and I realised how much I've missed it, as it was a massive part of my life from age 14 to 23.

I first played hockey at Wellingborough School - my first coach was Helen Birch -  and I quickly graduated to the 1st XI, playing later under Cath Irvin as coach. Ex GB & Olympian hockey athlete Anne Panter - a few years below me - joined the 1st XI as soon as she hit the Senior school. She was always a stand out player in our team! 

I progressed through the Northamptonshire County age group sides from U14 to U21, played in the Midland Regional Devt Squad at one point, then went to Uni and played 1st XI for the University of Nottingham and captained the club. When I did my postgrad journalism course I joined Falmouth Town HC, and when I got my first job at the BBC in Leicester, I joined Leicester Fyffes (as they were then) and started in the 2nd XI. Unfortunately, my work on the sport desk at the BBC meant working shifts and I soon started missing midweek training for a late shift, then working on Saturdays, so I dropped into the 3rds but still couldn't commit enough, and would end up filling in with the 4ths, which I just didn't get much out of. I eventually moved to London, and then started touring with cricket for 5Live/TMS, and I never joined another hockey club because I just wasn't ever available on a regular basis. Work had no routine and was often at weekends, or I was just away.

So there you have it! I've signed up for Summer League and at £30 I think that's great value, even though, regrettably, I think I'll still only make 3 Weds nights between and the end of June because of the Champions Trophy and Women's World Cup. But at least I've got involved and I'm connected now. And most importantly, I LOVED it!

Feeling inspired to get back to hockey? Many clubs around the country host sessions to ease you back in, find your nearest club today! 
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