Sunday, May 19, 2024

Maddie Hinch perfect start: England’s new custodian on her blooming career

Back in 2013, we asked whether a goalkeeper has ever taken to international hockey as quickly as Maddie Hinch? In her first season as England’s No 1 Hinch picked up goalkeeper of the tournament award in her first three major events – the World League Semi Finals and Finals and the European championships. And she finished her breakthrough season with a European silver and World League bronze medal in her bag.

Along the way the 25-year-old answered one of the big questions of 2013 – could anyone fill the shoes of retiring England and GB double Olympian Beth Storry? Hinch has now made the early running for the GB slot at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and her explosive power and speed seem tailor-made for the new world of eight-seconds-to-score penalty shootouts. So was the step into those big boots as seamless as Hinch made it look? We caught up with the keeper to find out.

Let’s start with that transition from number two or three keeper to being a key member of the squad in, well less than 12 months – was that a big change for you?

It has been massive. It has all been a bit of a mindset thing – trying to get used to the position I am in now, knowing I will get a lot more matches but also handling the pressure and expectations.

When you are number two or three you don’t ever expect to play and when you do get a chance, you are just delighted to be out there. Then you don’t know what comes next – whether you will to play again. As the year went on, the more he [coach Jason Lee] played me the more it gave me the belief that he believed in me. When you are number two it is a completely different mindset – that is hard too. But now I have to deal with a different kind of pressure and that comes from the levels of expectation from my team mates and the coach. That has been a challenge but it is an enjoyable pressure because you have to back yourself and remind yourself that you have been picked for a reason.

Are there particular people in the support team at Bisham who help you come to terms with those added pressures?

Our squad psychologist Tom Cross worked closely with me at the beginning of the year [2013].

When the year started there were a few people in contention for the number one/number two slots and no one really knew where they stood. When it got closer to the World League at Chiswick it became more obvious who would be playing and who wouldn’t and I got a bit nervous about it all. I was nervous about getting compared to Beth [Storry] and having to fill her shoes She was obviously such a fantastic keeper and I just didn’t want to let anyone down.

Tom just kept reminding me to back myself and he set me a lot of psychological work to do – if I get nervous how do I handle that; if, in a game, it’s not going too well how do I deal with that? I worked really hard with him before Chiswick and as the year went on. He has has played a big part in how 2013 went.

The World League Semi Final in Chiswick in June was your breakthrough moment wasn’t it – your first major tournament since the Champions Trophy and Euros a couple of years earlier?

Since 2011 I hadn’t been to a tournament at all. I knew going into Chiswick I was going to play and I was just so desperate to take my opportunity, because you know that if you nail it and do a good job it is then difficult for people to take that place away from you. It is in your hands a little bit if you are number one. If you are number two you have to rely a little on the person in front of you to put a foot wrong.

When you get given that opportunity you have to grasp it with both hands. I saw Chiswick as an opportunity to make a name for myself.

That went to plan then – goalkeeper of the tournament, a silver medal and a place won in the 2014 World Cup – job done!

In the first game we played South Africa and got off to a good start [a 4-1 win]. Just playing in front of a home crowd – I had never had that kind of experience before – and the whole atmosphere of the tournament just made it so enjoyable. It was so good to just put on an England shirt and enjoy all the games. That is how the whole year went really. With each game I grew in confidence and really enjoyed my hockey – and you have got to enjoy it to play well.

You will always have those bad days but now I have proven to myself that can do this and I can reflect back on that. Even going into Chiswick I wasn’t completely sure I would be able to perform.

You have terrorised Argentina (World League Finals, bronze medal game) and Holland (European championships semi final) in recent shootouts. Does the switch from penalty strokes to the eight-seconds-to-score format suit your game?

When I heard the new rule had come in [in May 2011] I was delighted because I find strokes quite difficult. I am not the biggest of keepers and when I am stood on the line I don’t feel like I am covering much of the goal.

Keepers have a lot more chance of doing a better job with shuffles. We can dictate what a forward does. I have enjoyed it and I think it suits the way I play hockey – I like to get out and about and make a nuisance of myself. But, again, last year I wasn’t really sure how I would do at shuffles. Things have gone really well and it is an area of my game where I have a lot of confidence now.

Sometimes it is the luck of the draw and you do need your team mates to score too. But when we go into them, as a team, we definitely believe we can win.

It struck me in the Euro semi-final against Holland you had a pretty good idea what some of the Dutch players were going to try. Do you watch a lot of replays and do your research, or just wing it?

A lot of people gave me stick about my ‘little red book’ in the summer, because I always do quite a lot of work before the games that could potentially go to a shootout.

I look at videos of players’ previous shuffles and what they tend to do. They usually have a pattern; players normally stick to their favourite routine or go to their stronger side. If you have that opportunity to prepare you should do – it certainly helps – and it can then become a bit of a mind-game if you try and force players the other way or whatever. I do a lot of work with that.

Do you reckon keepers are getting the upper hand now in the shootouts at international level?

When we first started, keepers weren’t sure of how far to come out, how aggressively to come out, how fast to come out, whether to go down early, or not go down at all. There were all those questions. As shuffles are being done more and more, keepers are starting to work out what makes it difficult for players. As keepers get better and better, players will work out how to counteract that. It is still a relatively new thing, but goalies are starting to switch on to what works for them.

While we are on rule changes – own goals, will you be glad to see the back of them?

I am quite fortunate not to have suffered too much from that rule. It happened in Argentina – there was a touch then I touched it as well – but I remember thinking that would have been a nightmare if it had only hit me and gone in. That is the goalie’s worst nightmare – or the ball hitting the post then hitting us and going in.

I can’t wait for the rule to go. It just puts that slight bit of hesitation on your mind about whether to try and make a save. I just think people need to work harder for their goals! I am delighted it is going.

Players being alowed to use their sticks over shoulder height?

I think it is great – it keeps the game going and it was always a bit confusing about whether people were playing above their shoulders or not. I like it and talking to a lot of the girls they like it too – I hope that one stays in.

Five-a-side indoor hockey with easier goalie substitutions?

I don’t like it. At the higher level goalkeepers are used less and I want to play! Taking the goalie off hasn’t happened too much in the league with the girls and, I think, that was because teams weren’t quite sure how to take advantage of the extra player. In the men’s game, and at international level, people are doing that [subbing off goalkeepers] a lot. When the goalkeepers are off people are playing in quite a conservative manner and it would be nice to see hockey kept open and free flowing. Indoors, goalies should play an important part – it is one of the more important positions – and it would be a shame to see them coming off so much. I’d quite like to see it go back to the
way it was.

Back outdoors, what comes between now and the World Cup in May/June?

We are off to America on February 3 for two weeks, to play USA and New Zealand as GB. Then we go into an England focus in the build-up to the World Cup.

Because we have done so well over last summer, going into that tournament teams will see us as a medal threat. 2013 could have gone either way really, with such a new group of players together we could have not medalled at all. It is good we have done so well because it gives the girls confidence going in to the World Cup, and it also makes other teams wary of us.

It is going to be a tough tournament, our pool is difficult [ Argentina (world ranked 2), Germany (6), China (7), USA (10) and South Africa (11)] but I have a good feeling about it.

It would be great to draw Holland at some stage, not too early on. To play them in front of their home crowd in what will most-likely be a sold-out stadium would be an amazing experience – fingers crossed, if selected!

I guess I have to ask you the Holcombe question [The Kent club have signed a number of male and female international players, including Maddie, in an attempt to get get their sides promoted out of the Investec women’s hockey league, east conference. This has caused a fair bit of media comment].

It has been a shame it has been blown up a bit. Other clubs have been doing similar things for a while but, because of the publicity, it has been picked on a little. Holcombe is just a normal club that aspires to be one of the best in the country one day – that is what everyone is trying to do. I’m not sure what the problem is just because they have decided to invest a little bit – that is a good thing. It’s only what has happened in other countries like Holland.

It is a shame the way it has been handled in the press – but we just get on with it!

How has the league season shaped up there?

It is a difficult league. The whole situation is tough to get out of, with the fact that you not only have to win the conference but then deal with a play-off.

There is a lot of pressure on us as a side, and as players too, to go out there and perform. Teams are working out how to make life difficult for us, so we have had a couple of setbacks along the way and I think it will be a tight finish towards the end of the season. But, fingers-crossed, we will be at the play-offs, and if we get there and do ourselves justice, we might go up.

To cap off a great year you won the 2013 Hockey Writers’ Club UK player of the year – what was your reaction to that?

I was absolutely delighted. I look at the list of previous winners and when I see my name at the bottom now I think ‘this looks out of place’. Those guys such as Kate Walsh, Helen Richardson, Crista Cullen, Tina Cullen and Jane Sixsmith are all players I have looked up to. To see my name on the list at such an early stage of my senior career is a massive privilege and honour.

Maddie Hinch Profile and Facts

Date of Birth: 08/10/1988
Club: Holcombe
Former clubs: Exmouth, Loughborough Students, Leicester
Schools: Hazelgrove, Kings College Taunton
International caps (Eng/GB/indoor): 27/3/10
International debut: vs Germany in Hamburg, October 2, 2008
Medals: 2013 World League Finals – bronze, 2013 EuroHockey Nations Championships – silver, 2012 indoor EuroHockey Nations Championship II – silver, 2011 EuroHockey Championships – bronze
Something you didn’t know: In 2007 she threw a championship best 31.38m in the discus at the Somerset athletics championships.
Which football club do you support?: Sheffield Wednesday
What’s your nickname?: Mad-dog – “Rebecca Herbert seemed to bring it into the gym. Although I get called many different things depending on the situation.”
Favourite film?: Despicable Me II
Favourite TV show?: Extreme Fishing with Robson Green “I love it – he catches great fish.”
Name a luxury you can’t live without?: “I don’t want to say phone, but it has to be that.”
What is your favourite meal to cook?: A good Indian
And favourite meal to eat: “I’m a bit of a steak and chips girl.”
Name something other than kit that is always in your sports bag: A fizzy sports drink
What was the last book you read?: The Hundred-Year-Old-Man [Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson]
What was the last song you danced to?: Avicii – Wake Me Up!
What is the worst thing about being a goalkeeper?: The smell!

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