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Kate Richardson-Walsh: Let’s work together to help hockey grow

As the next Olympic cycle begins and the new international league looms on the horizon, what will become of our sport in the coming years?

Our international federation has a new president and all international teams face the rebuilding process. New players and, in some places, new leadership too.

Change is coming and is necessary for the sport to not only maintain its current status but to also grow. Hockey has some unique facets and I believe can be world leading in some areas.

Equality is as hot a topic now as it was, before my birth, in the 70s. As a sport I believe we can do more to push the envelope on this, in every way possible. The great Nelson Mandela once said:

“Sport has the power to change the world.” Why not let that sport be hockey? We must embrace the international community in its entirety, bar none.

Olympic status isn’t everything but for hockey it gives our sport a platform like no other. To maintain this status we must continue to develop and grow the sport in all continents and in all communities.

If we close ourselves off as a sport for the relatively well off middle classes we risk slipping into a non-Olympic hole out of which I fear we would not be able to climb.

Regarding Olympic status, having a sport that has a Paralympic section has no bearing. But this is why Olympic status, whilst vital, cannot be the only carrot for our incredible sport.

Grassroots glow: Kate Richardson-Walsh says hockey must be inclusive

There are disability clubs forming and developing all over the world. At the moment, as with all grassroots hockey, this is done by enthusiastic and passionate volunteers. We must cherish these people, they are everything in our sport.

Let us support these makers of hockey, support and collaborate with them. Listen and learn from them. Sure, many sports can boast of a sport that really is for all.

Hockey has the opportunity to do this on a grand scale. Having seen first hand the positive benefits of playing hockey on people, all people, of every difference you can imagine.  Ok hands up … who rolled their eyes when I said equality?! You thought I was going on my soapbox about gender equality didn’t you? Well you were right! Stop rolling your eyes though. This is serious and we can change it immediately.

I saw a brilliant Audi ad recently that saw a young girl kick ass in a kart race and the voiceover from her father questioned how he was going to explain to her daughter that society saw her grandmother, her mother and herself as lesser. As women they would be considered to have less worth, less value and be second always to the man.

Can you imagine having that conversation with your daughter? With your granddaughter? I can’t.

The ad finishes by looking ahead to the possibility of a more equal future. Audi have committed to paying their employees equal pay for equal work. Seems fair enough to me. Why wouldn’t you buy into that?  Who would pay their male employees more than their female employees for the same work?

In actuality some male employees actually get paid more than their female counterparts for doing less … what the hell is up with that?

How about we take gender out of it? If we’re talking about what is commercially viable and what makes business sense, let’s consider this without looking at the box you tick on a form to mark your gender.

So hockey companies, sponsors, clubs and federations, shall we be world leading or in amongst the pack? Wouldn’t it be some statement … equal work, equal pay? If we want to make our sport the very best it can be I think we need to work together. It starts with me, it starts with you. If we all make small changes we can really elevate our sport to a bigger and better place.

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