By Richard Bright
England’s Ellie Rayer has fast-tracked from junior to senior hockey in the same manner that she plays the game.
Rayer, 21, played at the 2016 Junior World Cup and will make her entrance in the senior version this weekend for the first time when England take on India.
“It has all been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest,” she told BBC 4’s Women’s Hour. “I found out just after the Junior World Cup that I would be joing the centralising programme and to train every day.”
Naturally, she was “elated” to be picked for her second global tournament after bronze with England at the Commonwealth Games.
“To play sport every day and do something you love, not many people get the opportunity to do that and for that happen to me at my age, I am loving what I am doing.”
Asked whether she had experienced a steep learning curve at Bisham Abbey HQ, she admitted: “You’re in such a good environment with so many important people around you and everyone wants to learn and get better.”
Her team-mates are seemingly learning off Rayer, a former Loughborough Student and established 400 metre runner.
“A lot of us fast ones thought we were fast until Ellie came along,” said Susannah Townsend. “When she joined I was injured and I gave her all the chat that I would be faster when I got back – but I’m definitely not.
“There is an experience like the Commonwealth Games … when you look to the side and and see people like Ellie who haven’t won medals before. And that brings back home how important those experiences are.
“New players coming through definitely push the older lot and makes us want to get better. I see her face every time she runs on to the pitch. I’m a bit moody and I see that smiling face and remember why I’m there.”
Asked whether playing elite sport had been a “sacrifice” or a “choice”, Rayer cast her mind back to the time she was in the England under-16 squad.
“We had a chat about decisions and sacrifices and someone said we make our sacrifices,” she said.
“Our coach interrupted and said you don’t make sacrifices, you are making a choice. That’s the way I see it. Everything that we choose to do, we are in it because we have a team around us.
“You may miss out on things but the opportunities that we are given that we are allowed to have in this environment, you just wouldn’t change.”