By Richard Bright
Teak-tough geography teacher Rupert Shipperley hopes to rack up the air miles on the return road to Tokyo 2020 next year.
The Hampstead & Westminster midfielder made it a quartet of Welsh players called up for the GB men and women’s squad for the FIH Pro League openers at the start of 2020.
And Shipperley, 27, hopes to make it count after he turned down a job promotion as assistant head of year at KCS Wimbledon in his bid to make the Olympic squad.
He said: “It was flowing well but I had a decision to make and I would regret it if I didn’t give it a go. It’s something I can all go back to but my eggs are all in the hockey basket now.”
Shipperley now wants to crack international hockey with GB, which has already seen him win 70 caps for Wales after making his debut in 2014.
His Pro League trip with GB to New Zealand at the start of the year was a first, although he has been to Australia before; with GB to the Youth Olympics and then with Wales for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
He had held discussions with Danny Kerry over the last few years before a conversation with the GB men’s coach at the EuroHockey last summer persuaded him to take the plunge after two years teaching at KCS Wimbledon.
Shipperley’s career trajectory is a fascinating one, along with the fact that his sister, Zoe, played for England and GB. He said: “Rugby was my favourite sport and what I was best at up until I was 19.”
That is until he snapped a joint in his shoulder and he was able to concentrate on hockey. Prior to this, he was playing county and England academy rugby as a teen before making his decision. “I’m still a massive rugby fan and the sport I watch the most,” he admitted.
It was only at university where Shipperley’s hockey career began to take off. He had never played for a club, but playing for his school St Edward’s in Oxford, his coach was Welshman Zak Jones, who was pivotal in him trying for Wales, courtesy of a Welsh father.
He had previously gone through England’s development stages of the programme, admitting to not progressing too far due to his lack of playing the sport. Shipperley did play a small part in the GB under-23 squad and England’s loss has been Wales’ gain in the last seven years at international level.
He said: “Zak has been a big influence for me. He got me involved when I got to university and I saw a very different side to him when he was coaching me at school to Wales.”
What I’ve learnt as attacking midfielder
I suppose one of the biggest areas for me is being close around the circle and keeping the stick on the ball inside the D. If you have the ball in the circle then it’s hard for the defender to take it off you. We do lots of 2 v 2’s in small spaces in the circle where there lots of deflections. It’s all about securing the ball and where I’ve been working on my game the most. It’s been really beneficial and in the number of goals I’ve scored where defenders can’t take the ball off you and you have it secured.
If you’ve got the opportunity to smoke it, then do so! But most of the time you aren’t able to do that. What’s been beneficial is that I have been able to work on it at Hampstead and with Wales and it’s really helped me to progress.
We call it the ‘Chaos Game’ where you turn off from the injection spot either side, with one goal on the top of the D and one on the traditional spot. We would have two teams of five and you continue to rotate, so you get both defending and attacking in the circle. If you score you keep the ball. If there is a free hit or a 16, you receive the ball from the corner and so it helps with your transition play as well and reacting to turnovers.
It’s a good game as you’ve got to enjoy it, otherwise you are defending the whole time and as an attacking midfielder or forward, it’s not really what you want to be doing in the circle.
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