Sunday, July 21, 2024

Maddie Hinch enriched hockey and changed goalkeeping with her sheer dynamism

Sat slumped against the advertising hoardings in Valencia, Maddie Hinch took off her sweltering helmet, put a hand over her sweat-induced hair and let out a huge sigh of relief and joy in equal measure. 

GB women had just qualified, in 2015, for the Rio Olympics after racking up a first ever tournament success by winning all seven of their matches. This had never been done before in tournament play by a British women’s side. Danny Kerry’s side had danced a merry jig Copacabana style at the Campo de Hockey, led by captain Kate Richardson-Walsh. “The sheer pressure of Olympic qualification ain’t pretty,” Kerry had admitted afterwards.

Speaking to Hinch to garner her tired but elated reaction, however, has always stuck out from the many interviews I’ve conducted with this bubbly, brilliant and intelligent athlete over the years. 

Not least for being able to get up close at hockey events, the personal nature of speaking to athletes in the aftermath of defeat and victory, but also the sporting journeys and choices (they’re never sacrifices as Richardson-Walsh once said) they take and make to compete at an Olympics.

And here, for a goalkeeper after withstanding 60 sultry minutes stood behind a mask, that meant dripping sweat, fatigue and a reporter crouching down next to a looming first-time Olympian. It came ahead of a life-changing year for a player who changed the face of her position and, more importantly, the sport’s profile.

The previous summer, there had been the lows of 11th place at a World Cup, a sacked coach and a rapid turnaround to then finish agonisingly short of gold at the Commonwealth Games. Valencia followed and then came the 2015 EuroHockey shoot-out and the sight of Hinch throwing equipment high in the air before team-mates descended upon her. 

Bigger bounty of course came at Rio.

Hinch has also endured more than most, given that she has personally given a public insight into the challenges and life at the top echelons of elite sport — ‘Hinch for PM’ claimed one wag on social media soon after Rio gold — since those heady heights at the Deodoro Stadium and her subsequent journey from late 2016 onwards.

***

Seven years prior, Hinch was in England’s 2009 Junior World Cup squad which ventured to Toronto. Although she was named in the final team as number two, Hinch didn’t play a game.

There ensued a “tough couple of years”. The ‘keeper from West Sussex knew that the England programme was going full-time soon after and realised that she would have to be the best junior goalkeeper to stand a chance of being offered a central contract.

As a result, she missed being part of London 2012. Yet it changed Hinch’s mindset “on how much I really wanted it”.

She ultimately took the decision to leave Loughborough University, lost her scholarship as she moved to Leicester HC and heralds that moment as “the best thing I could have done”.

Maddie Hinch (c) hockeyimages.co.uk

Surrounded by future Olympic team-mates Crista Cullen and Hannah Macleod in the midlands, her team-mates would talk of Hinch’s undoubted skills when the pair travelled down for England sessions.

With no scouts in hockey, coach Kerry would hear the chatter and soon called upon Hinch to travel to Bisham Abbey so she could be assessed. 

She never looked back and took the No 1 jersey following Beth Storry’s retirement after the London 2012 Olympics.

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Hinch has provided hockey in the UK with plentiful storylines. I’ve been lucky to be at the centre of them; fortunate that I’ve been the only journalist present, often disheartened that the days of most newspapers being present at them are long over.

She soon shifted the goalposts.

“Hockey is athletic and dynamic,” she once told this publication. “It’s not a sport where the goalkeeper stands in the goal and doesn’t really move. When I started that was what was happening.”

The advent of the ‘penalty’ shoot-out became Hinch’s haven and domain. Her little black book, messages on water bottles with players’ favourite routines, too. Staying upright, forcing players to almost sweat in the eight seconds they had and making the 23m line drama her own. It was powerful stuff.

The three-time world’s best goalkeeper simply moved her position to such popular heights that padding up, with face mask on, has now been on trend in the modern game for quite some time.

“It has been mad how many people want to learn more about the position,” she told me a few years ago. “That’s what really excites me and it’s been a position that has generally been misunderstood. But it’s all about keeping hockey on the up.”

Maddie Hinch coaching camps

Her self-titled Maddie Hinch goalkeeping camps sell out within a couple of hours and now she has taken them across the pond to the US. 

“It’s such a specific role in a team, which needs specific coaching and a real understanding,” she stated. “Hockey always used to be the last choice position to put the pads on. Now it’s one of the most popular.”

She has simply enriched the sport for the better. Her decision to make public her personal travails with depression in 2020 has also bore witness to the rollercoaster journey that some athletes go through at the top. Especially one with a central programme which can be all consuming for many GB athletes. By revealing her journey, future athletes now have first-hand accounts of what a hockey life at the top can entail.

The hope now is that Hinch can also be a flagbearer for the sport, the need to raise the domestic game being one of many issues of a sport woefully short on profile. Hinch has breathed life into future goalkeepers, she can easily do the same for the sport on a global scale.

Do you have any memories or were you inspired by Maddie? Please tell us via email

Total Hockey

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1 COMMENT

  1. I first saw Maddie play in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when England suffered heartbreak in the final with seconds to go. I believe she and many of that team used that experience when playing for GB in Rio. We’ll never forget Maddie’s heroics in goal helping GB win gold. I had so many non-hockey friends say to me and other hockey friends ‘you must be happy’…an understatement! Quite appropriately I last saw her play at Birmingham 2022 for England’s gold medal team. She has done so much to raise the profile of hockey in the UK and beyond, and has totally changed the perspective of goal keeping. Wishing her continued success with both her club hockey and her GK coaching business. When will we see the first Maddie Hinch coached international
    GK.

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