A hockey goalie has told how a chance meeting with Olympic shot-stopping legend Maddie Hinch prompted her to make the biggest save of her life – herself.
Sheona Craig was in a downward spiral following the death of her mum Patricia in 2020, until she met the GB great at a hockey camp.
The Bournemouth woman explains: “I became depressed and had no motivation. I wasn’t looking after myself at all, the previous few years had taken a lot out of me and I was a bit lost really.”
But it was at one of Maddie’s hockey camps that Sheona found the inspiration she needed to turn her life around.
“I’d only taken up hockey that previous year,” says Sheona, “I was this overweight 46-year-old rocking up to goalkeeping camp and there was Maddie, world-famous player and Olympian, having a word in my ear about what I was wanting to achieve. At the MH1 camps which Maddie runs the coaches are so motivational and there for everyone, it made me realise I could be better and made me believe in myself.
“Because my mum and dad were Scottish I’d always wanted to play for Scotland in their memory, daft though that sounded coming from a woman in her 40s who’d only just starting playing!,” she added. “But everyone at Bournemouth Hockey Club and my goalkeeper coaches were so supportive. Friends and family members encouraged me too, so I went for it.”
Just three years on, she’s earned herself a call up to represent Scotland in the World Masters Hockey European Championships this summer.
The 48-year-old ran out for Scotland in the 45s age group in the GB&I 4 Nations Masters hockey tournament in Swansea, before traveling to Nottingham for the European Championships.
“My goal was always to play for Scotland and after a couple of years of hard work I lost three stone, cut out as many unhealthy habits as I could, and I made it. Being a goalkeeper literally saved me!,” said Sheona.
And the woman who started it all was delighted to know of Sheona’s achievement. Maddie, who runs her own MH1 coaching camps throughout the summer, has more than 157 combined appearances for England and Great Britain, Olympic gold and bronze medals, and a full set of both European and Commonweath medals. She retired from international hockey in March this year after 13 years.
Maddie said: “I’ve been fortunate to be inspired by many people that are now, or have been, involved in Masters Hockey. MH1 was set up to accelerate the development of goalkeepers, no matter how old or what stage of their development they are at.
“We are proud to have helped give Sheona the confidence to go on an incredible journey, and she is now reaping the rewards of her dedication and hard work.
“There is so much passion within Masters Hockey and this, alongside the special bonds that are formed with it, have many parallels to MH1 which is why we look forward to following this summer’s events, as well as visiting Scotland as part of our summer celebration tour.”
Sheona played warm up matches against North West England and Yorkshire and North East England select teams in Edinburgh in April, where Scotland were unbeaten, winning three and drawing one.
She said: “I thoroughly enjoyed my first weekend of competitive Masters hockey. The standard was great.”
The self-employed painter and decorator will travel to Swansea, Wales, on June 2 for the GB&I 4 Nations. Then it’s off to Nottingham on 29 July for the European Championships where she’ll face opposition including Spain and Germany.
The Number 1 is thrilled to be able to represent Scotland at the highest level.
“It’s great being around like-minded people of the same age and having the same goal to succeed. It has shown me that with hard work and commitment you can achieve great things still!”
Every year players have to make it through trials, commit to a fitness programme, attend extensive training sessions and be part of a squad assembled from all over the UK. Players need to cover a multitude of costs including access to top-level training, accommodation and travel.
For Sheona, travel to be with the teams has really added up. She pleaded: “If there’s any businesses or organisations who could help me to cover some of my costs for taking part I’d be grateful.”
Any local businesses able to sponsor Sheona should call 07776 347267.
For more information on the Masters programme see www.scottishmastershockey.org