Since winning gold at Rio 2016, Sam Quek has embarked on a career in broadcasting as well as becoming a mother of two. While such a packed schedule has its challenges, hockey remains a place where she can switch off from it all.
“I would play every week if I could because I love it and I just love the social. I love training. But in terms of my career and industry, it’s really difficult,” she says.
Quek made the decision to take six months off from international hockey following the 2016 Olympics triumph to give her the freedom to take opportunities.
From contributing on panel shows, she gained jobs hosting NFL shows, working on LFC TV, and going to Bhubaneswar to work with Star Sports. Now, she is a team captain on Question of Sport and hosts National Lottery podcast Amazing Starts Here.
“People weren’t seeing all these things, but I was genuinely loving being able to speak to athletes and former athletes, getting insights, watching sport, and talking about sport. I love it,” says Quek.
“It just snowballed into a happy accident, and I find myself in this really fortunate position now. I just took opportunities and worked hard.”
For Quek, live broadcast is the closest it will get to the feeling of securing a win on the hockey pitch. She notes similarities in the preparation for both, requiring knowledge of the opposition and short corner routines in hockey and knowledge of the guests and running order for live television.
“On live TV, you get the adrenaline and then go off air and finish and you get that buzz of, ‘Actually I’ve done a good job there,’” she says. “That’s the only time I’ve had that emotion since playing elite sport.”
Of course, being a woman in sports broadcasting sadly still comes with its challenges. Quek felt this most acutely when she took up her role on Question of Sport.
“I think women in sports have this label over them, where there’s a handful of people who think, ‘What do women know about sport? She’s never played it to that standard. She can’t possibly know any information about it,’” she explains.
“I put pressure on myself. I wanted to be a trailblazer and know everything about sport, which is impossible because you can’t know everything about every sport.”
Now, Quek says she has made peace with this pressure and is able to enjoy the work more as a result.
Alongside broadcasting, the former GB international juggles the commitments of motherhood as well as continuing to play for Bowdon HC in the Premier Division when broadcasting commitments allow.
“Bowdon are brilliant. With this industry, you probably get a maximum of three weeks’ notice about different jobs that you’re going to be on,” says Quek. “For example, I travelled to Frankfurt recently to work for the NFL, but I only found out two weeks before.
“[Missing games] is more often than not, not out of choice. So far this season I have played four games whereas last season I probably played six games total because I broke my hand.”
Quek returned to play for the Manchester club after giving birth to her second child. While she adapted to the realisation her body was not as quick or agile as before, she found the mental aspect of the return most challenging.
“I thought, ‘Do they want me back?’,” she says. “It’s insular in terms of ‘I’ve got to do a good job here.’ You’ve got the label of she played for Team GB, or she’s got an Olympic medal. You have that, ‘Oh gosh, I better play well, because I’ve got that label.’
“There’s been more reasons to play than not play. When you’re involved in the hockey world, there is nothing like it. You always feel welcome and everyone’s always dead lovely.”
Now Quek’s biggest challenge is staying organised to keep on top of all her commitments, a feat she credits in part to the support of her husband and the calendar on the kitchen wall. While her days look as busy as ever, she admits to missing aspects of full-time hockey.
“I was presenting at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, but I was also thinking, ‘I’d love to be out there at a home Commonwealth Games with packed stands,’” she says. “It was fab to watch but they’re the moments that you miss.”
While priorities change in Quek’s life, hockey, it seems, will always remain a constant. Now juggling the microphone, the toys and the hockey stick, she’s making the most of this new chapter.
“I have to realise life moves on. I’ve got kids now and I come home, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I wouldn’t be able to be a full-time hockey player now.”
3 tips returning to hockey after giving birth
You’re always welcome
“Even if you think, ‘Oh gosh, can I turn up, I’ve not played in so long or I’ve never played hockey before?’ You’re always welcome. The more the merrier in hockey.”
It’s the best place to switch off
“It doesn’t matter what you’ve got going on in life, it’s one of the best places to go and switch off for two hours a week. Even if you just train, it’s so good for mental and physical health.”
It’s a bloody good social
“I didn’t realise how much I missed it until I went back.”
Sam Quek is the host of The National Lottery’s award-winning podcast series Amazing Starts Here which celebrates the ordinary people who do extraordinary things with help of the £30 million raised by National Lottery players every week for good causes throughout the UK. Listen to the entire series here.