Friday, August 5, 2022

England are playing with freedom, not fear – but we can’t bottle them, says Maddie Hinch

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Maddie Hinch believes England will be able to cope with the pressures of hosting the Commonwealth Games, from the influence of coach David Ralph to the experience of their Olympians

If Ghana was something of an unknown quantity, Wales was the opposite as England’s Olympians faced a number of their British team-mates whom they beat 5-0 on Thursday.

England’s women already had one of their biggest wins in the Commonwealth Games – a record ice hockey victory in the competition for both sexes – with a 12-0 win over Ghana, but some familiar faces will try to stop them on Friday.

“When we played Scotland in Glasgow in the Commonwealths I was abused by people with bagpipes for most of the game!” Hinch recounts England goalkeeper Maddie Hinch I.

“I didn’t really like it at the time. I was so young I didn’t want to hear that. But I came to learn, that’s great. And now it will be an English crowd, with the Welsh on our lawn. But it’s weird playing against your teammates and when you get out there, they’re just the opponent for those 60 minutes.”

Hinch is one of six remaining players from the Britain team that won gold in Rio 2016 – and “Olympic medals are not won by luck”. However, at 33 she is also one of the few experienced heads in camp and a relatively young squad has hampered England’s consistency in the Pro League.

“There’s definitely a bit of inexperience in the lines, which is normal,” adds Hinch. “But there is also a lot of excitement about the potential of the group. I think people saw it in our goals in pro league, one minute we look great and another minute we have some heavy losses. But the main thing is that we really compete.

“With the history we have, teams see us as a threat – and they should. I think the teams will definitely be careful with us. In the entire Pro League we beat pretty much everyone in one of these games, but it’s about finding that consistency and that’s what tournament hockey requires.

Hinch himself only recently returned to England at the start of the summer due to club commitments. This isn’t the first time she’s been absent from the team, taking a three-month hiatus from hockey in 2018.

“When I had my personal break a few years ago, I remember my second leg being incredibly overwhelming,” she says.

“I got it mentally wrong and went backwards in terms of everything I was trying to do and took pressure off my own shoulders. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m not going to do this wrong this time.” I came back to it seamlessly, I didn’t think about it.

“I’ve played a lot of hockey in the last 10 months, I’m in good shape and really enjoy playing it, as simple as that is – it’s been a long career with a lot of ups and downs.”

Like most Olympians, Hinch is still talking about Team GB’s heroic gold in Rio in hopes it can inspire England through yet another tournament where they struggle to avoid being favourites.

“If you set your expectations too high, you’re constantly fighting a losing battle,” she says. “We have a lot of respect for where we are in the world right now. We always talk about Rio just because of the story behind it – he went into the tournament seventh in the world and we went and won it.

“It’s just that power of belief. Just because we didn’t have the best setup in the Pro League and if we didn’t have that consistency before the tournament, it doesn’t mean anything. Because once you’re there and have the right feeling, anything can happen.”

That was also the message from David Ralph, who was appointed head coach in September 2021. Ralph has become known for his vocal contributions from the sidelines, which Hinch says is just a sign of his “passion for the sport, what we do and how much he believes in us.”

“He gave us a platform to play and try without fear. I think he just doesn’t want us to wonder how good we could have been. You could say the World Cup was over a bit quickly for us, but let’s get on with it, let’s go and try.

“Let’s not think we held back because we were worried about the consequences. I really like that about him. He created an environment that allows people to play with freedom, not fear.”

If anything, it means there was far less pressure at the Games than would normally be the case on England as hosts, but Hinch is adamant this group will make an impact regardless of whether they play another ‘ Fairy Tale Story”.

“It’s just another opportunity to show why people should pick up hockey sticks. We can’t think, “This is your best chance!” It’s just another opportunity to do what we love — and we can’t get away and think we’ve bottled it because we felt that expectation. “

To learn more about Maddie Hinch, visit her Red Bull athlete’s profile page: https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/athlete/maddie-hinch

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