Susannah Townsend was part of the GB Women's team who played and won Gold in the Rio 2016 Olympics. The GB Women have rightly had a huge amount of attention since the Olympic games - winning Gold was a great achivement for all of the players involved.
Susannah kindly took the time to join in GHC Junior's final regular training session at the club - while some of our teams are still training for regional and national finals, Friday 31st March was the last session for most of the Under 8 to Under 14 age groups.
It was excellent to have a Rio gold medalist at the club. Susannah generously spent 3 hrs at the club speaking with each of the age group squads and giving our young players some insight to what the Olympics were like and what it takes to be an elite hockey player.
She gave every child there that evening an opportunity to ask her questions about her career; the questions varied quite a lot by age group. They ranged from 'who is your best friend' through to 'what's your best skill' and 'why do you like playing hockey'.
The questions were wide ranging and her Susannah's answers were all very level headed and honest. Some key thoughts that came across include:
You don’t have to start early - Susannah started playing at 14 at Canterbury hockey club and enjoyed hockey because she got to compete in a fast paced sport with her friends. Prior to 14 she had just focused on tennis and once she found hockey she never looked back.
Team spirit and hard work - In terms of work ethic she outlined how important it was. She talked a lot about the team spirit and standards the GB ladies had established over many years and how important the whole squad was in winning the gold medal. For example, the final Rio squad was only 16 players but all 31 players in the training squad stayed at Bisham Abby until the squad of 16 left for the Games. A real sign of the togetherness of the squad.
Skills and when to use them – Interesting she talked about how far the skills have advanced in hockey and how 3-D skills could be very helpful but only in the right part of the pitch and at the right time. She said many players can do the skills but use them in the wrong part of the pitch or when they have no outcome.
'Off the ball' is as important as 'on the ball' – she talked our young players through the final game the GB Ladies played at Rio to win gold against the Dutch who have been a very successful team over the last few decades. She was very candid and explained the GB team knew that player for player the Dutch were more skilful and Holland would have more attacking opportunities. So the GB team focused in training on the work off the ball and the importance of tracking back and marking to limit the Dutch.
They also worked through many scenarios where they would be a player down or they would go to penalty shuffles. Susannah said they knew they were strong defensively and had the ability to hit on the break and that’s exactly what came to pass. Then on the shuffles in the Final, the GB team knew in Maddie Hinch they had the world's best goalkeeper. The rest was history!!
This was a special evening - the players all really enjoyed and valued meeting and spending time with Susannah. Massive thanks to Susannah on behalf of Guildford Hockey Club for her dedication and time.
Susannah and medal with the Under 8s...
...Under 10 Boys...
...Under 10 Girls...
...Under 12 Girls...
...and Under 14 Girls.