Ania Rygielska thrives after finding hockey at Cambridge South
Club work earns Ania accolade
As far as sporting honours go, getting recognised by your peers and team-mates still remains one of the greatest accolades.
It shows that the contribution, however big or small, is valued by those who have the same ethos and commitment to the discipline.
Ania Rygielska was one such person when she was named Cambridge South Hockey Club’s clubwoman of the year, having taken on a number of roles last season. And that was all after being a relatively latecomer to the sport.
“I didn’t do my pre-university education in the UK so I didn’t even know the sport existed, pretty much until I was introduced to it,” said Rygielska, who is originally from Poland but went to university in London. “A friend of mine said I’m an umpire for this club do you fancy giving it a go, and I enjoyed it and I stuck around.
“It was here in Cambridge that I got introduced to hockey so Cambridge South was like my first foray into the sport. I loved it and the club was really friendly.
“I’m well aware that there are several other hockey clubs but I love the team and the players that I’m with.
“There are a lot of friendly people, people who care and people who are very dedicated to the sport.
“I think part of it, is they’re not really serious about it, or at least the team that I play for, ladies three. We consider ourselves a development team and that means people are either relatively new to the sport or coming back from a long break or just aren’t happy to be on the higher team.
“It’s actually really nice to know that you don’t need to be the best to be on the team, it’s needs must.”
There was no grandiose introduction to hockey for Rygielska, it was simple advice that turned to an addiction for the game.
However, previous interest in sport helped make the transition a little easier.
“It gets you moving. It helps you to be with people and a team sport is a lot about communication, a lot of understanding each other,” she said.
“They gave me the stick, they said to me push a ball around, aim for the goal and try not to get it on your feet, and that was about it.
“I guess I’ve got pretty good hand-eye coordination to start with. I do not have stick skills, but I can do the pushing and with hand-eye coordination that’s good, it’s easy.
“It took a little while but just being able to push the ball in the right direction, it wasn’t an issue at all for me. I played tennis as well when I was younger so there is an element of being able to predict where the ball goes and putting your stick as an extension of yourself in the right place.
“The very first year that I played they put me as a forward because it’s the easiest position to get into really.
“There’s pressure to score, but it’s easier than midfield or defence for beginners. I enjoyed that a lot and in my first season I managed to score seven goals, and even got most improved player for ladies two.
“But about three years ago they were really short on defenders and said ‘do you mind playing in defence?’ and I was happy to give it a go. So, I have been playing defence pretty much ever since.”
Rygielska has not just thrown herself into the sport on the pitch but off it as well.
She helped take on some of the admin roles of captaincy when the captain and vice-captain were unable to do so for differing reasons last season.
And she organises the umpire co-ordinating and also volunteered to be on the committee to help set up Cambridge South’s junior section.
“I was not official captain at any point,” said Rygielska. “I just pitched in and said that’s not a problem because I was going to play anyway, so doing a bit of admin wasn’t a big deal.”
And they were all factors in helping her win the clubwoman of the year award last year.
“It felt really nice to be acknowledged yes, it’s something that I do that people think is worth recognising,” she said. “There are a lot of people at the club that put a lot of effort into it.
“There are people who have been on the committee for years and years, and sometimes it’s really hard to decide who to put forward because a large number of people do a lot of good things.”