Helen Richardson-Walsh to be golden games coach at The Perse School
Hockey star to coach next generation
Hockey is undoubtedly thriving in Cambridge, with three successful clubs and vast numbers of junior players taking up the sport.
And the latest addition to the city’s hockey family will no doubt continue to inspire the stars of the next generation.
It was confirmed last month that Team GB Olympic gold medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh would be playing for Cambridge City Hockey Club in the forthcoming campaign, but she will not just be passing on her experience to Cambridge youngsters on matchday having taking up a role as a games coach at The Perse School.
“I have a connection to Cambridge and to The Perse specifically and that’s how my knowledge of The Perse came about,” said Richardson-Walsh.
“I’ve been here a few times and every time I come here, it seems like a really great school.
“Speaking to some of the teachers, obviously the school has some really great academic results but they recognise it’s about the person as a whole and that holistic approach is something I’m really passionate about myself.
“That’s through my own experiences in hockey and recognising that you need that balance in life and I think they seem to do that really well here.
“I’m really keen to learn from people who are doing it really well. It is a new chapter and new challenges.”
It is a certainly a change of direction for Richardson-Walsh, who completed a psychology degree earlier this year, after 17 years playing international hockey.
She made her debut for England at 17, and a year later was part of the Great Britain squad at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Medals galore have followed on the international scene, with silver at the Manchester Commonwealth Games, and bronzes at the Delhi (2010) and Melbourne (2006) Commonwealth Games, with the pinnacle being Rio in 2016.
And perhaps in line with her degree, Richardson-Walsh demonstrated huge mental fortitude in Brazil last year to silence the boos of the Netherlands supporters to score one of the penalty flicks in the shootout for gold.
“They were a bit silly really because it just made it easier for me,” she said. “The worst thing I think in those situations is silence because you can then hear your own thoughts a lot more.
“We work really hard and we all train to learn how to deal with those types of situations but when they booed it almost made me go ‘right, this is going in’. It took away any nerves that I might have had, it just made it certain this is going in now.
“It’s why I did a psychology degree, I’m interested in teams and how they work, and basically getting the best out of you as an individual and how you can help those around you.
“I’ve seen it from my point of view and a team point of view, but it will be nice to see it from a young person’s point of view in a school environment and how they develop. I’m really interested in that type of stuff and it will be a good experience for me.”
The inevitable question which will no doubt be asked by the pupils that Richardson-Walsh is instructing is whether the Olympic win still feels as fresh and recent.
“Not day to day, but when I get the gold medal, and see the gold medal, and I’ve got a highlights video I use when I do talks, when I watch that it brings it all back and makes me really emotional,” she said.
“It will always be there as something that is just incredible.”
And the latest step in her playing days at Cambridge City links back to how it all began.
“I wanted to carry on playing and my brother [Andy Richardson] is the chairman there,” said Richardson-Walsh. “So it was nice to be able to have that family connection again because when I was growing up, me and my three brothers played at the same club.
“It’s below the Premier League and a bit of a lower league, but it will be nice to try to help develop and be part of that team at Cambridge.”