As a young girl my childhood was filled with hours and hours of endless fun kicking or hitting a ball around. At primary school, without fail, I could be found each break-time out on the playground giving as good as I got playing football against the boys. After school, my two brothers and I played any sort of ball game outside our house until it got dark. It is fair to say some strong sibling competiveness may have led to the odd argument or two.
Growing up sport was my passion and I was happiest and most confident when playing it. Schoolwork in the classroom took precedence in those days but after leaving school the balance slowly started to change. Alongside gaining a degree in psychology and then working part time for a business consulting company, each year I was gradually being more and more exposed to the world of elite sport.
I am privileged to now be part of the Great Britain centralised hockey programme, training and playing in a highly competitive, highly pressurised, yet extremely rewarding environment, day in day out, alongside my thirty other team mates. I have learnt a lot especially from the experienced players, in particular the amount of hard work and dedication that is needed.
Yet when I go out on the pitch to train or compete, I always strive to let enjoyment be the foundation of my play, as it has been since I first picked up a stick. Before I walk out onto the pitch I often tell myself to just "go out and play" much as I did as a child. It helps me find the right balance, keeping a sense of intuition and just doing what feels right.
2015 has seen my dream of competing in Rio 2016 come into sharper focus. The culture within the squad is extremely powerful and I believe has certainly shone through this summer. Firstly successfully dealing with the intense pressure of Olympic qualification, securing qualification in style with seven straight wins, only conceding twice. Then a little less than two months later, competing as an England team, showing the belief and fight to come back from 2-0 down against Olympic and World champions, Holland, to win European gold in front of an electric home crowd in London. That feeling of being on top of the podium with the gold medal hanging around our necks was incredible. It was such a surreal day and one I will certainly never forget. It is times like those that make all the hard work and tough times seem a million times worth it.
Our successes on the pitch this year have led to us gaining a fair bit of recognition off it. We won the Sky Sports Vitality Team of the Year award. We were also one of the ten nominees for the BT Sport Action Woman Award. It was a fantastic evening celebrating what has been another amazing year for women's sport. It was also very nice to get out of our tracksuits and trainers and get all glammed up for the red carpet and TV cameras. Not every day do you have your hair and make up done next to Clare Balding and hang out in the green room with Rio Ferdinand.
Apart from a frustrating groin injury, Christmas is my favourite time of the year and I am really looking forward to spending time with friends and family. I'm not really playing domestic hockey in the Investec Premier League this year and there is no GB team training for a couple of weeks over Christmas so this will allow me to fit my rehab, physio and conditioning work around my festive plans. Where possible I like to get my training done early morning which leaves me the rest of the day free. Nothing better than an early morning Christmas day workout to build up an appetite ready to demolish Christmas lunch!Suggest a correction