Catriona McLellan & Emily Kilner
Hello! We are Emily and Cat, we’re both members of the DUHC Women’s 1st XI and current Vice Chancellor’s Scholars for Sport. We hope this blog will give an insight into the life of a student-athlete and how we balance our academic commitments at one of the best universities in the world with elite sport.
Unlike most other Team Durham sports, DUHC returns to Durham in mid-August each year to be in the best position possible to start their National League campaigns. Both the W1s and M1s compete in the National League Conference North, the second highest possible league in England, and as these leagues start in September the performance squads come back six weeks before the start of term to be temporary full-time athletes.
With the university population occupying approximately one third of Durham’s total inhabitants, when we all return Durham is certainly much quieter than usual, especially in the student-dominated Viaduct area!
Preseason is a time when the majority of the tactical, physical, mental and technical development for the season is put in place, although with this part of the programme taking up over half the length of a usual university term, it is not only a big commitment from the hockey club members, but also an excellent time for the teams to integrate and get to know their newest members.
“Entering my third year studying Joint Honours in Economics and Mathematics, I have had the privilege to captain the 1st XI for the 2016/17 season. Preseason is such an important developmental phase to get everyone on the same page and ensuring that all the incoming freshers feel comfortable and that there is a variety of team-bonding activities in place.” – Cat.
“It was daunting at first coming and staying with a second year just days after getting my A-level results. At first, I found the intensity of training and commitment of the existing squad members similar to the level which I had previously only experienced within international squads and was immediately reassured that Durham was the right choice. After a range of diverse team bonding activities such a fresher bake-off (which I won #easy), Go-Ape and a human monopoly challenge in London I realised I had already found my best friends before term had even started.” – Emily.
Before we arrived in Durham, preparation began very differently for both of us. As a fresher, Emily was focussing on her A-levels in the hope of studying Joint Honours in History and Spanish at Durham, whereas Cat was taking over the captaincy duties from Mollie Rawnsley – who had captained the side for two seasons – and busy contacting all the hopeful freshers and liaising with Head Performance Coach Gareth Weaver-Tyler (GWT).
Weeks consisted of ten hours of hockey training, three hours of running sessions and two hours of strength and conditioning, on top of all the matches and team bonding/sport psychology sessions led by Graeme Foreman.
After just a week of training, a squad of twenty was selected to have a training camp in London, playing against a mix of Conference East and National Premier League teams. A highlight of the week was our 3-3 draw with Reading, a team who have a number of Olympians within their ranks, including the Olympic Gold winning captain, Kate Richardson-Walsh OBE.
The week ended with a team bonding activity of human monopoly, with the squad split into small teams each navigating the sights and attractions of London, acting as the famous monopoly characters: the dog, the wheelbarrow, the racecar and the boat. There were some fun challenges along the way, and the day ended with a team meal altogether.
On the return from London, the squad had already become visibly much closer, and further team bonding activities over the next few weeks such as the fresher bake-off, a trip to Go-Ape for our freshers, a trip to Edinburgh to play our BUCS rivals, and a social to determine the freshers’ roles for the season: biscuit fresher, ball fresher, sweet fresher and quiz fresher:
By the end of preseason, we had gone from a random group of old faces and a wave of GWT’s finest recruitment, to a tight-knit team of girls who all were committed to the Visions, Values and Behaviours created by us, for us. This culminated in a 3-0 victory at our oldest rivals, Loughborough, a game many of us will never forget and was a credit to the way the whole squad conducted themselves throughout preseason.