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How to deal with Selection - BAC Blog Series - Kate Richardson-Walsh

How to deal with Selection

 

My name’s Kate Richardson-Walsh and I am a Great Britain hockey international. I have played in the national team for 17 years and in that time have been through my fair share of selections. Over the years, I have been sent selection letters (snail mail), handed a brown envelope with the team in, had the team read out in front of the whole squad and finally sent an e-mail.

 

Selection is a word that has the ability to give any athlete the shivers. Over my hockey career, I've had good and bad experiences of selection. It doesn't get any easier and it doesn't get any less nerve wracking. Speed reading, desperately trying to find your name on the list of selected players. When I’ve been lucky enough to find my name I have felt like my heart would burst out of my chest with the pride, relief and joy. Then I look at the list more closely and smile for those who have made it and hurt for those who have missed out.

 

One of my earliest hockey memories was a non-selection. It was a life altering experience and something that now in hindsight was pivotal to getting me to the place I am today. I had played a year early for the England under 16's and so when, my second bite at the cherry came my way, aged 15; I just went with the flow. I went to trials as per the year before and waited for my letter to hit the doormat. The letter I opened came as a complete surprise and literally knocked me off my feet. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried for what seemed like hours. When I finally emerged my Mum was there to console me and eventually she asked me what I wanted to do. I don't remember this conversation all that well, being an emotional wreck, but my Mum assures me that I responded that I wanted to do what it takes to make sure that this never happened again. As a teenager facing a bit of a crossroads this was a big moment.

 

Ah, the innocence and fearlessness of youth! Of course selection and non-selection is actually completely out of our hands and that's where the anxiety and the nerves arise. We give everything, all of ourselves to pursuing our dreams and yet in the end we aren't in control of our destiny. Particularly from my experiences of playing a team sport, I can be the very best I can be and not be selected. Perhaps I don't fit in with the other players likely to be selected. I don't offer flexibility of covering a number of positions. Although I'm the fittest I've ever been its still not enough for what they need. In our hockey environment selection is a stressful and ruthless period. Almost half of the training squad will not make the final selection for any given tournament. 16 - 18 players have their dreams shattered. All that you are, you have been and want to be in the future is thrown up in the air.

 

The support networks you have in place to aid you through selection periods are so important. As a group of hockey players we are consulted on how we receive the squad selection. We currently favour an e-mail at a specific time so that we can all plan where we want to be, with whomever we choose and deal with the news as it comes. As a squad we are understanding, thoughtful and humble around the selection period. We look after each other and get through these difficult periods together as best we can.

 

This by no means makes it any easier. But then from my experience nothing can ever make it feel better. It's heartbreaking. Having a support network and some space to grieve and re-set are the key things that we can control. Leaving no stone unturned in your preparation will perhaps over time mean you can say you gave it everything. Hopefully there can be some contentment sought from that knowledge and awareness of yourself.

 

Kate Richardson-Walsh

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