There’s more to hockey than simply playing or coaching as Queen’s University manager Hannah Walker can tell you as she prepares for this weekend’s IHL 2 play-offs in Dublin.
Hannah (28) loves the role she combines with the same job with the Ulster Under 16 boys squad although it’s far from glamorous but vitally important nonetheless.
“I had been playing and captaining the 2XI at Victorians for the past seven years. I knew from experience that I had a good understanding of the game,” she explained.
“More recently I had gotten frustrated with the game as I was unable to put those skills into action on the pitch.
“I didn’t want to step away from hockey completely, so I was interested to see if I could get into an more side-line role.
“I just happened to see an advertisement on the Ulster Hockey website for Underage Representative Managers, I applied and was successful.
“From this I was given the opportunity to take on the role as Queens University Ladies 1XI Manager.
“Many of the responsibilities on game days are the same. The differences arise mainly due to age. When travelling with the Ulster U16 squad the responsibilities very much revolve around the welfare of the boys.
“For example; ensure they are going to bed on time, eating and drinking correctly after matches. Whereas the Queens girls are more independent.
“Hockey is very much a team sport and it’s not just the 11 players on the pitch that make for a successful team. I enjoy the element of being part of that team, seeing the players succeed and the enjoyment they get out of playing.”
The role is varied and interesting and management is something that Hannah would like to continue with in the years to come.
“For IHL2 matches I have to complete documentation for the opposition, umpires and officials of the details for games and ensure there is no kit clashes the week leading up to the match,” she added.
“The team sheet needs to be uploaded on SportsManager online by the Tuesday.
“On Match day, the management staff are then required to meet with technical officials and umpire an hour before the game to discuss how the game will run.
” Once the game starts you never really know what can happen and just have to take it in your stride.
“After the game managers are required to sign the match and take a copy for the records. After games we’ll have a debrief to determine how the match went and how to tweak elements for the next upcoming games.
Hannah fins that she often acts as a sounding board for the Queen’s players, having been through the experience of combining playing with the other pressures student life involves.
“Yes, coming through university in the last five years, I can understand the pressures the students are under,” she explained.
“This gives me a voice of reason with the girls and an appreciation of their concerns.
“Sometimes we just meet for coffee and talk through the non-hockey elements of life to ensure the girls are able to go out on the pitch and play their best hockey without any additional pressures on their minds.
“When it comes to managing a hockey team any other duties can be anything from filling up water bottles at half time, baking end of match treats, to making sure Emily McStea wakes up early on a Sunday morning to catch a train home.
“I carry around my trusty Mary Poppins style backpack which normally is able to solve the girls match problems, spare kit, shinguards, food and any a girl could need in a last minute emergency.
“While away to Galway for our last IHL2 match which we travelled the night before. Madison announced at breakfast she’d forgotten her contact lenses.
“With the look of amazement on both coaches Drew and Simon faces, my Mary Poppins style bag was able to produce the goods. Just by sheer luck that my eyes are the same strength.
“It has been a learning curve for me and I’ve only been involved with the management side of the game for just over a year, but I’m very grateful for the opportunities I have received to date. I have fully enjoyed my first season with Queens and I look forward to IHL2 Finals weekend to see what next season holds. I hope this is just the start of my career in managing and will wait and see what’s around the next corner.”