I'm kinda nearly as excited at the prospect of 2018 as I was when the clock struck midnight and 2016, the Olympic year, appeared.
I get questions all the time about what competitions we have coming up and what the year ahead looks like so I thought I'd share it in a blog. 2018 brings an action packed couple of months with some big trips and competitions coming up. ..
A big training month. We were set targets by our Strength and Condition guru Tom Drowley to hit regarding our fitness over Christmas. This month we'll be aiming to raise these and put ourselves in even better shape for the rest of the year. Training will still be a mix of gym, running and pitch based work. We have an added bonus session in our training week too...'Strongwoman'. Nobody knows what it is or what is consists of but we've been told 'strong shoes and a big heart are required'. Interesting.
During January, away from the hockey pitch, I've got 3 days of school visits planned with Inspire+ talking to primary school children about how to deal with pressure. I love getting away from Bisham and visiting schools and find talking to the children very refreshing.
We usually go away January or February to warmer climates to get some decent training in. This year, a GB squad of 20ish athletes will travel to Argentina to play 5 games against Argentina. This will be the first time in Argentina for many of the squad. It's a hockey mad nation where the sun will be hot, the hockey will be fast and the crowds will be loud! I have some work experienced planned too this month with a procurement company as it's potentially an area I want to go into after hockey.
Another training month with 3 games scheduled in against Ireland at our base at Bisham Abbey. Selection for the Commonwealth Games will also take place during March which is always a nerve-wracking time. It's a big goal of mine to be one of the 18 selected athletes to go to the Gold Coast and compete in the CWG. I've never been to one before and the chance to compete in a big multi sport event doesn't come around that often.
For the first 2 weeks of April, the selected group will be competing in the CWG. There are 2 groups of 5 teams with the top 2 progressing to the Semi Finals and Finals respectively. England will no doubt be aiming for a medal with the colour being the interesting question. On paper, New Zealand and Australia are our biggest rivals but countries like India are always a tricky game with their different style of play. Post Commonwealth Games, we have just under 10 days 'off' which is an ideal time to recharge physically and more important mentally. We will still have to train however it doesn't have to be at Bisham. During these 10 days some players may go abroad or some might go back home to spend some time with family and friends.
May starts with two dreaded words..fitness testing. It's important we do it to see where we are as a team and individuals and see where we need to make gains. We do a couple of different fitness tests; a 30:15 test, a repeated sprint test and a straight line sprint test. I did a blog waaaaay back in 2016 about fitness testing. Click here to read more in depth about what each test is about. After testing it's straight back to training which will be ramping up towards the Home World Cup. I think the plan is to utilise our Home advantage and sometimes train at Lee Valley rather than Bisham to get used to the pitch as much as we can.
Selection for the World Cup will be made sometime in June; 18 English players will be selected with a couple of reserves. The demands on us as players outside hockey training will likely to increase during this month - increased commercial appearances, sponsorship requests and media appearances will likely happen as the interest grows as the World Cup draws closer.
World Cup Month! It's going to be great if Im involved or not. I've seen some of the plans that the Events team at England Hockey have been making and they look great. ALL England games have sold out so the prospect of having 10,000 people inside Lee Valley will be very special. The selected team will likely head across to a hotel in East London about a week before the first game vs India on 21st July at 7pm. This will ensure the team is settled, prepared and ready in time. If you want more information about tickets to the World Cup, click here.
Rest, rest and more rest. The centralised training programme at Bisham takes a break for a good chunk of August and September. Players will disperse and do their own thing during this time. Holidays, resting, seeing family and friends will probably be top of the agenda for most. Personally, I have't made 100% concrete plans yet but I intend to do some work outside the hockey world to help give me an insight into what I might want to do after I retire. I'll also go on an extended holiday/travel - most likely around Asia or Canada (tips welcome).
Those 2 dreaded words will be back - fitness testing. It's then back to training as usual. The aim of training will be about getting back into the swing of things, improving our hockey week on week and building up our strength and robustness to reduce chances of injury.
More training and a trip to China to compete in the Champions Trophy as GB. This (I think) will be the last ever Champions Trophy before the World Pro League starts in 2019. It's a 6 team tournament with 4 teams confirmed; China (as hosts), Argentina (2016 Champions Trophy winners), GB (reigning Olympic Champions) and The Netherlands (Hockey World League 2017 Winners). The other 2 teams are still to be announced. They will be the 2018 World Cup winners and an invitational invite from the FIH.
A bit of training followed by a "Christmas Recharge".
And thats what 2018 has in store for the GB and England athletes. There will be bumps along the road, some highs and inevitably some lows but bring it on, it's an exciting one!