Emily Defroand: ‘England can get on the podium at the Hockey World Cup’

first_imgReuse this content Share on Facebook Listening to Defroand run through the schedule of her working week could get you out of breath by itself. It’s double sessions every day, with an emphasis on gym work. Even the rest day, on Wednesdays, is used by many players for swimming and yoga to help their muscles recover from the rest of the week. The Thursday sessions are the most notorious, though not for their physical demands.“Thinking Thursdays” recreates a match scenario but for a game nobody has played before. By changing the rules (two points for a goal, for example, or points for entering the shooting circle), players have to literally think on their feet; breaking the habits they have formed and creating new ones. Defroand loves it.Playing club hockey for Surbiton, Defroand is a full-time athlete, benefiting from UK sport funding as part of the Great Britain squad. The 23 year-old’s career has run in tandem with professionalisation and, after graduating from Birmingham University in 2016 with a masters in sports science, she became part of a new generation able to dedicate themselves entirely to the sport. “I submitted my dissertation a couple of weeks after the girls won gold in Rio,” she says. “It’s really been lucky, the timing of it all, it’s been a natural progression for me. I finished university, was able to trial for the squad and now I’m living my dream.”Defroand made her Great Britain debut in February and her current training is as part of that group. Like most of the GB squad, however, she will be representing England at the World Cup. The relationship between the two teams is a fluid one (and, indeed, England earned their second-placed seeding at the World Cup in part thanks to GB’s performance in Rio) and it was while playing under the flag of St George that Defroand got her first experience of tournament competition at the Commonwealth Games this year.“I will always remember that first game,” says Defroand. “The moment when I stepped out on to the pitch. We’re a sport-mad family and I’d always watched the Commonwealth Games as a kid, every one. I wanted to take a step back and think, you know? To think, wow this is it, this is why I’ve trained so hard. I looked into the crowd and my mum and dad were there and that’s just such a proud, proud moment for myself.”In the countdown to the World Cup, England hockey has encouraged its players to share details of their sporting role models as part of a campaign called Behind Every Great Player. There is no doubt about Defroand’s inspiration; her mother, Gill.“My mum has been the biggest influence for me growing up and becoming the hockey player that I am,” she says without a moment’s hesitation. “I got into hockey through her. I started playing at age seven because I used to watch her play every Saturday at our local club in Havering.“Mum would say that I’d steal her stick at half-time and be running up and down the pitch. By the age of 10 or 11 I was lucky enough to be playing in the same team. Since becoming a team-mate my mum’s been my club, my county and my regional manager. She’s my biggest fan and my biggest critic and this campaign is about trying to get that relationship between parent and child, get that support network, because it does make such a difference in sport. My mum has been such a fundamental part of my journey and I can’t thank her enough.” … we have a small favour to ask. 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We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Emily Defroand is late, just, for her interview. Training overran. The England forward is in intensive preparations for the hockey Women’s World Cup, which begins at London’s Lee Valley park in seven weeks’ time. Not that she’s complaining.“It’s all go, go, go,” she says from Bisham Abbey. “We just finished training and we ran over slightly. Next we’ve got a team meeting, and that’s before our next training session. It’s a lot of work. Our gym work is based around being really buff, being strong and preventing injury. To be honest, I don’t think I appreciated it was such a key factor for performance athletes, and it really is brutal. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.” Hockey Topics Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks. Support The Guardian Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIncenter_img Since you’re here… Share via Email Share on Twitter GB women win historic hockey gold with shootout victory over Netherlands Share on WhatsApp Read more The Lee Valley is not far from the Defroand family home, which adds an extra local flavour to a competition already being billed as the biggest ever women’s sporting event on UK soil. Every England match is sold out and, after winning bronze at the Commonwealth Games in a strong field, the onus is on the hosts to match or better their performance.As Defroand counts down the days until the first centre pass, she is typically bullish about England’s potential. “You’ve got a mixture of experience and youth. You’ve got a real blend of pace but complete composure in our team,” she says.“I think we would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t think we could get on that podium. That’s what we focus on day in day out; to make sure we get these major medals. Over the last year we’ve come away with a European bronze, Commonwealth game bronze so why not go a few better this summer with our home support behind us?” Share on Messenger interviewslast_img

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