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sport watch, sporting role models

Jen Clark, hockey player for Wick Ladies Hockey Club

Jen Clark is a role model first of all for her sheer commitment to sport. She has been playing for Wick Ladies Hockey Club for some thirty years. Not only that – she is also passionate about encouraging others into the sport through her coaching and captaining.  All great reasons for Jen to be declared a role model extraordinaire!

But the reason Jen is my role model is because of her total growth mindset that comes through so strongly. She points out that it’s okay if at first you can’t hit the ball because that is everyone’s first experience of sport. It is all about practising and having a go — and we can all do that!

Q. What was your first experience of sport? How did that develop to where you are now?

Jen Clark in the early 1980s. Jen is in the back row, 2nd on the left.

Jen Clark in the early 1980s. Jen is in the back row, 2nd on the left.

My first experience of playing hockey was at secondary school. Where others would moan about standing around in the wind and rain, being hit with the stick or ball, I would love it. I was inspired by my PE teacher who played for Wick, although I did not know this at the time. She loved hockey with a passion.

Q. Who were your sporting role models as a child? How about now?

Although I don’t have one particular sports model, I admire anyone who keeps trying to get it right, to make themselves a better player in any sport. I particularly admire disabled athletes who just keep working to make themselves better.

Q. Was there ever a time when you almost gave up and, if so, what made you keep going?

I left school but did not take up sport. Then, two years later, I met a friend who played hockey every Saturday. She introduced me to Wick Ladies and I met back up with my old school teacher! At that time I was smoking and realised very quickly that smoking and sport do not mix! And so I gave up. I do sometimes think about my health if I had not given up smoking or done sport. I have never looked back since that day.

Jen, praying to the hockey gods (unfortunately, lost this match).

Jen, praying to the hockey gods (unfortunately, lost this match).

I did stop once in my 40s (I call it semi-retirement) as I got glandular fever and was finding it a real struggle. But again I was asked to go back a few years later and returned. Again I was so glad I did as I so missed the team spirit that you get playing a team sport.   Wick only had one team when I came back so I played in the 1st for two seasons and then took the challenge on of setting up the 2nd team.

Q. How would you motivate someone to get active and engaged in sport?

This is where my passion for my sport came into its own. I captained/coached on the side. Our first season we had a team of juniors (my daughter being one of them) and women, most of whom had not played hockey before. But I knew with time we would become a good team.

The first season we only won one game and came last in the 3rd division. The next season, with more experience and coaching, we came 3rd. This season we came 4th with many of those players now playing in the 1st team.

I motivated the players, encouraged them to try different positions on the pitch until they found the one for them. I helped run a ‘Back to hockey’ campaign where we have fifteen women aged from 14 to 61 try hockey for six weeks. I understand how nervous they feel when they turn up to start playing the first time. I try to make them feel relaxed, encourage them and explain that it does not matter if you can’t hit the ball right in the beginning — practice makes perfect! It’s the taking part that counts.

Q. How important are sports fans and audience to you as a sports-person and to your sport?

Fun training night!

Fun training night!

I love when family and friends come to watch us play. They take photos and join in with shouting encouragement on the sideline. I like to see players’ children come and watch and they have their little hockey sticks to play hockey with. That’s how my daughter started playing hockey at a young age!

For me, I will watch any sport! If I take the dog for a walk and any sport is being played – football, rugby, softball – I will stop and watch. I love just watching team sport and people enjoying themselves and that is what it’s all about!

If you’re interested in playing or training with Wick Hockey Club, please contact: wickhockeyclub@hotmail.com

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