Maddie Hinch has had a career that most hockey goalkeepers could only dream about. The 34-year-old has recently announced her retirement, causing many, myself included, to look back on what has been an incredible career.
Hinch first got into hockey at school after her PE teacher saw her throwing herself around on the rounders pitch and suggested she might be better suited to playing hockey in goal. That was in 2001 and the past 22 years have been a rollercoaster ride for her. She went on to make her international debut in 2008, aged 19, and has played an astounding 186 times for England and Great Britain.
Her achievement list within this time is an extremely impressive one. She is a double Olympic medallist, a four-time Commonwealth Games medallist, a four-time EuroHockey Championships medallist, and a three-time World league Final medallist. Within all these medals, she has won gold in all four tournaments.
She has also won the FIH Goalkeeper of the Year award three times in 2016, 2017 and 2018. To top it all off, she was in the Queen’s 2017 New Year’s Honours list, being awarded an MBE for her services to hockey.
However, for many within the hockey world, her career is more than just her achievements. I myself played as goalkeeper on the hockey pitch throughout my time at school and I can vividly remember my sense of amazement when watching her play.
As Hinch herself says, “The life of a goalkeeper is unforgiving […] one mistake and I’m the villain, one miraculous save and I’m the hero.”
The pressures are a struggle which all goalkeepers face. You can be stood on the pitch with nothing to do all game, until one break away play and your ability is suddenly the difference between your team winning and losing.
However, Hinch seemed to handle this responsibility with grace which stemmed from her confidence in her abilities. When she suffered losses, it only seemed to make her come back better, and with even more determination to win.
The 2015 EuroHockey Championship final is one of many examples. England were up against the Olympic and World Champions the Netherlands and the game was a tough one. Throughout the game Hinch game to her side’s rescue and, after a dramatic shootout, England were named European champions, and Maddie Hinch a hero.
Seven years on and I can still remember sitting at home with my family and watching the game in complete and utter awe. Not only was she an incredible player, but for me she was removing the idea that it was always the strikers who got all the glory.
One year later at the 2016 Rio Olympics she well and truly put goalkeepers on the map. Great Britain made it to the final and for Maddie Hinch, the game once again resulted in a dramatic shootout against defending champions the Netherlands. The game was watched by a record breaking 9 million people on television in Britain, and it became the first time Great Britain had won Olympic women’s hockey gold.
Hinch once again played a vital part – as did her little black book, something she became known for. It contained extensive research into the opposition, and she was once again changing the game and showing that hard work, as well as comprehensive homework, pays off.
Whilst writing this article I have rewatched many matches, and it has reminded me why I loved this sport and my position within it. Yes, Maddie Hinch has had some incredible moments in her career, and she is retiring with a whole host of achievements under her belt. However, for me, what is more important is the inspiration she is leaving behind.
Playing in goal is not always the most glamourous position, and often in school people are forced to play there because no one else wants to.
Nonetheless, she shared her love for the sport and her utter determination to win, and in doing so inspired many young players to get out there and pick up the pads. Her legacy as one of the greatest goalkeepers in women’s hockey history will live on, as will her impact on the sport.
Image: Simon Q via Flickr