Be the Inspiration: Women’s Hockey – Strength
It’s one of the most powerful mantras of the Black Sticks women’s hockey team: “Live for the moment; forget about the past; move forward as a team.”
For many of the players in the New Zealand team bound for Rio, it means forgetting the pain of the 2012 London Olympic Games – where they agonisingly lost their semi-final to the Netherlands in a penalty shootout, before falling to hosts Great Britain in the play-off for bronze.
Six of the 16 players chosen for Rio were part of the Black Sticks in London. In a team laden with experience, captain Kayla Whitelock leads the way – heading to her fourth Olympic Games, with 247 test caps to her name.
And she impresses on her team-mates that no matter how good they are as individuals, they won’t achieve if they don’t play as a team.
On the field, the Black Sticks know they are only as strong as the bond they have with the players around them.
Their strength, they say, comes from those around them – “from the players at our side to the ones who have our backs… A player who makes a team great is better than a great player.”
In the past year, the team’s dedication, determination and focus has paid major dividends. The Black Sticks were runners-up at the World League Final, before beating world No. 2 Argentina in a six-match series on their own soil. And twice, they toppled their toughest rivals, Australia, en route to two tournament victories.
A significant part of their success can be attributed to sharing the same vision, fire and passion – to compete at the pinnacle of their sport, the Olympic Games, and to win gold for their country.
It’s a feat that hasn’t been achieved by a New Zealand hockey team in 40 years, since the Kiwi men won gold at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.
“We all love our sport and we want to be the best, and it’s this goal that unites us,” Whitelock says.
Together, as an entire team, the Black Sticks strive to be the inspiration.