FROM Sutton Coldfield to Solihull, via Sydney, a legend of women’s hockey is now imparting her wisdom on a select band of lucky youngsters.
Jane Sixsmith MBE, for so long an inspirational figure for England and Great Britain hockey teams, is relishing her new career trying to inspire the next generation of stars at Solihull School.
Sixsmith took up her position as the school’s full-time hockey coach in September and, while it is early days, the signs are good for the player who retired from the international game with 165 caps for England and 158 for Great Britain.
“I’m really enjoying it,” she said.
“When you take on a new job there’s always an element of the unknown about it and I was wondering if I’d be sick of hockey by the time the weekends came around, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
“I like working with the kids and I’m getting a lot out of it from a coaching point of view, as I’m involved with every age group, from the junior school right the way through to first team.”
Sixsmith wasn’t the only one from her family to start a new chapter at Solihull in September, with oldest daughter Ellie-Mae, 11, being accepted on a hockey scholarship from the start of the academic year.
“Ellie-Mae was blown away by it when we visited and wanted to come here straightaway,” she added.
“She absolutely loves it and we felt the all-round opportunities were fantastic.”
While the fact Sixsmith is still playing in the national league for Sutton Coldfield at the age of 49 speaks volumes for her fitness and longevity, she is also part of a growing number of players up and down the country buoyed by the success of Team GB’s gold medal-winning women’s side in Rio this summer.
She added: “The Olympics success in Rio has been inspiring,” said the Barcelona ’92 bronze medal-winner.
“People can now reel off some of the players’ names and in years gone by they would have struggled to do that. Now we have hockey players on Strictly and in I’m A Celebrity, which is amazing.”
Sixsmith is also enthused by the opportunities available for the students under her guidance at Solihull, with fellow Olympian Chris Mayer and former Pakistan international Ali Raza both also on the staff.
She said: “The facilities at the school are superb. We have an Astroturf on site, which is a massive help and the school is hoping to add another. To also have Chris and Ali here, the students really aregetting a wealth of experience to learn from.
“From a coaching point of view, you can only do so much in terms of getting structures right and working with individuals to improve their skills to go on and understand the game. It’s about trying to impart your experience and working with them to be the best they can. I wouldn’t see it as the same sort of pressure as playing but you obviously want to put them in the best possible position.”