The new season of sport is under way and Reading’s ladies hockey team has set its eyes on success. LYNDA BOWYER finds out more
The Ladies 1st XI Team at Reading Hockey Club are revved up and eagerly awaiting the start of the new season, which begins this month.
Many changes have taken place at the Sonning Lane-based Club; and pave the way for what may turn out
to be a corker of a season for the Blues.
During the early part of the summer the Club had a new artificial pitch laid which now brings the club infrastructure bang-up-to-date.
Player and coaching changes mean that there’s almost a fresh team facing the new Investec season for 2014/2015.
The team face their first game of the Investec League Women’s Premier Division season against current titleholders Surbiton, which is down on the card as an away fixture for Reading.
The game kicks off at Surbiton’s grounds in Esher on September 13.
It will be a fiercely fought match, since their last outing resulted in a 4-1 victory to Surbiton, such roasting rendering Reading to a third-place position in the Championships.
Midfielder Emma Thomas, 27, is the Ladies 1st XI Team Captain.
She said: “We’ve lost a few players to University, breaks from hockey and other clubs so there will be quite a change in the squad.
“It’s exciting but also challenging because there isn’t much time to get to know one another and understand styles of play before the season starts, particularly since quite a lot of the squad will be taking a short break after the Commonwealth Games.
“That probably means new or less experienced players having to step up and take responsibility, which is challenging but also exciting as change is how progress is made.
“We’re really excited for the coming season, particularly after the success of the British teams in the recent Commonwealth Games.
“Having not quite achieved our objectives last season, we are eager to start well and give ourselves the best possible chance of being in the mix come the business end of the season.
“We are also competing in the top flight of the European Indoor Hockey in Lithuania in February 2015, which is something we are really looking forward to, and will be working hard towards.”
A new coach in the form of internationally-acclaimed Merijn van Willigen means the Ladies Hockey teams are serious about their game.
Van Willigen joins Reading from Havant, where he was formerly the Director of Coaching.
He has a string of successes to his credit, having coached Clifton and Trojan ladies’ teams through to promotion in addition to national coaching positions with the Welsh U21 womens’ and boys’ U18 squads and a number of regional teams.
Van Willigen was also the assistant coach to the Welsh senior women’s team which won the bronze medal at the 2009 Euro Nations trophy in Rome.
Of his appointment as Head Coach to the Ladies’ Blues, Emma added: “It’s great to have Merijn on board; he is a really experienced coach who has been very successful in the past.
“He has a great vision for what can be achieved at Reading.”
Reading Hockey Club has an active youth programme and is always seeking to bring new members into its ranks.
To find out more or to see fixtures, visit www.readinghockeyclub.org.uk.