THE Scotland women’s hockey team aim to do in Glasgow what they achieved just a few days ago in London: finish in the top four. Of course, it will not be so easy doing that in the Commonwealth Games as it was at the Investec London Cup, which actually only included four teams, but there were still some valuable lessons from the latter event for the squad.
They came third, beating Wales twice and losing to England and South Africa, so have relevant experience of meeting teams they could shortly face again. But for all the teams, the tournament was more about fine-tuning than results, and Scotland’s Nikki Kidd is convinced that the home squad are now in good shape as they prepare for the Games.
“Our focus was really on performance,” Kidd explained. “We knew we were playing against top-quality teams that we will potentially meet again, and we wanted to make sure our performance was improving and we were putting into practice some things we’ve been doing in training.
“We had some really positive performances. It was a really valuable competition, especially so close to the Games. Now we’re really looking forward to getting into the tournament.
“Obviously you’re going to keep a little bit back in terms of tactical things and some set moves. But we went out there to practise the fundamentals that we’ve been working on, and things are coming together with really good timing.”
The whole squad have been training full-time together for the past four months thanks to funding from the Sport Scotland Institute of Sport, but the most experienced members, such as Kidd herself and captain Linda Clement, have been involved for far longer. Indeed, as Kidd explained, the evolution of the current team really began the year before the Games were awarded to Glasgow.
“I played in Melbourne [at the Commonwealth Games] in 2006 – that was my first senior tournament. That was an amazing experience.
“Then we knew Scotland was bidding, then Scotland won the bid in 2007, and it was really exciting to know we’d have a home Games. I remember when the announcement came out that Glasgow had got the Commonwealth Games. It’s come round so quickly.
“We’ve come together as a squad over the last few years. We’ve really been building year on year, and there are a few girls with a lot of caps now. Linda is the most-capped Scottish hockey player ever, if I’m not wrong.
“Linda has got an unbelievable wealth of experience over four Commonwealth Games and she’s been captain for over 150 caps now. She does a brilliant job – an absolutely superb job. She plays really well and leads by example.
“We’re a really tight team and support each other and push each other on. I think everyone has a role to play in pushing everyone else on.
“It’s great that we’ve had this funding so we’ve been able to train at Glasgow Green and get used to the surroundings. But at the end of the day it’s a hockey pitch, and hockey pitches are all the same dimensions. There’s only so much advantage you can get – but it has been superb to train on the pitch we’re going to play on, and to come in the door and know where the changing rooms are and where everything is. It feels like home.”
Having had those ideal preparations, Kidd is confident that if the squad do themselves justice they will achieve their aim of getting into contention for medals. “We’re targeting the top four and we really believe that we can do that. We’re all 100 per cent behind it – the performances so far show we can achieve it. Now it’s just a matter of getting down to it and doing it on the field.”