Kate Richardson-Walsh, MBE
Posted on August 19 2015
This week's Wednesday Women is the amazing Kate Richardson-Walsh, MBE. Currently Captain for both Great Britain and England's hockey team, and bronze medalist at London 2012 Olympics. Read her story here:
Bardega: Kate, can you tell us a bit about your background, what you were like growing up and what sparked your love of sports?
Kate Richardson-Walsh: I grew up in Stockport, Manchester, and was part of a very sporty family.
Both my parents were terrific sports people, playing a wide range of sports to a decent level. Their love of sport and being active definitely rubbed off on me and my sister, and we too wanted to give every sport a go... with some working out better than others!
Although I was adamant as a sulky youngster that "I didn't want to play hockey like my Mum", I did start playing at secondary school, and it was something I took to straight away. I always found that, for me growing up, sport was somewhere I could be the best version of me; sport gave me confidence and space to grow.
Bardega: How important do you think visibility is in terms of getting more women into sports?
Richardson-Walsh: I totally agree with the saying "if you see it, you can be it". I think it's vital that our male and female sporting role models are given appropriate space and visibility for the next generation to aspire to.
I think we have made great strides and we get to see far more of our female sports stars do their thing on the field of play ~ the successes of the female cricket team, football team, rugby team, athletes, cyclists, swimmers and gymnasts have been covered by major media outlets. More can be done though and there can be more coverage, but I am happy that it is changing. Social media has also been a great vehicle for female athletes to get in touch with their fan base and inspire women, young and old.
I think in reality, in order to give women the opportunities to play sport at every level, it needs to be built into their consciousness from an early age. It must be the 'norm' to do some form of physical activity from primary school age. I go into lots of schools and they're do a brilliant job of providing a range of sports and activities for young people and, I think with more financial support from the government this can become life-changing for the nation.
Bardega: You are a role model for many young girls but who are your role models and how have they inspired you?
Richardson-Walsh: I continue to be inspired and impassioned by so many female athletes.
Growing up, Sally Gunnell was a huge heroine and in hockey, Jane Sixsmith was always the one to watch. Women like Paula Radcliffe and Serena Williams have also been role models as I move into the latter stages of my career.
I also think that there are sporting/active female role models all around us and they too should be championed. My Mum was a PE teacher and encouraged so many young girls to take up a sport or physical activity. My PE teacher also worked tirelessly to make sport accessible and attainable for every girl in the school.
Of course there's also the whole GB hockey squad do a tremendous amount of work going into schools and clubs, helping young girls see that they can be whatever they want to be, to breed self confidence and inspire them to strive and thrive.
Bardega: What has been the biggest obstacle in your life or career, and how did you overcome it?
Richardson-Walsh: I feel like I've been very lucky in this regard and haven't met so many obstacles.
The biggest 'kick up the bum' I have had was when I was 15 years old and I was dropped from the junior England team unexpectedly. I was at a crossroads in my life as a teenager and had to make some tough decisions about my education, friendships and hockey career.
I had great support from my parents and coaches who asked me some difficult questions and gave me some really good advice. It was hard at the time, but I look back at it now as it being a really pivotal moment in my life and my hockey career. I learnt a lot about myself and what it was going to take to make the very best of myself and to grasp every opportunity that came my way.
Bardega: What do you consider to be your biggest achievement?
Richardson-Walsh: I think winning the Olympic bronze medal in front of friends and family at London 2012 will always remain a high point. Standing on the sideline before the game, looking each other in the eyes and sensing that belief and confidence is something I will treasure forever. The whole squad of 28 players in the build-up to London 2012 were unbelievably driven, passionate, mentally strong and utterly selfless. Being able to stand alongside these women and those in every squad I've ever been a part of is something I consider to be both a massive honour and achievement.
Bardega: Finally what advice, if any, would you give a younger Kate?
Richardson-Walsh: I’m not sure I would have any great pearls of wisdom for my younger self. My favourite quote now, and one that I share when I go and visit schools, is: 'Reach for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land amongst the stars’.
Go for things with everything you've got, you may not always get to the top but you can be content with knowing that you tried your very best. Plus you'll get a hell of a lot closer than if you'd never tried at all.
Kate on Twitter