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‘A goal is a dream with a deadline’: how hockey took me from wild child to England success

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Darren Cheeseman

England International Hockey Player

On the eve of the 2011 Indoor Hockey World Cup, Indoor novice (and Outdoor England star) Darren Cheesman reflects on his journey to the top of the game.

England hockey star Darren Cheesman

Tomorrow, Poland begin their role as hosts to a Hockey World Cup. But rather than playing the better-known 11-a-side outdoor game on astroturf, the 12 Nations will be competing in hockey’s faster, even more exciting sister game, played indoors on a hard court with only 6 players on each side. What makes the 2011 Indoor World Cup even more special is that this will feature the first ever appearance from England.
This is the first year that I have played a full Indoor Hockey season, which runs from December until mid-February while the outdoor game takes a break for the winter. I had always used the Indoor season as a rest period. This year was different and I’m glad it was. I still prefer the outdoor game but have found more than a healthy appreciation for the technical and tactical skill that the indoor game requires and instils in its participants.
As this is my first Indoor season, I have not been selected for this Indoor World Cup, but will be keeping a very close eye on their progress on the website as well as speaking to the boys via social media and sms.
I can only imagine what they will be feeling as they walk out onto the court to play their first game. Playing in such high profile, prestigious tournaments is what international hockey is all about and not being involved this time only fills me with motivation to ensure I travel with the England team later this year to the outdoor European Championships.
Pending selection, it’ll be the biggest tournament I will have played in. Furthermore, with England being reigning champions, there are high expectations to hold onto that crown. This could be my first chance to play in a major championship for England and win some International silverware. Both of which were feats I could never imagine achieving 14 years ago when I was first introduced to hockey, aged 10.
I grew up in Islington, North London, and went to a primary school diagonally opposite my block of flats. A keen footballer, I never dreamed of anything other than playing for my beloved Arsenal. As things turned out, it was Arsenal who came into my school playground and introduced me to hockey. Arsenal have been sending coaches from their Sport in the Community programme to local primary schools and housing estates for the last 25 years, and thanks to the passion and enthusiasm of the coaches involved, I and thousands of other children found a way to use sport as a positive influence to both distract us from the temptations of going astray and motivate us to achieve bigger and better things.
Since then, Arsenal has been a pillar in my life that has given me strength, stability, encouragement, and a desire not just to achieve great things, but to strive for excellence. From an early age they gave me the confidence to dream not only of winning an Olympic gold medal, but also to become one of the best players in the world. This year’s European Championships is a stepping stone toward the realisation of that dream.
I could never articulate how it would feel to be standing on the podium with the rest of the GB squad in 2012 with Gold medals around our necks, hands on our chests facing the Union Jack and singing the National Anthem. Although it has been my dream since I was young, over the years it has also impacted on many people ranging from my mum and sister to my wife Zara; from the closest of my friends to Freddie Hudson at Arsenal and the rest of the Sport in the Community programme who have nurtured me from an arrogant, rebellious wild child to the position I hold today.
Each person has played a different role in helping me get to where I am today and are all doing everything they can to make sure I come away from the Olympics as a gold medallist. This is no longer just about me and my dreams, it is about honouring the years of hard work, dedication and support that have been invested in me. I can’t wait to fulfil that dream and visit each of these people to share their joy. It will be as much their achievement as it is mine.
I wish the boys who are out in Poland this week for the Indoor World Cup the best of luck. I know they will manage to play some mouth-watering hockey and ensure England’s first visit to this great tournament is one to remember. I also know that come summer 2012, they’ll use the experience gained in this tournament to help us achieve our ultimate goal: Olympic Gold.
“A goal is a dream with a deadline” – Napoleon Hill

Article photo © Alex Broadway. Thumbnail photo © Ady Kerry/GB Hockey. All rights reserved.

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