10 October 2019

Maddie Hinch and Fran Wilson speak out on the highs of being a winner and the lessons to learn from losing

Maddie Hinch knows how it feels to be a winner. Her heroic performance in the Olympic hockey final shoot-out at Rio 2016, which saw her hailed as having single-handedly won the gold medal for Team GB, stands as one of the great sporting moments.

But, as she has found and is honest enough to admit, after the highs come the inevitable "hangovers".

“After you get a taste for what it’s like to win the ultimate achievement, you constantly want to be there again and again," she told NewsChain.

“It’s horrible to go from that massive high and then find yourself in the post win hangover. You consistently want to live up to that and that just doesn’t happen,” she added.

For Hinch, the expectations and demands that came with being constantly in the limelight soon began to hinder her ability to perform.

Hinch made some crucial saves in the gold medal shootout in Rio (PA Images)

“I was almost scared to play anymore because of that pressure causing the fear of failure,” she said.

“I was just trying to be that superhuman status that was plastered everywhere. I kept thinking I had to be perfect every time and it was draining. That’s why I had to take a break because I just stopped wanting to play."

Her feelings were echoed by another sportswoman who has reached the very top, Cricket World Cup winner Fran Wilson.

“Coming off the World Cup in 2017 was extremely tough because it was the pinnacle and there’s nowhere you can go but down from there,” said Wilson.

“We sold out Lord’s, we won a final that we had no right in winning and I don’t think we realised at the time that it was something that really couldn’t be beaten.

“It was a real watershed moment so coming down off that has been a horrendously hard couple of years for us as a team to meet the expectations we set ourselves, but also the expectations of the public.”

England's women were victorious in front of a sell out Lord's crowd in 2017 (PA Images)

Both competitors spoke openly about how important it is to educate the younger generation on the importance of seeking help and learning how to cope with both success and failure.

“I think understanding the highs and lows of sport even more is massively important at a young age and we need to let them know it’s okay to seek help,” said Hinch, before revealing: “At first I was so scared to tell anyone that I needed to go and see a therapist but it was completely fine.

“It’s literally just like going to get physio, but for your head! It’s all part and parcel and it’s completely okay.”

“Those negative moments and setbacks are inevitable and that’s okay, but they’re going to help you in the long run.

“I try to share things of me doing it wrong and show that I’ve had tough times and it’s not always fun and games and I’m not always saving the ball. And that is okay.

“It’s an emotional rollercoaster and that support and education needs to be there to just talk about it,” she added.

Wilson agreed that education and teaching coping mechanisms are the key to good mental health among our future athletes.

She said: “The quicker we can teach our young kids and young athletes the right tools to dealing with setbacks, failure, but also successes and that they are all completely normal, the quicker and better we will be for the wellbeing of our athletes and ultimately that then translates into success on the pitch.

“Mentally this was a really rough summer for us [England were annihilated in the Ashes series], but we can look back at a particularly tough series against one of the best teams in the world and going forward from that we know that going through failure ultimately makes you stronger and better as a team and a player.”

Both Hinch and Wilson have been working alongside the TeamUp objective. TeamUp is an initiative created by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), England Hockey and England Netball to increase the number of young girls playing team sport in schools by maximising the legacy of hosting three home World Cups from 2017 to 2019.

To extend the initiative across London, TeamUp was awarded £650,000 of funding from Wembley National Stadium Trust (WNST) – running until March 2020. London schools can still apply for free support and experiences through TeamUp, including teacher training, coaching and athlete school visits, by registering online at www.teamupengland.com.

Hinch tried her hand at netball on a TeamUp London day (Sportsbeat)

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