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Spotlight on Emily McNaughton

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I come from a family of four, with one older sister who also plays hockey. I am 12 years old and I go to The Hamilton and Alexandra College in Hamilton.

I am a hockey goalkeeper and I have been playing in this position for about the last four years.

I love creating all sorts of creative art things and going bushwalking with my Dad up the Grampians Mountains. I also enjoy going down to the beach with my surfboard and trying to catch a wave.

So you are a State level hockey goalie, where did you start your hockey journey?

I first started playing hockey as a field player for the local Dunkeld Hockey team. Then one day the team needed a goalkeeper, so I stuck my hand up and volunteered to play for the team in that position. I didn’t even know how to put the equipment on at the start and it all went on in a jumbled hurry before the game. Eventually, I started to get comfortable with the goalie gear and I worked out how to adjust everything to make it fit properly. After the first game, I was hooked! I really enjoyed playing as a goalie and I found that I was able to do the job quit well, so it was something I immediately took to. I then started to play full time as a goalkeeper.

My journey really started to commence when I was introduced to the idea of playing for additional teams in higher level competitions, by a local hockey family, who were mentoring my development. I then trialled for the Glenelg Regional Hockey Team and was selected as goalie to play in the Junior Country Championships in Melbourne. I had a great time playing in this comp, so I was spurred on to trail for the South West Country Eagles team for the Junior State Championships (JSC). After playing in the JSC, this really opened my eyes up to the exciting world of playing hockey in Melbourne against Metro teams and sparked my interest in attending trials for the State team. I had the benefit of being guided by my hockey mentor family, who introduced me to the Hockey Victoria Academy and trying out for the State team. At the same time, I was travelling to Melbourne twice a week for a Hockey Victoria Goalie Development Program, to try and improve my skills.

My mentor family also suggested I look at trying out for the School Sport Victoria State Hockey Team, which I managed to be selected for as the emergency goalkeeper. This meant that I had the benefit of training with the team and being coached by them for a couple of months prior to the Australian Championships in NSW.

Towards the end of last year, I was selected for the hockey Victoria Under 13 State Girls Team and started my journey training with the team in preparation for the Australian Championships in Hobart, Tasmania.

My journey to the State Team was helped by the fact that I had the support of my now current school, The Hamilton and Alexandra College, who allowed me to access their hockey pitch to train after hours, in preparation for the hockey trials. Without being able to train in front of goals on a hockey pitch, it would have been almost impossible to improve my skills. Prior to that, I was training on the only thing I could access, and that was my primary schools down-ball court!

Have you always been a goalie, did you ever play in other roles?

When I first started playing hockey I was a field player. I still enjoy getting out on the field every now and then, and having a hit with the other players.

I personally have never had anything to do with hockey, for someone like me, can you explain the game in simple terms?

It’s a lot like soccer really in a way, but with a stick to hit balls with. You have a ball and you try to get a goal by working it down the mid field, towards the goal. There are two sides playing each other, each with 11 players per team. Each team has 10 field players and a goalkeeper. The formations include five forwards, three halfbacks, two full backs, and one goalkeeper. In the state level competition, you play four 15 minute quarters over the entire game.

Can you explain the equipment that you would wear and need in your on field role?

I wear body armour to protect myself from being injured when I get struck by the hockey ball. This includes a special padded chest plate, arm guards and a pair of specially designed protective shorts. I use all parts of my body to block the ball, which includes my hands, legs, chest and feet. I use anything really…just to stop the ball! That’s my job and my sole focus!

I have a special light weight hockey stick, as goalies need to hold their hands up with the stick a lot, to block high strikes on goal. My stick only weighs a few hundred grams. My goalie helmet is light weight as well, as it’s made of carbon fibre, so its strong but doesn’t weigh my head down when I move. I have just recently got newly designed OBO kickers from New Zealand, which are made of a high rebound material and have a square shaped toe. This means I can control the direction of my kicking better and it will rebound further away from the goals. My leg guards and gloves are made of the same high rebound material as well. I haven’t always had these high tech pieces of equipment, as I started out with borrowing my local Dunkeld Hockey Club’s goalie gear. Eventually I got my own set of body armour & equipment, which lasted me about a year of wear and tear, before I progressed into higher quality equipment. The goalie gear is very colourful and you see a lot of different variations of colours in the leg guards, kickers and goalie smocks…which adds a bit of fun to the position. One thing you have to be careful of, is to take care of the gear and always air it out to dry after games, as goalkeepers always get very hot wearing all the body armour, even on a cold day!

What has been your favourite competition so far?

I would have to say playing in the Hockey Victoria Under 13 Girls State Team in Hobart, Tasmania last year, was my favourite competition so far. Tasmania is really into its hockey and Hobart has a great hockey facility with 3 turf pitches. It was an amazing experience flying over with the team and training with them & competing in the Australian Championships. You live all together with your team and coaches and after the games, you either do training & planning tactics for the next day, or you might do a wind down session like swimming at the beach, for instance. Some nights we were able to catch up with our families and have dinner with them, but then it was back to the accommodation to work through the team tactics, before getting some sleep.

What does a week in the life of Emily look like?

I am playing in 5 hockey teams at the moment, so life is pretty busy, and it’s about to ramp up when I start going to the Hockey Victoria Academy training in July twice a week in Melbourne. I train for A and B grade hockey teams on Wednesday nights, which I alternate with South West Academy gym training at HILAC as well. I play A grade games on Friday and Sundays as well as B grade games on Sunday too. I play Division 4 games on Saturday for my local Dunkeld hockey Club, who started me off on my hockey career. I also have recently been selected into the Glenelg Junior Country Championship team and the South West Country Eagles team for the Junior State Championships, so I have to squeeze in training with these teams also before the competitions start. It’s really important as a goalie to get to know your team and to attend the training sessions so that you can all learn to work in with each other and get to know how they play on the field. As a goalie, I have the job of controlling the full backs and controlling the defence, so I have to yell out (through my helmet) where I want them to be on the field and where the opposition players are, as I have a better vision of the field from my position.

Do you train every day?

No, I don’t train every day, but I do train about three times a week. Some of my training is just physical fitness training to increase my speed, so that I will be quicker in my movements as a goalkeeper. I do the ‘Beep’ Test a couple of times a week to ensure my fitness is improving all the time, as well as the gym sessions at HILAC with the South West Academy. I also do extra training with my mum and dad who use a ‘Bola’ ball throwing machine, to help me practise my foot and kicking skills against fast balls. The other nights of the week I train with the teams to practise on the hockey field.

Do you train locally?

Yes at the moment most of my training is local, except when I train with the Eagles, which is either in Ballarat or Warrnambool. I’m lucky enough that my school, The Hamilton and Alexandra College, give me access to train on their full size hockey pitch, to help support my development.

I’m also about to start travelling twice a week to train in Melbourne with the Academy at the State Hockey Centre over the next couple of months, so it means lots of time spent travelling in the car!

Is there one player you particularly try to play like?

I would love to play like Rachael Lynch, who is the goalkeeper for the Australian Hockey Team. Her skills are amazing and she is very dedicated to her training.

Any hockey heroes?

Maddie Hinch is a hockey hero for me, who is the world number 1 goalkeeper and plays for England. Rachael Lynch is also my hero though and I have been lucky enough to meet her a couple of times!

What events do you have coming up?

I have the Junior Country Championships and the Junior State Championships coming up in a couple of weeks, so that should be lots of fun. I play in these competitions every year and I really enjoy the comradery!!

How do you manage school and sport commitments?

I have to be very organised with my time and schedule in homework very early, as soon as I get it, to make sure I get it done around all my hockey commitments. I also make sure I try and get to bed early so I get my rest, as I have such a busy schedule.

If you could give some advice to players just starting out in hockey, what would it be?

Have a go and just jump in! Don’t be afraid to stick your hand up to try goalkeeping. Goalkeeping is fun and is an important part of the team, as you can be the difference between whether the team wins or loses a game. I would advise anyone starting out in goalkeeping to get in touch with other goalkeeping families, to see if you can get some tips and training from a fellow goalie, to start you out, and also to try and find a goal keeping coach, as you progress up the line. I would also advise young goalkeepers just starting out to make sure your goalie equipment fits you correctly, as it really hampers your performance if the equipment doesn’t fit you properly. Lastly, I was always told to remember that if a ball gets through your goals, just remember that it had to get through the other 10 players before it got through you, so don’t take it too much to heart if one gets through!

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