Miriam Pritchard says she would 'love to be part of the Great Britain squad in the future' after making her senior debut for England Hockey earlier this month. The 18-year-old goalkeeper, who plays for Oxford Hawks and considers Maddie Hinch to be her role model, completed two halves during the three-match series against Spain and feels she has gained ‘extra motivation’ following the experience.
Her immediate aim is to be selected for the European Under-21s Championships later this year as England go for gold. Miriam has enjoyed success on the international stage having saved four penalty shuffles to help the Under-18s claim bronze at the EuroHockey Youth Championships last summer. She also spent the back-end of 2016 representing the Under-21s at the Junior World Cup in Chile.
Miriam has been studying for her ‘A’ Levels at Cherwell School in Oxford as she looks to secure the grades she needs to take her to Loughborough University in the autumn. She recently received a SportsAid award from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to assist her with training and competition costs including kit, equipment, transport and accommodation throughout the year.
You recently made your senior debut for England Hockey! How did you feel when you first stepped onto the pitch?
"Before we went on we all high-fived each other and I saw belief, trust and excitement for me; it gave me real confidence. I was full of adrenaline and thrilled to be on the pitch playing for my country. Due to the heat, 30 degrees, we rotated every quarter in the first two games. So I played two halves in total. Danny [Kerry – England Hockey Head Coach) said I’d get half a game or a whole match so I was expecting that.”
How did you find the standard of play compared to what you're used to? Did you enjoy being part of the senior set-up?
"The standard was a huge step up compared to junior games - especially the mental side and the tactics. Due to the increased speed of everything you have to think much faster and make decisions that second quicker. I loved being part of the set up. Luckily I’d trained with the Great Britain team at Bisham a few times before so had a sense of what it would be like. One of the Great Britain development and Under-21s programme’s aims is to enable us to be able to transition into the seniors smoothly and easily, so I was used to the routine from the Junior World Cup late last year.”
Were you given a lot of support and advice by the senior players and management?
"The management team were really encouraging and so were the players. Erica Sanders and Ellie Rayer, who I’d played with at junior level, said how they too had been in a similar situation making their debut a couple of months ago and told me to enjoy it! I chatted with Alex Danson about her first cap against Germany. After knowing how far she’s come, it was cool to hear about the beginning of her journey. I also got a bit of life advice from Al (while wearing some interesting looking sunglasses on the way to training!) who told me to always be myself."
What were the main things you learnt over the series? Has experiencing senior level given you extra motivation to push on?
"I learnt that surprisingly little things can make a big difference to the momentum of the game and the end result. For example, making a small mistake at one end of the pitch can lead to serious repercussions at the other. Also, both technical and tactical elements. For example, in 1v1s to make smaller movements to get the attacker to make the decision. I gained a greater understanding of our aims in outlet and press. I want to keep developing, and improve on the areas identified by Danny. The group atmosphere and dynamic was great and something I want to be part of again."
How much have you benefitted from the support of Olympic heroine Maddie Hinch?
"It’s always nice to get a message from the world’s best goalkeeper! It gives you a bit of confidence. At the Junior World Cup where I went in as number two goalkeeper (a situation which she had experienced too) her advice really helped me. She told me to focus on the team and prepare for each game as if you were playing. I think owing to my attitude off the pitch and on the bench, as well as staying on it in training, I was able to get a couple of games which was a fantastic experience."
What are your long-term aims in hockey? Will you be balancing your sporting ambitions with your education?
"I’d love to be part of the Great Britain squad full-time at Bisham, but realise I am very young, so this would definitely be a long-term aim. Any athlete who doesn’t say the Olympics isn’t one of their long-term aims is probably lying. After seeing Great Britain’s success at both London and Rio this is definitely something I would like to experience. I think education is very important and I’ll be going to Loughborough University all being well. I don’t just see my studies as something to aid me later on but they also complement my hockey - the two are connected. It also gives you something else to think about - so you can sometimes switch off from hockey in order to come back refreshed and ready for more."
How important has the support been that you’ve received from the Royal Bank of Canada and SportsAid?
“It feels brilliant to be supported by RBC and SportsAid. It really gives me confidence and is great recognition after all the work you put in during training and in the gym. The money will be so beneficial - there’s a lot of kit and a lot of travel. England Hockey put me forward, and I know of some people who play the sport that have previously been on the programme and they said good things about it. I’d always wanted to get involved, so when I was asked to step forward it was a good privilege.”
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