Great Britain debut an ‘absolute high’ for former Perse hockey player
29 Nov 2018
From playing for The Perse girls’ 1st XI to making her full international debut for Great Britain, it has been a whirlwind journey for former student Tess Howard.
Tess left The Perse in 2017, having already been skipper of the England U18 team, but just over a year later she found herself jetting off to China to join the senior GB squad after being called up to play in the FIH Women’s Champions Trophy.
She admitted being stunned to have earned selection for the squad, having not even played for England at senior level.
Tess, who had been taking part in trials since late September, said: “It was an amazing feeling to be called up. I was just a little bit surprised because it was such a quick turnaround. I was in the stands watching pretty much every (Hockey) World Cup game in London this summer and it was then when I thought ‘I just really wanted to do this’.
“I didn’t think anything would come in the next two years. I thought the squad was pretty much confirmed, so when it came through I was really amazed and I just wanted to give it my all.”
If Tess had any concerns about fitting into a GB squad featuring members of the team that won Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, they were unfounded. She described being part of the group in Changzhou, where she was one of four newcomers, as an “amazing experience”.
She said: “I’d never travelled outside Europe for hockey, so that was very exciting, and it was the first time the squad had come together as GB since the Rio Olympics. What I loved most about it was getting to know the other players better and building more friendships and trust from having a shared experience like this to break down any possible barriers there could have been.
“It’s great to have such inspiring team-mates. They’ve been wonderful and so welcoming. The older girls have been so helpful and shared their experiences. It turns out everyone had been through the exact same position as me of not really knowing what’s going on, they were just so kind.”
Tess made her GB debut as a substitute in the opening game of the tournament, a 2-2 draw with hosts China, and went on to score her first full international goal in another 2-2 stalemate with Japan.
She said: “I was on an absolute high on my debut. Putting on my GB shirt and running out of the tunnel was a surreal moment and then singing the national anthem loud and proud was amazing. All I wanted to do was work hard for the team and be there for my team-mates.
“With the goal, I found myself at the top of the D and I just improvised. I was always told ‘floor to score’ and I just thought to myself ‘this is going in the back of the net’. The video showed me looking slight shocked but it was a great feeling.”
It proved to be a tough competition for Great Britain as they finished bottom of the six-team pool in the round-robin section. However, they avoided the wooden spoon by picking up their first win of the tournament with a 2-1 victory over Japan in the fifth place play-off.
Tess said: “Because it’s 18 months from the Olympics and it just comes off the back of the World Cup, it’s a big development stage for all the countries, so there was less pressure on the Champions Trophy.
“The Champions Trophy was the first time we’ve been together. I think when it comes to teams doing well in a major tournament, it comes from having a shared experience of the highs and lows. We were really fighting in every game and it was quite hard work for us. We didn’t manage to win through the week, but then we won the last game and having had that build-up it, it showed everyone had learned from each game and what we can do.”
Tess is aiming to be part of the GB squad for the new FIH Pro League competition, which starts in early 2019, and said the support she had received from Durham University, where she is now studying, in allowing her to follow her hockey dreams had been “overwhelming”.
She said: “Having just played in the Champions Trophy and know what it’s like to play for your country, it’s re-emphasised how much I love the sport and I’m happy to make any sacrifices that are needed because I love what GB Hockey is all about.
“It’s not just on the pitch, it’s the people you’re with and the values you all hold. My favourite GB value is ‘we take a leap’. That just sums up the last few months for me!”