In recognition of the International Day of Older Persons which is today, we meet a 61-year-old player whose competitive nature is as fierce as ever.

The International Day of Older Persons is a global initiative that recognises the power of sport to promote fitness and good health as well as providing opportunities and challenges whatever your age.

Hockey is renowned as an inclusive sport. It is one of the few sports that men and women regularly play together and hockey clubs are often the central hub of family life. At the weekends, it is very usual for Mums and Dads to turn out for adult teams while their children are either at junior coaching sessions or playing for junior sides.

And it is not just with gender and young people that hockey leads the way. It is also a sport that is fully geared up to accommodate older players. Most clubs run masters teams – again for men and women – and there are local, regional and national competitions, all ensuring that the competitive spirit continues to burn brightly, no matter what the age of the player.

Running alongside the Rabobank Hockey World Cup this year, was a Master’s and Grand Master’s World Cup, and while the speed might have fractionally slowed, the ferocity of play and the determination to win was as fierce as ever.

One player who enjoyed her time in Holland representing England at this year’s World Cup was Sally Tippen, a 61-year-old club player from Cambridgeshire in the UK.

“I play every Saturday and sometimes on a Sunday, and I train every week,” said Sally, who was also the England Hockey Board Volunteer of the Year 2011-12, an award she won due to the countless hours she puts in as a coach, administrator and organiser for junior hockey in the east of England.

Last year, Sally was selected to play for both the England Masters O55s and was vice-captain for the England Masters O60s. In her earlier hockey career she was a stalwart of National League side Ealing before she moved to Cambridge. She is thoroughly enjoying these career highs later in her life and says that she hopes to make the Master’s team for the World Cup in Australia in 2016.

“My approach to the game hasn’t really changed in the 50 years I have played,” says Sally. “I am still very competitive and I always want to play at the highest level possible. I don’t really think about retirement – so long as my body holds out, I will keep playing.”

The thriving Master’s scene is offering a new hockey-playing lease of life to many people who have either left the sport and wish to return, or who have never played before. Sally, who is currently the chair of the Cambridgeshire Hockey Association, has this advice for players: “Find a club that has a good master’s section – in England there is a programme called Get Back Into Hockey – which has helped a lot of people pick up a stick for the first time in 20, 30, 40 years.  One of our England goalkeepers started on that programme five years ago. She was put into goal because the team didn’t have a goalkeeper and now she is has several international caps to her name.”

Source and photograph: FIH.CH