On 8th March 2020, we celebrate International Women’s Day so it seems fitting that this week we get to celebrate women in Europe that influence, break boundaries and inspire and who better than Alex Danson MBE to start our #EachforEqual week.
We have been lucky enough in Europe to watch Alex up close and personal at no less than 7 EuroHockey Championships, where she has delighted and entertained us on the pitch with her incredible speed, skill and athleticism and been a brilliant professional, honest and joyful women off it!
Alex recently retired from international hockey (her reasons explained elsewhere (click here)) took time out last week to speak to us about International women’s day and being a role model.
EHF: Alex like it or not you are a global superstar and leader in the hockey world, how important is it for young (and older) women to have role models and how do you see yourself being able to use this role that you have in hockey in future?
Alex: I fundamentally believe that you ‘can not be what you can not see’. I was so lucky I had such a fabulous role model in my mum and she wanted me to be influenced by great women. When I was 14 years old mum took me to watch the World Cup qualifiers at Milton Keynes and I remember watching Tina Cullen and Jane Smith played and I literally just wanted to be them, play hockey as they did and be a part of an England and Great Britain team. Because of that day I trained hard, had a dream and did everything I could in its pursuit. It feels very strange to me that I could possibly have that influence now, but it is also a great privilege and one I have always taken seriously both on and off the pitch. I believe behaviours are infectious and as I have always been influenced so positively I always tried to do the same. During my career, it was always important to me that we displayed world-leading values as a team and we would always make time for our supporters, volunteers and fans of the game.
Now I have retired I hope to stay in the game and encourage young people to play through my Alex Danson Hockey Academy. I plan to share the story of my career and highlight that it is truly hard work, determination and a strong mindset that gives you the best opportunity to succeed.
EHF You have seen an outpouring of support from all over the World in the wake of your retirement, how important has that been for you in your continued recovery?
Alex: The messages, flowers and letters I have received over the last week have been completely overwhelming. I never knew what to expect in retirement and at a time when you think you would be disconnecting, I have never felt so connected, to friends, teammates, players and colleagues from all over the world. It means a great deal to me as I feel very blessed to have built some wonderful friendships and relationships that will long outlive my career. Of course, playing to win is important, especially at the elite level, but for me, it was always how we pursued winning and the people that were a part of that journey which made my career so special. Knowing I have these people still by my side as I leave the game will without question support me as I continue to recover.
EHF: As (we hope!) you know the EHF launched a Gender Balance charter and Equally Amazing campaign last year – have you seen the campaign and how relevant do you think it is for men and women to work together to ensure gender balance?
Alex: Of course I have seen the fabulous campaign and athletes involved in its promotion. I think within our game our equality is excellent in some areas and as in all areas of life, there is still work to be done. It is imperative whether male or female we champion one another and sit our selves in the driving seat for change. It should be our mission as hockey players to take our sport and the world to a place where equality is seamless, it is no longer a talking point and campaigns do not need to be made. Until we get to this point, we must continue to use our platform to ensure young lives are shaped and those in positions of authority are influenced by our message.
EHF: We appreciate that it might be a bit soon post-retirement, but do you see yourself working in hockey, but ‘off-field’
Alex: Although it is very early days, I can not imagine my life without hockey in it. The game and the community it sits in has given me so much in the last 20 years I would now love to take this opportunity to contribute in a different way. I have my own Hockey Academy and I hope for this to grow, develop and reach as many people, clubs and schools as possible. I would also love to stay close to the game through coaching.
EHF: Alex thanks so much for your absolute honesty and eloquence in taking our questions, do you have any words of wisdom for all the young people that are starting their journies in hockey
Alex: My biggest piece of advice would be to work hard and enjoy playing. I believe it is the ones that put in the extra time, train a little harder, make good choices and have a supportive team around them that are successful. Talent alone is not enough. Always have fun, playing in a team sport has given me some of the best experiences of my life and it can do the same at any level that you play. Set yourself a goal, believe in it and then work as hard as you can in its pursuit.