Scottish international Kerry-Anne Hastings knows how fortunate she is to be playing competitive hockey. "I live with two rugby players who have nothing in the diary," says last year's Durham University captain.
Hastings' own diary was set in stone during lockdown. Scott Hastings, the former Scotland and Lions rugby player, wife Jenny, a former Scottish athlete, and daughter Kerry-Anne lifted spirits on their Edinburgh street by holding outdoor aerobics classes for their mostly elderly neighbours.
The street met for 20 minutes every Monday to Saturday, with afternoon tea on Sundays, for 100 successive days. Indeed, they still meet three times per week. "It's been fantastic and it's now up to 30 minutes, which is a pretty big jump as the oldest person is 87," said Kerry-Anne.
Now back at Durham, where she is currently doing a part-time masters in education, Hastings is part of a university side looking for promotion to the Premier Division for the first time. They started well, topping the table after the opening two games before losing to Bowdon, who lost their top-flight place after 30 straight years last season. On Saturday, they came up against Leicester - denied promotion when the league was halted in March - who came from behind to beat Durham 2-1.
As the season started out, Hastings felt her tackles were a "wee bit shaky" and had lost hand-eye coordination. She said: "It was a shock to the system but every single time I step back on the pitch I make sure I'm giving my all. Not that I didn't in the past but it's more a focus point now.
So many people have been asking about our lockdown street aerobics. We are still going strong 3 months on with @JennyHastings17 our lead instructor doing such a fab job! #borntobealive & still getting a good turnout from our neighbours! #havingfun #positivementalhealth pic.twitter.com/o9gcLFrZfP
— Scott Hastings (@ScottHastings13) July 13, 2020
"I'm conscious of how fortunate I am to play. Personally I felt like I needed that reset, to realise that I do love my sport, everything I do is towards that and to try to be the best version of myself within that sporting aspect."
Hastings also knows that the sport faces barriers in getting more players into grass-roots hockey. She said: "The sport is seen as a privileged one with the equipment you have to get: sticks, shoes, gumshields on top of club fees. I do hope it does become more attainable as I feel privileged for being able to try lots of sports, especially hockey which is one of the more expensive ones."
It is one reason why she has backed grass-roots sports initiative GiveToLocal, which aims to give £10 million to community sport every year. She added: "If we want to build more community hockey we have to open up our own budgets and start giving first, and then in 10 years we can see the outcomes. We are in it for the long game.
"Hockey is not about just being a sportsperson. It's controlling emotions and team spirit. You have a hockey stick in your hand and you never know what a kid can turn around and do. It's all about control."
After hip surgery in 2018, Hastings was handed a first Scottish senior cap last year and is now focused on the national side's return to the EuroHockey Championship next summer - where they are pitted against Holland - and the road to the 2022 Commonwealth Games. She has also seen first hand - mainly via Zoom - how the Scottish squad has been galvanised under Jen Wilson, their South African coach.
"Rather than seeing it as a kick in the teeth, they used lockdown as an opportunity for us to become a fitter, faster, stronger team," added Hastings. "Weirdly, personally, I feel one of the closest I've felt with the team with all the interaction, including a joint call with all the junior and senior squads. You can see how much work they've put in behind the scenes and everyone has come together because of it."
Bandurak makes switch back
A summer exodus saw Premier Division side Holcombe lose 10 squad members and a head coach, but one of those players, Emma Bandurak, is now back in the side. After two opening games for champions Surbition, Bandurak quietly made the swift move back as a registered Holcombe player. "All credit to her," said coach Kevin Johnson, who inherited a decimated squad. "The door was always open and hers is a game I've always respected. I was gutted to see her go but elated to see her come back. It's like she's never been away."
For her returning 'debut', Holcombe saw positives in the "frustrating" last-gasp goal which handed Wimbledon a 2-1 win, during a corner melee where a player got hit in the face and the ball finding the net after a rebound and ricochet. But after a week off last weekend, the Kent side continued their fine form on Saturday at Bristol, beating Clifton Robinsons for the fourth time in five visits courtesy of a 3-2 win.
Holland grounds world's best league
Ellie Rayer set table toppers East Grinstead on their way to 20 games unbeaten and 10 on the road following a 2-1 victory at Hampstead & Westminster. Rayer was at the back post to net Grinstead's fourth-minute opener after an authoritative break down the right, before Sophie Bray doubled the lead. Lauren Turner's 63rd-minute strike was too little too late for the Londoners. Rayer returned after a niggling ankle injury and is now in line for GB women's selection ahead of FIH Pro League matches against Holland next week. The double encounters in Amsterdam are currently still on, despite the Dutch government last week halting the Hoofdklasse, regarded as the world's best league. Rayer said that "these are the moments you play for", with GB women set to play their first matches since February behind closed doors and against Belgium a few days later.
Last week, the Dutch league suspension saw an outpouring of support for Lidewij Welten, the two-time world player of the year, who became the highest profile player to passionately speak out after hockey was deemed an amateur sport. "I am involved in hockey 24-7, I live it and I live for it and in my eyes you are a professional," she said.
Students aim to protect players
Loughborough Students remain unbeaten, although their match against Beeston was called off with the latter postponing the clash. Brett Holland's side now have no hockey for two weeks, with this Saturday designated as their bye weekend. Holland said: "We’ve just moved our training to smaller groups, and where possible a bubble of six within training to minimise and mitigate any transmission to protect the players. We hope it will keep everyone playing."
Meanwhile, Swansea University, scored the first ever goal by a Welsh side in the women's English top flight. After four games without scoring, Swansea finally netted through Jess Roe in their 3-1 defeat to Buckingham. Elsewhere, Wimbledon's good form continued, with GB international Anna Toman and Lucy Holder scoring in a 2-0 victory over University of Birmingham.