Are you a Unicorn? 10 Questions with Sharon Hutchinson of Sportswomen.ie

Queen B Team Captain Brid interviewed Sharon in Cork Harlequins Hockey Club. Best. Day. Ever.

We have been thinking about a theme for our blog about Dr. Sharon Hutchinson (she never told us she had a Ph.D, but we found out, mwa ha ha haaaa), founder of sportswomen.ie, former international hockey player, active member of Cork Harlequins and Kinsale Hockey clubs, Coach, Triathlete, Busy Mum, and all round legend who is committed to Support, Promote and Report on women’s sport through her successful website sportswomen.ie. So needless to say, it wasn’t easy thinking of a theme for Sharon. And frankly, we never really arrived at one short of a probing line of questions into whether or not Sharon was in fact, a Unicorn. (Magical, mysterious creature of myth and fable. Has super powers)

Now, one item on the Queen B Athletics agenda these days is entry into sport for everyone. Regardless of talent, ability, experience and age. We think there are many reasons why people who are interested in sport are too afraid to enter scary looking clubs with big scary elite athletes running around all experienced and that. But we want to get to the bottom of this and highlight that all sports can be wide open to everyone if you just ask. This is important to us because as far as we are concerned, sport is the greatest invention and purest human endeavour where effort alone is always rewarded, lifelong friendships are established and sometimes too much fun is had. We will visit this idea again in the future but for now, let’s have a chat with our sports sister Sharon on her story, her thoughts on entry into sport for everyone and how we can all support and promote women in sport

  1.  When and how did sport capture your imagination? I always remember sport in my life, my Dad was very sporty and had a general interest in all sport so he brought us to everything, swimming, tennis, athletics, hockey and watching Match of the Day highlights and horse racing also featured. I do remember our primary school sports days and never winning but always wanting to and always envious of Jane O’Hagan, Virginia Manning and Martina Clancy who were the fast ones.
  1. At what point did you decide to plough forward and pursue hockey at an elite level? I started hockey when I was 11 in Catholic Institute, Limerick, played outfield and enjoyed it. When I was 14 my Dad (who worked in the bank) had to move to Cork, so lock, stock and barrel we left Limerick and arrived in Cork in the Summer of 1984. I started in third year in Regina Mundi College, which was a hockey school and only down the road from us. I remember going to the first training session and Ms. Cook our coach and teacher, asking would anyone like to try goal. My Dad had played in goal, so it wasn’t totally alien to me and I thought to myself, “Ah sure I will give it a go” and that moment was probably a huge moment in my sporting life. I put on the pads and was able to stop the ball, got on the Junior A team and as they say the rest is history!
  1.  Clearly you are a bit of a genius because we read you only ever visited the Boole Library in University College Cork to find a date to the Hockey Club Ball (You legend) What did the link between sport and university mean to you? Sport is always a great diversion to studies, while we all have to study to pass that exam or get that degree, having a sport or an interest also relaxes the brain and even makes it work better. For me college life had a great balance between study and sport. In UCC with sports bursaries (now scholarships) we had financial and professional help when it came to our sport, which made life that bit easier. Also playing with a group of girls the same age was great craic and as I did spend 8 years there it definitely complimented my international sporting life.
  1.  You were one of the first people to receive a UCC Sports Bursary. What did this mean to you? It was a huge support at the time. It gave us financial assistance which helped to curb the travel costs mainly. Luckily as an international our gear was sponsored, we would usually stay with other players or management over training weekends so we did try to keep costs to a minimum. Access to gym facilities were available to us on campus. If you were playing in a non college setup, all that support would not have been there.
  1.  We read about the special place you hold in your heart for now retired UCC Sports Facility in the Mardyke caretaker Denis Linehan – Please tell us more. Denis was a great gentleman. He kept the Mardyke in pristine condition and was always friendly and obliging. But what I remember Denis most for, was for taking my gear after many a wet night and drying it out for me in the boiler room, it would be ready to go for my next session (smelling slightly but that was always the case!)
  1.  We do love a Coach/Player story of inspiration and light bulb moment around here. Was there one or a few people who were instrumental to your career? Any words of wisdom that drove you on/you’ll never forget? There were many people along the way, my Dad was always there, he would bring me up to Ashton or Harlequins with my brother and sister and a bucket of balls and do a session with me, also roaring on the sideline which I learnt to ignore over the years (but secretly enjoyed it), my Mum at home not being able to come to the matches as she would feel sick, Ms Cook for asking the question, Mary Geany, Phillip Shire, Mary Kiely, Ivan Bateman, Sandra O’Gorman all great keepers I looked up to, Barry for standing on the sidelines supporting me through thick and thin, Bernie Heffernan (Irish captain, coach, motivator), Coaches Alan O’Driscoll and Alan Dobson, Rachael Kohler who handed me a note when at a World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe, I had the worst sore throat, it was looking like I wasn’t going to get a game and feeling totally miserable, the note said….(Pictured)
  1.  You are involved with established Harlequins Hockey Club and Kinsale Hockey Club – What does each club mean to you? Harlequins is where I started my club hockey at the age of 16. I have made many great friends from the club over the years. I love the fact that my daughter now plays up there and her loyalty to the club is fantastic, reminding me of when I was her age. I was one of the founding members of Kinsale Hockey Club in 2012. What Kinsale has given me is the opportunity to work with a bunch of girls who may have never gotten the opportunity to play hockey as most of them were 13/14 starting off, which nowadays seemingly is very old to start a sport. I do think those girls really enjoy the game and to have given that to them is huge as one day they may arrive in a place they know no one and there might be a hockey club that they can join…
  1.  As we mentioned in our intro. We want everyone to feel like they can start a new sport at any point in their lives. Our opinion on this is, just ask. What do you think about easy entry into club sports? I do think as human beings our worst enemy is ourselves, we can stop ourselves from doing so many things. I agree with just ask but we have to appreciate that there are all types of people out there who won’t just ask. I would say a club needs to be friendly, not cliquey, it needs to welcome and cater for all skill levels and not just the elite/senior.
  1.  International career highlight? Club career highlight? My international career highlight was my first cap in 1992 in my home club Harlequin Park in a Home Countries against Scotland (unfortunately we lost, but I remember feeling very proud on that day). I should also mention competing in the World Student Games in 1991 in Sheffield, the closest I got to playing in an event like the Olympics. My club career highlight can only be winning the Irish Senior Cup in 2000, my last game for the club, we beat Hermes 2-1, scoring our winning goal in the last 30 seconds, and keeping that ball out of the net on several occasions !
  1. We have spoken in the past about supporting women in sport by just getting out and attending women’s sports events. Tell us your thoughts on this? I do think it is important we support our female athletes more. We need to go to their games, bigger crowds, means sponsorship for the sport and in turn if money is there to invest in the sport, the sport can only get better. I do think more media coverage would put women’s sport more into the psyche of the general public and we might think about going to that match if we hear about it on the radio or read about it online or in the newspaper. At the moment there is very sparse national media coverage so if you don’t hear about that game or know about it, you won’t go!

 

Check out Sharon’s Website:www.sportswomen.ie

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sportswomen.ie

Twitter: @sportswomenIRL

Instagram: @sportswomen.ie

 

Links:

Irish Hockey

Harlequins Hockey Club

Kinsale Hockey Club

UCC Hockey Club

Catholic Institute Hockey Club

Regina Mundi College