I was never particularly sporty during my earlier years. I was never part of the primary school football team, and while I played for my cub pack a few times, it was always far more likely that thee was more chance of me being a pen-pushing academic than a sporting action man.
Then I went to secondary school. Field hockey was quite popular at my school, mainly because one of the sports teachers was the captain of one of the top local clubs in the Bristol area. I was well and truly bitten by the bug, and my school team pretty much filled a majority of the youth team positions at the hockey club. There was a shortage of goalkeepers, so I soon found myself playing hockey regularly for Firebrands Hockey Club.
A mistake over transport on one occasion meant that I made my debut for Firebrands first team at the age of 14. During a few very happy years, I represented Avon County at under-18 level, and Somerset at under-21 level, also progressing to being called for a regional trial for the West team. In the 1985-86 season, I was named Firebrands Third XI Player of the Year.
And then real life got in the way. Work meant I could not be available to play every week, and the club was quite big at the time, and had no difficulty finding people who COULD play every week. And so I stopped. Probably right up there in the top five regrets of my life.
My fitness faded, my waistline expanded and my sporting days were behind me. But I never lost my passion for it. Whenever my wife and I drove past my old pitch, I would sigh and speak about how much I missed it. She would say "go back to it" but I said I was not fit enough.
One day, someone put a message on the Intranet at work, saying a Bristol-based team was very keen to welcome new players - with a message about "if you played in the past and would like to return to the game..." It resonated with me. I contacted them and said if they would be interested in someone of my advanced age, I'll spend a few months trying to get fit. When asked what position I played, I said "goalkeeper". They said "we've just lost our third team keeper. Come and have a trial game in a pre-season friendly."
I did, and I've never looked back. In March 2018, I completed my tenth season with South Glos Hockey Club. I've been voted third team player of the year five times out of those ten seasons, including the 2015/16 season - 30 years (ouch) after I earned the same honour at my old club. I'm nowhere near as fit as I wish I was, I'm certainly nowhere near as agile as I was in my Firebrands days, but now and then I pull off a save or two that a man of my condition has no right to make, and I generally keep out more than I let in!
I built a club website, formed and captained, for five years, the men's seconds Summer League Team, and even organised a marathon match which, for one year, was the official world record holder for longest hockey match in history, through which we raised more than £5,000 for the hospital which looked after my son.
I soooo wish I was fitter and a little more agile; I let in a few too many soft goals for my liking. But five player of the year awards in ten years is something I am very proud of, and as long as my team is willing to select me, I am very most definitely willing to play.