When the Top of the D met Alex Danson.

Recently The Top of the D paid a visit to Reading Hockey Club. Whilst there, I was lucky enough to catch up with Reading and Great Britain Forward Alex Danson. As many of you will know, Danson is one of the standout players for club and country and was selected for the 2011 FIH All Star team. You wouldn’t know it to talk to her, though: she is humble, friendly and down to earth. Here’s what she had to say about her team-mates, her club, signing autographs and about how much she loves hockey.

Top Of The D: Who is the most intelligent player in the GB Squad? 

Alex Danson: It’s got to be Abi Walker. She’s a surgeon and she’s superb! We’ve got some really intelligent people in our team though. We’ve also got Hannah MacLeod who’s just finished a PhD, so we’ve got two doctors in the squad. It definitely isn’t me, I’ll tell you that much!

TOTD: Who is the least intelligent?

AD: <laughs> I can’t give that to anyone.

TOTD: That’s very diplomatic.

AD:  <pauses> I don’t think we have a least intelligent. I don’t think intelligence is just about literacy and so on. You can be intelligent in lots of different things, and everyone has their own thing!

TOTD: I’ll give you that, that’s a good way of dodging the question! Who is the most skillful player in the team?

AD: That’s tricky, but probably Helen [Richardson]. She’s got great ability.

TOTD: Who is the quickest?

AD: Herby. [Becky Herbert.] She’s lightning. Sarah Thomas is very quick too.

TOTD: Who is the best trainer?

AD: That is impossible to answer. The mentality we have in the group is that there is a bar that we all aim to hit. What’s really important at the moment is that we don’t over-train, so we all reach a certain level and then make sure we don’t do too much. It would be really hard to single one person out to be honest. The ethos we have in the group is so good.

TOTD: Who is your best friend in the squad?

AD: (without any hesitation) Bethany! Beth Storry. She better say me!

TOTD: I haven’t asked her, but I’m sure she would say you. If you weren’t a hockey player, what do you think you’d be doing?

AD: I’d be a PE teacher, definitely. I love working in schools and I love interacting with young people. I really enjoy that.

TOTD: Does that tie in with all the ambassadorial work you do for England Hockey as well?

AD: Yes. We all do ambassador work for England Hockey. In fact we’re all due at schools this Friday. I also work for a project called Sky Sports Living for Sport, which is in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust. It’s a free initiative to all secondary schools, which uses sport to engage, motivate and inspire young people. And I absolutely love it! I really enjoy it.

TOTD: Do many of the kids ask for your autograph? 

AD: (Seems genuinely embarrassed by the question.) It’s amazing! The weirdest thing is; I still don’t get it. I mean, I still think “Do you really want my autograph?!” but the kids seem to love it, so…

TOTD: Do you ever get stopped in the street and asked for your autograph?

AD: No! Of course not!

TOTD: What is the one item, outside of hockey kit, that you can’t do without?

AD: That is a good question. Excluding hockey kit, it would probably be my phone, which I know is dreadful. It means you can always contact your friends, though. It’s probably the same answer most people would give.

TOTD: How are you finding juggling your Olympic preparations with your normal, everyday life?

AD: To be honest, hockey is my number one thing. All of our focus for the last three years has been London. That’s always the top priority. It’s really important that you have something else that keeps you really happy: family, friends. I also love going climbing and surfing, although I don’t get much time to do those things at the moment. Playing club hockey is brilliant too. Everything is based around hockey for me, but I feel like the luckiest person on the planet. There is nothing else I’d rather do.

TOTD: What makes Reading Hockey Club so special?

AD: Every club is different, but what really attracted me to here is the club atmosphere. It isn’t just about a Men’s 1st team or a Ladies 1st team, it’s about every single team in the club. We do socials together, we do our fundraising together, and you come in after a game and speak to everyone from the Vets to the Juniors so there’s a really nice club and family atmosphere here.

TOTD: I had noticed around the club today you are stopping to chat with lots of different people, and you came down to support the 3rd XI last weekend too.

AD: It’s such a friendly place to be, you really feel like you can spend your whole weekend here. That is the really nice thing about this club. Everyone supports each other and everybody knows each other. I was really lucky; I grew up playing my hockey at Trojans, which is exactly the same kind of club. You wouldn’t know which team everyone plays for. Everyone’s just at the same club, and part of it. I love that feeling. I really enjoy it. Next year, when I’m less busy, I’d love to get involved more with the junior section, as it’s really important to me to contribute to the club as a whole.

TOTD: And finally, in one sentence, can you sum up why you love hockey?

AD: In one sentence? That is so hard! I love it because it’s physical, it’s quick, it’s skillful and I get to play it with all my friends.

The Top of the D would like to thank Alex Danson for her time and good humour when supplying the answers for the above interview. 

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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