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Greta Hayes on Success, one step at a time

Greta Hayes is an Australian Hockeyroo’s midfielder with experience being selected through the state and national hockey pathways. At 22-years-old Greta debuted with the National Senior Women’s team. In this chat, we discuss Greta’s move to Perth to join the high performance program in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Games and the pivot moments, and coaches, who have lead to that next step in her hockey journey.

When did you start playing hockey?

I started playing when I was about 10 years old. Up until that time, I’d tried every other sport under the sun. I was playing lots of soccer and both of my parents were hockey players. I have two older sisters and they were both playing hockey at the time, so it made sense for me to give it a try. For a few years, I was playing both hockey and soccer until it got a bit much and I had to choose between them.

Both of your parents played hockey, we appreciate that parents play a pivotal role in helping children build a lifelong love of playing. What have they done to support you through your hockey career?

They’ve had to support me heaps as you can imagine. Hockey isn’t a super highly paid sport so in the lead up to where I am now, they’ve had to support me a lot more than they’ve had to support my older sisters who didn’t follow the elite athlete path. From a young age, I was going down having hits with dad because he was very passionate. In terms of my hockey development, he was massive. Mum helped in terms of my off-field development, she was often the one driving me around. Dad also coached a lot of my teams when I was in Sydney U13 and U15 and then some of my club teams too. He also coached some of my soccer teams.

Do you remember a moment where you decided you wanted to take hockey to a professional career?

I think it wasn’t just a singular moment. It just built over time.

I remember when I was trialling for the U13 NSW team and thinking to myself that if I made that team, I had peaked. I ended up missing out, so I was devastated but I then decided that I had to make U15s. That was the first team that I made and, from there, my ambition just went up. It’s just been one step at a time.

How did you deal with that disappointment of not making the team?

I was definitely very disappointed because I’d been training heaps with dad before the trials and I thought that I was in really good form. Honestly, I thought to myself that I should have made it. After that, I realised there’ll always be more opportunities. I just trained harder because I really wanted to make that U15 state team. It definitely motivated me more so by U15s I was super fit and managed to make the team. I also think having a few extra years of experience really helped.

Something you’re big on is sport/life balance. Tell us a little more about how you maintain that.

I think a lot of the balanced approach was preached by my parents when I was younger. From memory, they always encouraged us to have other things outside of sport.

My sisters were really good at that, they were always the ones to be doing sport but also music, volunteering and performing well academically. That was just how we were brought up so that continued after school. Even though I was training lots, I still went straight into university. I was studying, working and playing. I’ve always wanted to have the hockey but with a side of work and learning. I think that’s important in being able to switch off when you get home from training. If I didn’t have other things to focus on, I can just imagine coming home from training and running through situations in my head, worrying about matches and getting worked up. Even in terms of making friends outside of hockey, I’ve found since moving to Perth that it’s been really important. It helps to get away from the hockey and not get consumed by it.

How was the relocation from Sydney to Perth for you?

I’ve found it really tough for a combination of reasons. I got selected at the end of 2018 and I moved at the start of 2019. I’d been home for about 5 months but prior to that I’d been living in Belgium for a year. I think I was just all over the shop because I wasn’t quite settled back in Sydney yet when I had to pack up and move to Perth. When I went over there, it was great but then I got injured. That happened within the first few weeks of me moving there and that injury then carried on for the entirety of 2019. It was hard because I’d moved to Perth, away from my support network, and I couldn’t even do what I’d moved there to do.

Obviously, injuries are a really tough thing to go through. How did you develop patience with yourself to get through that testing time?

I’m definitely not a pro at injuries because prior to that I really didn’t have any injuries – they all came last year. It really requires a whole new level of patience. I’m someone who loves exercising – going for runs, doing circuits in the backyard. I couldn’t do anything for such a long time and then I was finally able to swim but swimming really isn’t my forte. What helped me was having other things to do. I was working a lot more and just trying not to think about being injured. It’s also important to just make sure you do everything you can to get back to playing. I struggled mentally last year and, as a result, I was so all over the shop and it was such a vicious cycle. If I ever get injured again, I hope that I’ll handle it better because it’s such a big learning experience.

You need to trust in your body and trust in the people around you.

Who would you say have been the coaches who have been most impactful throughout your hockey journey?

Katrina Powell, an ex-Olympian who has won countless medals with the Hockeyroos. She was the coach who identified me first nationally. In my first ever U18s tournament, I got selected as a shadow in NSW. After that, she came up and said that they’d love to see me at Futures that year (which is the junior Australian team camp). That was when she was coaching the junior Australian team. From there she moved to Sydney and took on the NSWIS head coach role and I managed to get a scholarship at NSWIS. I trained under her until I got selected to go off to Perth. She’s still the coach at NSWIS and I’m heading off to train with her later today. She doesn’t just do that, she also coaches state teams.

She’s dedicated so much of her life to hockey. She’s someone who’s had faith in me and seen what I have to offer. She has pushed me by focussing on my strengths to ensure I become the best player that I can be. She’s definitely been the most influential coach I’ve had.

Do you consider yourself competitive?

I definitely do, as a young kid I was super competitive. I remember when I first started playing club hockey with Sydney University, when we’d lose our games I’d just be so upset and it would ruin my weekend. I couldn’t pull myself out of that bad mood just because we’d lost. I was always that kid at home who always needed to win all the board games. If I lost, I’d be so grumpy and try to hold it together but on the inside I was just dying. I’ve been doing a lot of training with one of my friends since coming back to Sydney and he was asking me about competitiveness. It got me thinking about how over the years, I’ve lost some of that competitive nature. I feel like it was a combination of things. Society tells us that we need to be ‘good losers’ so I feel like I’ve become a lot better at losing to the point where when I lose a game I just go and enjoy the rest of my weekend. I think I it’s something that I’ve lost and may need to get back. I’ve been thinking about how to get the competitiveness back when you’ve lost it so I’ve been playing some more board games and trying to get those juices flowing rather than trying to normalise losing.

What are your tactics to deal with pressure?

I’ve never been someone who lets their nerves overcome them. From my experience, when I’m in a high pressure situation if I have prepared myself to the best of my ability I feel less nervous. For example, I felt as though I was playing really good hockey and was really fit when I debuted for Australia so I was barely nervous at all. I think it was because I knew how hard I’d worked and felt like I deserved it. Comparatively, I’ve played a few games at the start of the year against Argentina and, coming off the back of injury, I was so nervous. I was shaky and being that nervous is never advantageous. For me, it comes down to preparing. You’re not always going to be 100% prepared but all you can do is go out and do your best. Putting pressure on yourself and getting worked up is never going to help. You’re playing to have fun so there’s no point in tearing yourself apart.

Greta is now available for coaching through PlayBook in Sydney and Perth (depending on the timing in the hockey season):

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