What is it like to be coached by Hager, Revington & Ralph?

Hager Team Talk Stoop 2019
It’s been more than a year since Mark Hager was appointed as head coach of the GB women’s team but what is he like to work with? We asked Shona McCallin, Esme Burge and Amy Costello that question during the first episode of Inside The Circle: The Podcast, which you can listen to by clicking here.

In interviews and on the side of the pitch, Hager comes across on TV as a calm, thoughtful and well-spoken coach. But McCallin revealed that, behind closed doors, the team often see a more humorous side to him when they step off the pitch.

“The word character describes him quite nicely,” she explained. 

“On the pitch and off the pitch he’s quite different, which is how it should be. It’s professional and then a bit more relaxed. 

“Off the pitch he’s the life and soul of the party. He’s a bit unpredictable, you’re never quite sure what he’s going to come out with and talk about or say. But he’s a great guy with great values and loves his family to bits as well. 

“Coaching wise, the three of them – Paul Revington, David Ralph and Mark – work really well together. They bring a different combination of different energies, skills and coaching methods. 

“Mark loves his goalscoring, which is something you’d expect from someone who has scored millions of goals for Australia and likes to remind us all of how many he’s scored. He’s a good, attacking, goalscoring-focused coach with Revs and Ralphie helping him with the defensive stuff and everyone else.”

While Hager may come across as fairly quiet while matches are being played, Revington can often be heard above the roar of the crowd instructing the team with his unique, booming voice.

The former Ireland, Malaysia and South Africa head coach is exactly the same in training and often has the team in stitches, even when he’s trying to tell them off.

Burge said: “I think we have some laughs at some of the stuff he comes out with. There’s been some funny one-liners.

“He definitely burns the calories on the pitch with the amount he runs around. He told us the other day that ‘people question why I stay so thin because I’ve got such a bad diet and I eat all this rubbish. But that’s because I’m screaming and shouting’. 

“But that’s great, his enthusiasm is absolutely amazing and we’ve got that nice balance. We’ve got him and then we’ve got Ralphie, who’s a lot calmer but when he needs to will send a message out and it will be really strong.”

Recalling one particular incident, Costello said: “One of [his best one-liners came when] we were doing a small-sided game or something and it wasn’t very good. He turned around and said ‘I could get my pillow now and be sleeping and be more enthusiastic than this’. That was quite amusing.”

Hager was appointed into the role just weeks before the team embarked on their first FIH Hockey Pro League matches last year and as such it took some time for them to adjust to his way of playing.

But the progress they have made in the last few months has been noticeable, as they comfortably qualified for the Olympics in testing circumstances before putting in some impressive performances against Australia and New Zealand back in February, although the results may not have gone their way.

The 1996 Olympic bronze medallist’s attacking instincts have clearly benefitted the team too. The last 16 goals they have scored have been shared amongst 11 players, while a total of 15 players have found the target since he took charge.

This is something that Burge feels will make them a really strong threat heading into the Tokyo Olympics next summer. 

The midfielder said: “I definitely think it’s really important that we’ve got threats all over the pitch now. 

“When teams are scouting us now they won’t be able to identify someone and say ‘here’s the  target player who scores all the goals’. We’ve got numerous players who have got a real good eye for goal. 

“It makes us more confident too, we really bounce off each other at training and it gives a general confidence that when we get in that circle we’ve got so many people who can put the ball in the back of the net no matter if it’s scrappy or a wonder goal. 

“That confidence is building and now goalscoring is snowballing. Hopefully we can peak at the right time.” 

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The next episode will be released on Monday 13 April.