"The first few times you play for England or GB, you'll remember those forever"

Defroand Toman NAGS
For any athlete, being able to pull on a shirt emblazoned with your country’s flag is always the highest honour.

While senior international debuts are often the most special moments, for many the opportunity to represent their country at a junior level is just as special.

This was certainly the case for Emily Defroand and Anna Toman, who recalled what it was like playing for England as part of the NAGS set up when they were younger in the latest Inside The Circle:The Podcast episode.

“It’s amazing. Those first few camps, those first few times that you play – whether you’re U16, U18 or U21 – for England or GB, you will remember those moments forever,” midfielder Defroand said.

“To be at that age and be able to go and play in a different country against the best European teams in the world, it’s something that you feel so grateful for. It’s really, really special. 

“You get so nervous, you don’t feel nerves like it any other time. Your friends and your family are all really supportive. It is amazing, the whole experience on the field, your first taste of international hockey. 

“But it’s also the experience off the field too. The friendships you make of the pitch that will stay with you for a lifetime, even at that young age. I’ve got such fond memories, so many good ones looking back.”

As well as forming lifelong friendships, touring with your national side whilst still a teenager can also play a crucial part in helping develop life skills too, as Toman observed.

“It was an amazing experience at such a young age to be able to go to all these different countries and play against some of the best players in the world. I also think it helped me grow up quite a bit and I became quite independent from it,” the defender said. 

“I know a lot of people experience that when they go to university as they have to start cooking and cleaning for themselves but I think that [NAGS tours] helped me gain independence. 

“We were looked after a bit more than what we are now when we go away but you’re still going away without your family, which not many people did at that age, and you’re going through long periods of time without seeing them. 

“I always had so much fun – obviously when you win it’s better but I remember even some of the times when we lost. But what you do off the pitch, the people you’re meeting, I always had great experiences.”

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