• International

Parent's View: a tale of never-ending support

It was warm and sticky evening in the ancient city of Bhubaneswar as the crowds flocked into the Kalinga Stadium complex.

Supporters were littered all over the Hockey Stadium with dots of England flags pulsing from the electricity of the crowd.

Out came the teams, England and India side by side underneath a spray of fireworks, led out by their captains.

Charging out ahead in the all-red strip was David Ames – South-African born and Northern Ireland raised, leading out the three lions for the 2023 World Cup in India.

His ears would’ve caught wind of a raucous cheer and a booming clap and one glance across the freshly laid turf would’ve seen a smile stretching from Cookstown to Durban.

It was the sort of smile that only a mother could produce and upon retelling this story, the same pride beamed out of her as if she was reliving it all over again.

Moments like that for Carole came often thanks to the extraordinary skill of Ames, but not necessarily in the sport that she thought however, she said:

“He was a great footballer up until the age of 15, but it didn’t work out for him. He was very tiny and hadn’t grown and that was, sort of, that.

“Next thing he’s out watching his friends play hockey at Cookstown HC and Les Allen, the coach, and a father of one of David’s friends, handed him a stick and told him to run up and down the line.

“From that moment on, that was it. He fell in love with it and became quite the nerd, watching on the computer non-stop, going to everything he could and that’s where the love of it came.”

Within three years of picking up the stick for the first time, Ames was representing Ireland on the international stage in a remarkable ascent up the hockey ranks.

Carole knew early on that Ames’ new-found love wasn’t just a fad and he was serious about playing which for any parent dealing with a child in school could cause some issues.

“When David took on anything he did it 110%, there were no half-measures, everything had to be done proper.

“That became the difficult part with his education. He was great at having a balance, but he did practically live at the hockey pitch,” she added.

Ames managed to juggle schooling and hockey, but the true balancing act was the indomitable support of his mother.

Carole, a single mother, spent her evenings and weekends driving back-and-forth across the province or down south to Dublin, taking David and his brother Jonathan to training and matches.

It wasn’t a sacrifice for Carole, she just loved watching her two boys play hockey.

There was one moment for Carole and David that their love of the game was tested.

Whilst Ames was representing Ireland for Olympic qualification in 2012, they lost 3-2 in the final to South Korea and lost out on Olympic qualification – an honour the country had been clamouring for since 1908.

With it came an outpouring of emotion and Carole’s unwavering support turned her to a makeshift grief counsellor.

“It was probably the worst experience we’ve ever had with hockey, it was just devastating. It would make me cry just thinking about how he felt.

“Standing on the sideline, holding your child who’s sobbing their heart out. You’re trying to keep it together for him as well as yourself.

“That date, 18th of March 2012 will never leave us. Every year it comes around and I’ll get a text from David about it.

“It wasn’t just hard that day but the days that came after as well. He just kept himself to himself in his room and I went onto work and anybody that looked at me I just cried,” Carole said.

Such was the intensity of her fandom that every moment David went through, Carole lived it ten-fold.

Those days happen in sport and they’re far outweighed by the good times, like when he first put a Great Britain shirt on in 2015, to becoming an Olympian in Rio which due to mishap with dates meant that the mother who’d been there for everything missed her son’s Olympic debut.

She did, however, make it to Monchengladbach last summer where she saw David and England reach the final of the EuroHockey Championships.

“He scored a shuffle and he doesn’t take them, so when he stood up to take it I just couldn’t believe it.

“I’ve got the video and I do watch it over and over again because it just makes me smile,” beamed Carole.

She’s made a promise to herself that as her son’s career comes to an end that she’ll be there at every last step of the way.

Carole’s made great friends along the journey with her fellow-parenting contingent that support the lads all over 

the world. Their group chat and dinners provide comfort in the dark moments and even greater joy in the good times.

Asking Carole for some advice for hockey parents, her words were simple:

“Just enjoy every moment, every game they play…just enjoy being there.”