• Heather McEwan's journey from School to the Hoofdeklasse league

    When beginning this article, it dawned on me the expanse of my 20-year hockey journey which began at the age of 6 years. The realisation of what I began then, in Durban South Africa and what has transpired over the years since, in bringing me to Holland, has made me realise the incredible opportunities that I have been privileged to enjoy while passionately playing this sport. Yes, it started with a dream of playing for my country and playing internationally and ultimately to play in the world’s top hockey league. Which is why, you too can follow that dream. 


    At the time of holding my first hockey stick, it certainly wasn’t “love at first sight” or in my case “love at first strike” as I participated in many sporting activities and enjoyed all the various sporting disciplines Schools had on offer. However, as I progressed through my Primary years my love for the game grew, and very soon it was time to make those High School sports choices.  

    The direction I took was inevitable and the High School of choice had to be a school with a predominately strong Sports department with the emphasis on hockey. Granted, here I had many opportunities to practise and strengthen my game as well as perform at a higher level, namely Provincially and Nationally (at Junior level).  At a young age you tend to sustain those energy levels and go on to play at Club Level which I heartily advocate. You gain experience playing more senior level hockey as opposed to School level. I felt I was at the top of my game, little did I realise, however, the enormous volume of growth awaiting me on the horizon. 

    When choosing a University, I needed to consider not only my academic studies but also which would afford me the best opportunity to pursue my hockey career. Stellenbosch University at that time, had a proven track record of producing international hockey athletes, and so amid all the hype of leaving home and starting university I settled into a five year stint in the Boland region, which would later turn out to be some of the best years of my life. 

    Believe me, it was not all plain “training”, as you start all over again at the bottom of the hockey ladder and have to work your way up in terms of merit and experience. Balancing studies and training, as well as playing hockey at a high level, requires good organizational skills. In terms of growth the first two years were some of my hardest years, thankfully I had a good support system in place. I used all resources to continuously improve my game, from asking questions to absorbing the advice given by more experienced teammates and coaches, which all added to my personal growth as well. So, don’t feel intimidated to ask for advice and then try your best to implement it in a game. 

    Around this time you may want to apply for a Sponsorship with Princess like I did. There is no right or wrong time when looking for a sponsor, but it is advisable to have a number of years ahead of you playing the sport, in which you can promote their brand. Naturally it would also help to have some recognisable achievements within your hockey career, which will attract their interest in you. Nevertheless whatever you have to offer, Princess are always willing to listen. I am forever indebted to Princess who continue to Sponsor and support me in my journey. 


    One of the highlights of my career occurred in 2016, when I was selected to play for the South African Ladies Indoor team. What a privilege and an honour, a dream come true to represent my country, the feeling was indescribable. If you are reading this article the only way to encourage you to experience such an honour is to keep chasing that dream. Start with consistency, in daily habits, in training, in work ethic and in motivation. Be prepared to make sacrifices but it will be all worth it when you step out onto that field in the Green and Gold.  I continued to play for the SA ladies until January 2018, during that time I gained valuable international experience. Reflection is a good facilitator and having had some international experience I knew that if I really wanted to play even better hockey I needed to be playing amongst the best in the world. So therefore, the only way forward was to make the next move overseas.

    SA TO UK

    Armed with a British Passport my process was made easier along with the fact that I had a handful of good friends within the hockey community (social media helps here!) I took the leap of faith and headed to the UK. 

    Preparation is key, so before deciding which country, choose a country with the same language where possible and if unsure, at least one with a similar culture. Before approaching Hockey Clubs, try to speak with contacts who have already played, or are still playing at the various clubs and ask the necessary questions. Once you have narrowed your list of Club choices, and before approaching the clubs have the necessary paper work in order, in particular the following: 

    Hockey CV

    Video Footage of yourself/Hockey clips

    Visa Requirements

    SA Police Clearance

    Release Letter from any existing Hockey club & SAHA


    There are some useful platforms now within the hockey community like Scorrd and URU Sports that can help set up all the connections for you, so just keep asking all the questions.  Preferably, ensure you get everything in writing before you head off overseas. 

    I joined Holcombe, where our Ladies XV1 team played in the English Premier League and we also went on to qualify and attend two European Club Trophies where we had the opportunity to play against seven of the top European club sides. Being exposed to other European clubs was an eye opening and exciting experience. It wasn’t all a bed of “English roses” I had to adapt to the many changes, not least of all the weather. Help was never too far away, in the form of my new team-mates and the Club Committee, and of course the never failing family and friends’ support. While it is daunting at first, you will soon settle into the challenges particularly if there are other “new” members who have also just started. Admittedly it took me almost an entire season to finally find my feet on and off the field. Part time jobs are probably the best incentive to keep you busy, but they also allow you the freedom to focus on your hockey. Coaching is a great way to get involved in the club too. The experiences I had, the network of friends I made and the top-level international hockey I was exposed to through Holcombe was exponential in my growth.  


    As a young girl I had always dreamed of playing in the top league in the world but little did I realise the opportunity would present itself in the Year 2020 with Covid and all its ramifications! Irrespective, I took up the gauntlet and made the move and landed in The Hague in June. I arrived early enough to avoid the unprecedented turmoil that was happening all around the world, so that I could be settled and ready for the pre-season training starting in August. So here I am writing this article, having to pinch myself that I am actually playing in one of the top leagues in the world with a formidable team at HGC. 

    Challenges are a plenty and opportunities are limitless while playing hockey. My journey has been filled with many blessings, which sometimes get taken for granted while you enjoy the benefits of travel, the exciting places you visit, the fabulous and sometimes funny people you meet along the way, together  with all the different experiences you encounter. Remember however, never forget your roots because it is only through sheer determination, grit and sacrifice that you will be able to achieve your goals.   

    Perhaps the most important piece of advice I’d like to give when you start this journey, is to remember why you started it? Then keep this in mind, as it will steer you in the right direction, especially when things get tough. Secondly, fully immerse yourself in the culture and really connect with the people you meet, listen with intent to what they are saying. I believe you will be assured of enjoying an awesome experience. 

    Playing some of my best hockey, the sport I am so passionate about has been a phenomenal journey for me, validated by having lived abroad for three years now. By the time you have finished reading this article I trust it will have broadened your knowledge and opened doors to help make your journey towards reaching your dream, a little smoother.

    Yours in hockey 




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