It’s 5:20 on a cool Wednesday evening in October and I’m inside frantically searching for comprehensive “how to play field hockey” videos on YouTube.
Forty minutes from now I’m expected to hit the turf at UVic with the Island Wildcats, Victoria’s premier women’s field hockey team, to play a sport I’ve never watched, let alone attempted.
Apparently no such video exists – not that it really would have made any difference.
I run through a series of drills with defenceman Chelsey Cleemoff, who patiently holds my hand through it all: my fumbling through dribbles, my passes veering way off course, the ball repeatedly bouncing over my foot when I fail to stop it with my stick.
“You did very well. You honestly did pretty good,” Cleemoff says. She strokes my bruised ego like a coach who knows how to motivate a despondent athlete.
Cleemoff can’t help but compare my skill level to the athletes she typically coaches: kids 12 and under.
“I’ve been coaching for a few years now, and for starting out at the level that you’re at, you picked up the skills pretty fast. It’s hard trying a new sport. It takes a lot of time and hard work to get to this level. You weren’t bad,” she says.
Watching (comfortably from the bench) the Wildcats play a friendly against the UVic Vikes, I can see how bad I actually am in comparison. The speed at which the game is played and the rock-hard ball is passed is intimidating and slightly terrifying – even from the sidelines.
Despite not being able to master this technically complex sport in my first go-around, I did learn one thing: field hockey is really fun. It takes a lot to grasp even the basics of playing the game – I’m not there yet – but with each minute of practice it’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular sports in the world.
And that’s something no YouTube video can ever convey.