Legendary volunteer Donna Mills celebrating 500 games with Ipswich

Donna Mills of Ipswich Hockey Club
By Sarah Juggins

There are volunteers and then there are super-volunteers. These are the people who dedicate their time, energy and often the vast majority of their life towards giving help and support in an unpaid, voluntary capacity.

Donna Mills is one of hockey’s super-volunteers. As a long-time member of Ipswich Hockey Club, formerly Ipswich Ladies HC, Donna has spent more hours pitch-side than anyone else in the club.

As manager of Ipswich Ladies 1st team for the past 30 years, Donna has been a constant since taking up the position for an Ipswich versus Doncaster National league game in 1990. This weekend, as Ipswich face Broxbourne Ladies, in the Investec Conference East league, she will be signing the team sheet for the 500th time.

Not only has Donna been the back bone of the Ipswich team, she has also been a member of the volunteer army that supports England Hockey and the Great Britain hockey teams at home events. In 2012, Donna was a familiar face for teams as they turned up for their matches at the Riverside Stadium at the 2012 London Olympics.

In 2015, she was in the tunnel looking after the teams as they entered the pitch for the EuroHockey Championships; and in 2018, she was an integral part of the team that made the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup go without a hitch at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. These are just some of the many, many occasions that Donna has made the journey from Suffolk to Lee Valley to provide the support that keeps our sport running smoothly. Donna’s contribution to England Hockey events was recognised when she was awarded the Unsung Hero award in 2015.

Donna Mills with Ipswich Hockey Club

But it is at Ipswich where Donna has honed her skills of player management. Whether it is making sure the players are wearing the right numbers, liaising with the Technical Delegate and umpires, booking accommodation or simply making sure that the right drink bottle goes to the right player – Donna is the team’s go-to.

With customary dry humour and an enormous sense of pride in her task, Donna has been with Ipswich through the highs and lows. From the heady days of National League and Cup titles to the low of relegation, Donna has been there to support and care for the numerous players who have been through her care.

Emma Millar-Rix has been first team captain and club chair, working alongside Donna for many years. She says: "Saturday 15 Feb will be Donna's 500th National League game. She hasn't counted the two seasons we were in East Prem and any of the other cup, indoor and European games.. I hate to think what that total would be!

"Ipswich has seen hundreds of players pass through its ranks and a fair number of coaches too, but Donna has always been a constant.

"I have also lost count of the number of times she has looked after injured players and every time she stere-stripped our cuts the doctors at the hospital always praise the good job she has done.

"I know the youngsters in the team look up to her as a surrogate hockey Mum and I know from my own experience that I just couldn't imagine the team without her. She is the only person that has been there for every game I have played."

England Hockey would like to say congratulations to Donna and thanks once again for her incredible, spirited service to the sport.

Have you got a volunteer at your club you'd like us to know about? Drop us a line at stories@englandhockey.co.uk

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