Sarah Robertson

Scotland and Great Britain Hockey Player Sarah Robertson shares her journey to become a senior international player.


I lived in the Scottish Borders and absolutely loved sport as a kid. I was playing football and rugby with the local boys teams. Always wearing sports clothes and loved the constant challenge that boys sport presented.

When I went to High School I stopped playing rugby, it was a traditional state secondary where girls played hockey and boys played rugby. So I started playing hockey when I was 12/13. I continued playing football and I initially found hockey a bit of a stupid sport as we played on grass and it was more about who could hit the ball the hardest and get it to skip at the right time to jump the opponents stick than having a particular skill! But I saw the similarities with football so enjoyed playing it.

School put me forward for district trials in hockey and I played for the South Scotland borders team at U15 and U16 which is the first kind of Talent Identification in Scotland. It was here that I was first identified by Scottish Hockey I was told I am being picked as a wild card. They could see what I was trying to do but I didn’t always have the skill to do what I was thinking (I had only been playing 2 years or so at this point – and on grass) but my football game understanding was really shining.

At this point I was playing both football and hockey for Scotland. I was spending more and more time on a hockey field. I had moved to the local hockey club which offered the chance to play on astro and with some great players around me like Janet Jack. My technical ability then started to improve.

At 17 I made the decision to stop playing football and to concentrate on hockey. I was doing well with Scottish football but at that point a youngster in the team would get the last 5 minutes of a match and at the same time it was being suggested that I had the opportunity to play in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games so hockey was on a real high and it felt the right thing to do.

The same season I made the decision to attend Edinburgh University to read Law. Where Sam Judge was coaching (ex-Scottish international) and I had a few great seasons playing for Scotland and the uni. I moved quickly through the age groups from U18 to U21 and into Senior all within a couple of years and had my first Scotland cap aged 18 versus South Africa in 2012. I played in the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and by the Christmas after I had been invited down to join the Central program at Bisham Abbey near Slough. This was a massive step but welcomed the opportunity. It was tough, new country, new house, new friends. I left the comfort of my life in Scotland to be part of the GB program. I started playing for Holcombe and it took a long time for me to feel settled in the GB program. Home was still very much in Scotland.

I scrapped on the fringes of the GB squad during the lead into Rio. I felt when I joined the program mid way through the cycle that the squad were really moving forward at speed and I felt like I was on catch up the whole time. Still learning new techniques, still learning about the game, still learning to live without my friends and family around and there was an experienced squad fighting to be at their peak. It was a baptism of fire. In the two years leading into Rio I didn’t get a chance to take stock of where I was at and what I was doing or learning. It wasn’t until the deselection for Rio and the year off from the program that I took to go back to Scotland and to finish my degree did I spend the time reflecting and thinking about what I learnt and who I wanted to be. I had been doing some online masters modules whilst in the central program which I could put towards my final degree but finishing with a 1st class bachelor of law was a huge milestone for life away from hockey.

Once I went back into the central program in 2018 I was in a much better place, I knew what I was going back to, I knew the players; I was no longer the youngster. I felt more comfortable. I did make a slight error in going back as I was sure I was going to find more balance in my hockey and life away from hockey. Find more time to socialise and more time to relax to make sure I stayed more mentally grounded. I had learnt from the previous experience but I possibly took myself too literally and it wasn’t until I got a bit of shock with Paul Revington giving me a reality check of telling me I had more to give and that I wasn’t reaching the potential, that I could be a real weapon on the world stage that I suddenly realised what it really required not just to be a Senior GB athlete but one that wanted to medal in the games. That insight and honesty really helped frame the player that I wanted to be and to help me see how good I was going to be when I pushed myself to 100%.

Standing on that podium in Tokyo whilst the national anthem was playing I was just incredibly proud. I was thinking of all the things I and the squad had gone through to get to that moment. It had been a hard slog especially when you added covid into the situation. For each one of us to get ourselves in peak performance for that moment had taken a lot of energy.