Reflections on Resilience – Rachel Lilley

It has to get through ten other players before it gets to you

It’s a line I’ve heard a lot as a goalkeeper. That the ball has to get through the 10 other players on the hockey field before it gets to me. And if I miss it it’s okay because 10 other people have missed it too. My response to that has always been “But that’s my job”? As a goalie, my job in the team is to protect the goal. So if the ten other players in my team make mistakes and the opposition has the chance to score then I’m there to save it. I’m there to get the ball back to my team so we can score instead.

It’s tough at times. Others players get to make mistakes on the field – a missed trap, a failed tackle, an intercepted pass or even a missed goal scoring opportunity. These things happen and the game goes on. But the consequences of me making a mistake – which at it’s worse is me not saving a goal – can make or break a game. If I don’t save a goal then we can lose a game. No pressure right? It seems scary but the reality is being perfect is an impossibility so making a mistake is inevitable. That’s why resilience is a crucial component of my mental strength as a goalkeeper. My resilience is all about me being able to handle the stress of game situations on and off the field, so no matter what happens I can stay focused and in control.

At the 2016 New Zealand National Masters competition our first game of the tournament was at 8am in the morning in Nelson. At 6:30 am that morning as I was getting ready I realised I’d left my turf shoes at home in Wellington. I went straight to everyone in my team to ask if they had a spare pair of shoes in my size, but luck wasn’t on my side unfortunately as no-one had the same size feet.

Instead of stressing out I thought about my possible options “ Play in my Converse… or go and wake up other hotel guests to ask for their shoes”. Luckily other Wellington teams were at the same hotel so I went and woke someone up from the Masters 45s team to ask if I could borrow her shoes. The crisis was averted, I had shoes that fit and I went on to have a really good game against the top-seeded team in the competition which played me into the New Zealand squad.

I’ve also turned up to a game before not expecting to play only to find the other goalie in my team also hadn’t turned up expecting to play. It had been a miscommunication between the two of us and our coach. I was relaxing upstairs, waiting for the game, having ordered a coffee when my coach told me I was the goalie to play. I had 40 minutes till the game started and I had to borrow a teammates car, drive home, get changed and get my gear, drive back to the turf and warm up.

In either situation, if I’m stressed out, panicked or let the pressure get to me then I would’ve ended up in a stressed state. Instead, I managed the stress of the situations and calmly went about solving the problems.It was resilience, my ability to handle stress, that allowed me to perform on the field regardless of what had happened off it.

Resilience is also key to me recovering quickly from letting in a goal and being ready to make saves immediately after. No matter the circumstances I need to be able to play effectively even if I let a goal in. Or more than one goal (yes it happens). I’ve played in matches where I’ve let a goal in within minutes of the match starting. I’ve had to let the goal go and focus so my team could go on and win the game.

Recently my team lost a Club match 6-2 to an opposition who outclassed us in the third quarter scoring 4 goals in 15 minutes. It was a stressful situation and it would have been easy to get my head down and give up. But I didn’t. And I kept saving goals right to the final whistle.

Being resilient means I don’t dwell on the fact I’ve been scored against. I don’t blame others for what happened. I don’t make excuses for why it happened. I pick myself up and get ready to face the next challenge. If I let stress get to me on the field then I’d lose focus and my ability to make good decisions to save other goals would disappear. I can’t be mentally strong without being resilient. And my ability to withstand stress and pressure on the hockey field, at work or in my personal life is a skill I use every day.

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