Southgate People – Charles Hamilton

This week we sit down for a cup of tea with Mens 1 player and Ladies 2 coach Charles Hamilton. Charles tells us how he came to join the club, playing Rugby for Enfield and being blessed with a dominance of fast-twitch muscle fibres. From the joys of back to hockey to how a coach can influence a team to developing his signature one hand carry- it’s a great read.

Charles how long have you been playing hockey at Southgate?

From memory my first season at Southgate was the 09/10 season in the u10s coached by Sandra, Magda, and Bobbie, so I’ve been playing at Southgate just over a decade.

Can you tell us a bit more about your journey through the club and what attracted you to joining in the first place?

I started playing in the U10s after a coach came into my primary school and introduced me to a very different version of hockey featuring plastic sticks, scoring from anywhere and the only rule being not to hit each other with the stick. This happened to coincide with my football team folding and a family walk in Trent park passing the hockey club on a Sunday morning. There was a real buzz about the place, and everyone was having so much fun, I knew straight away I wanted to give it a go. 

After a season learning how to play in the u10s I moved up to the U12s where I found myself switching between playing in goal and playing up front. I then spent a second season in the u12s as a bench warmer under Martin Foxall, he wasn’t a fan of the chuck and run, before moving up to the u14s. Under Matt McDonnell I developed the signature one handed carry (much to Matt’s despair) before being invited to join the goblets. The goblets was a junior development team playing in the London Hockey League. This initial exposure to men’s hockey was definitely a massive steppingstone in improving my game as I was forced to react much quicker, was met with some very physical opposition and we often ended up playing with 9 players due to poor availability. I was forced to develop other skills to compliment the chuck and run as some of the opposition started to catch up with me.

After the goblets folded due to a lack of players, I played the next season for the 3s with the odd cup game in the 2s. The following season I was invited to train with the 1s and featured regularly for the 2s. However, during the season hockey started to take a backseat due to various reasons; lack of enjoyment, work etc and I put my speed to use down at Enfield Ignatians rugby club. The season after I had a run out with the newly formed 3As before reuniting with the 3s. After playing a mixed game and scoring four goals I found my stride returning to the 3s to score 5 goals in front of then 1s coach Grinners, prompting an invite to train with the 1s again. The next season came around and after training consistently with the 1s and finding the back of the net regularly for the 2s I made my 1s debut at home against Fareham netting a ‘power push’ on the second attempt. This season I have been fortunate enough to feature regularly for the 1s and am looking forward to getting back out there.

Lay observers will have noticed in your speed from the balcony (and whenever we are unlucky enough to play against you)- how have you kept up with your training through lockdown and what advice would give to anyone who wants to run like Charles?

I think Lockdown 3.0 was a difficult one for everyone, the short days and winter weather definitely led to a lack of motivation. I managed to get out for a handful of runs but must admit I returned to playing this month way off the mark. I spent quite a bit time working on my mobility which is an area I have always neglected (against all advice) and would highly recommend it if you also avoid it. In terms of running like me, I would love to say I’ve got the solution but unfortunately, I think I’m just genetically blessed with a dominance of fast-twitch muscle fibres. That being said I would advise everyone to check out @GDN_Hockey for detailed tips and exercises to increase speed, Ian knows his stuff!

You are now a fixture in the M1 squad- what are your ambitions for the team over the coming months and years?

I would love to see the M1s promoted, staying, and competing in the premier league again. As a squad we are more than capable of competing at that level as we have demonstrated many a time in pre-season and cup games. We have fallen short in recent years due to our own mistakes/game management on the day. This season we were caught short a couple of times due to players having to isolate and injuries so it would be good to see greater squad depth going forward providing cover should we need it and making selection more competitive. We are extremely fortunate to have the facilities we do in the location we do so hopefully we can attract some top talent. With the Y1 championship starting this week it would be good for us to pick up where we left off and it’s an excellent opportunity to prove ourselves against topflight opponents. There is talk of the cup going ahead this season so if that happens it would be good for us to go one better than the surprise upset we faced last year in the semi-final and reach the final/win the cup this year. It would also be great to see the M2s promoted to national league in the next few years after many years of dominating the London prem and Tier 2 Cup.

Havant v Southgate – Men’s Hockey League First Division South at Havant College, Havant, , England on 27 September 2020. Photo by Simon Parker/SP Action Images

Talking of coaching- how big an impact does a coach have on a team? I ask you that both as player but also as coach for the L2.- how as coach do you try and influence your players and as a player how have coaches helped you fuflil your potential on the pitch?

There are many factors affecting the impact a coach has on a team from attitude, communication, preferred style of play, player management etc the list is endless. I have played in successful teams without a coach and not so successful teams with highly regarded coaches and vice versa. For me personally coaches have helped me fulfil my potential by increasing my confidence, expanding my knowledge, and giving me constructive criticism (although I might not have liked it at the time). These are all things I take into my own coaching. With the L2s we have a great team environment that everyone feels apart of and is comfortable putting ideas forward, trying new things and supporting each other no matter the age or experience. This helps bring the best out of each other but also hold each other accountable to the expected standards. Full credit to the Ladies 2s they are an extremely talented bunch and make life very easy… most of the time.

We met originally when you were coaching with Matt for Back to Hockey which is returning next week. What keeps you coming back to B2H and why do you think it’s important at SHC?

Back 2 Hockey is a great initiative set up to encourage people that have previously played hockey before or people that want to give hockey a go. It’s an extremely social session that is always a joy to coach. As well as being good fun it is very rewarding helping people re discover their love for the game and seeing them improve week by week. It brings together all levels of experience, ages, and cultures. It’s fascinating to learn about everyone’s individual story. From a personal perspective it is also massively beneficial to go back to basics, break down movements and find new ways of doing/coaching them. It’s important to Southgate and hockey in general as it encourages more people to take up the sport and makes it accessible to all. There has been great success over the years, with B2H games set up against other clubs and numerous attendees joining the club going on to feature in a number of teams from the Ladies 2s to the Tankards. The early wake up and the fresh air is also a great hangover cure 🙂

When not coaching/playing at Southgate what do you do in your professional life away from the hockey pitch?

When not coaching/playing at Southgate I manage to squeeze in working as a structural engineer for an engineering firm alongside studying for a degree in civil engineering.

Finally this week we are launching the Y1 tournament for the M1- can you tell us a bit more about that and what you are looking forward to over the coming weeks at the club?

Winchester v Southgate – Tier 1 MixedCup Semi Final at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, Stratford, London, England on 08 June 2019. Photo by Simon Parker/SP Action Images

After a very a long 6-month hiatus since our last competitive league game we are very excited to get back on the pitch playing in the Y1 Championship. Sparky has been working hard over the last few weeks to pull together a very competitive 5 team tournament, across the next 2 months. We kick off this weekend at home against topflight Holcombe. Followed by a bye weekend on the 24th; Hampstead & Westminster away on the 1st; Reading at home on the 8th; Wimbledon away on the 15th and a finals day on the 22nd.  

What am I looking forward to? Where to start! Seeing a full balcony, beers in hand; being able to shower and change out of sweaty kit post-match; RJ’s pasta surprise; re-uniting with crouch end HC for our annual run around against the pistons; Sixes?