• saffronkatie

An Autistic Hockey Player

I’m ending the radio silence. With my final year of uni being fully face-to-face I haven’t had much spare time to write posts. Now I’m nearing the end of uni, I’ve got lots more to think about and where my career will finally take off, so I’ll be writing more about that, especially with how being autistic effects employment.

Anyway, one of the things that has been taking up my time is Hockey. Yes, I am part of a hockey team and have been ever since the start of uni 3 years ago.

There’s a lot of discussion about autistic people being involved in sports. To an autistic person, it can be an absolute minefield, with team sports being at the top of that list. Especially as a child, with having to be made to do PE lessons at school. The noise, the lights, changing rooms and the rest of the class. Every autistic person will have a different sensory profile and all of these things will affect us in some way. We may love it or absolutely hate it. I don’t have many sensory difficulties, so the noise and lights were okay for me. I mainly have an issue with balance (vestibular) and coordination – No one stands near me when I go to throw a ball, I’m left-handed and it can be thrown in any direction! Hockey was like a compromise for me, instead of using my body I use a stick to tackle with. I have been injured a few times but it’s all part of the experience.

Choosing to join the hockey team at uni was a decision I made before I started, I had briefly trained with my home team but never played competitively, I wanted to give it a go and it would help me stay fit while at uni. So, I became a part of the Women’s 3s team and I always play in defence. I train with my team every week, in my first year it took me a while to be comfortable with the rest of the team, to start talking to them but that all got easier with time. I didn’t play my first match until the second term of my first year, I felt comfortable enough to try it by that

time and it was loads of fun! I carried on playing as many matches as I could. Being in a match situation can be difficult, its very fast paced at times as I’m in defence sometimes I have a lot to do. Its difficult to keep up because I need time to process what I need to do or where I need to go, it can get overwhelming but I’ve always got the goalie or other players telling me where to go.

There is a lot more to hockey than just the sport. There’re also the socials, a key feature in any university society. Once a week, the club would hold a social that had a theme and at the end you would end up in the main nightclub. Straightaway I knew I couldn’t partake in this, with there being lots of alcohol and the noise of the club it’s just something I can’t do. Eventually everyone knew this and respected that, but I had to try it at least once. So, in my first year, I went to one of these socials. It was one of the quieter themes, so all we did was sit around a huge table and play lots of random games some of them were far too much for me, and I’m still traumatised by it when I try and explain it to someone! After having experienced a hockey social, I have never gone to one since then! It just isn’t something I can cope with. But at least I can say that I have been to one. And actually, my first year of being in the hockey team was also before I was diagnosed and before I knew myself that I was autistic, so doing all of this in my first year not knowing what I do now is impressive for me.

My first and second year of hockey was cut short by the pandemic. So, it’s my final year of hockey that I’m talking about now. My team know that I’m autistic first and foremost and they really help me a lot. I’m so much more involved than I ever was in the previous two years, I’ve really pushed myself with the things I find uncomfortable because my team understand and respect me. Every now and again we hold a team social where there’s no alcohol involved, so I always go to those. I was always only ever seen at training, so no one knew me outside of that, but this year with these socials the team know me a lot more. I even went to the Club Christmas dinner last year, an event with the whole club, both men and women’s hockey, and I took my headphones and wore them for most of the evening, but I always had some of my team come up to me to see if I was okay. They know that I sometimes find things overwhelming or uncomfortable so whenever I show up to those things they are always so appreciative that I came and there’s always some who check up on me. I’ve been able to stay for a drink after a match with the team and go to other socials with alcohol because I feel comfortable with them to be autistic. That makes being part of my team so amazing because of things like that, it just makes it so worthwhile of joining hockey and because it’s my final year, I’m leaving having been with the best team and being a lot more involved with them. Its all really helped my confidence and making me push myself doing things I find uncomfortable.

The only way that any autistic person can thrive in an environment that is uncomfortable for them is to have that acceptance and understanding. A little goes a long way. And after uni, I’m going to continue playing hockey for my home team because this experience has been amazing for me.

#ActuallyAutistic #Hockey #Autistichockeyplayer

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