Mrs Concannon by Sam Quek

The England and Team GB hockey star recalls the good advice and discipline she received from a PE teacher and head of year with a nurturing streak
20th October 2017, 12:00am
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Mrs Concannon by Sam Quek

Mrs Concannon was influential in helping me set out on my career path. She was one of three PE teachers at Birkenhead Girls’ High School. I always enjoyed PE, but she was the one who encouraged me to push myself.

I remember meeting her, liking her, but thinking, “Well, you’re probably not going to be my best mate!” She was an older PE teacher and she had an aura about her. She commanded respect, but she also had a very caring side and would always have time for students if they wanted to talk to her.

I felt very comfortable with her. She was very trustworthy, if I ever needed to talk. And I increasingly did need to as I became more embedded in sport.

When I was 12, she took me aside and told me I could really go places with my hockey and that I needed to join a club. I could easily have gone to the one round the corner, but she encouraged me to go for Chester Hockey Club because - from a developmental point of view - she thought it would be a better move for me, purely because the club was in the National League. As an ex-Scottish hockey international, she had some good advice. So I joined when I was 13.

Her taking the time to think about a pathway for me shows her nurturing streak. She wanted to see people do their best. She was also a good talent-spotter for other sports - it wasn’t only hockey she was keeping an eye out for. There was another girl who was excellent at tennis and she would always encourage her, too.

Balancing sport and homework

In Year 9, Mrs Concannon was my head of year. When I started to go to England trials and things were getting pretty serious, she was the one who supported me doing that: time-managing homework, helping me plan ahead and showing me how to work my sport into my life. Everyone at school was very supportive when I started to excel at hockey, although they encouraged me to play all kinds of different sports. I also played football, rounders, netball and lacrosse.

I loved biology, geography and Spanish, but not maths. This was probably because I like an explanation. In maths, I just found it was a question of getting the right answer by knowing a certain equation. I’m a practical, hands-on sort of person and I like to know how things work. I think I was - and still am - a bit of a geek. I enjoyed learning.

Birkenhead was pretty strict. If you were late, you’d get a warning or a detention. Our teachers checked that your top buttons were done up and everyone had the right length skirt.

I left Birkenhead to go to Calday Grange Grammar for sixth form, because I wanted to do psychology and sports science, which weren’t available at Birkenhead at the time. My twin brother moved there from his school too, although we did different subjects. I played with the boys’ hockey team, which was really useful. I wasn’t as fast as some of them, so I always had to plan my next move before I got closed down.

When you’re in a team and you work together closely, you need discipline, so the routine of my schooldays definitely helped with my career as an athlete. I also enjoyed group work and collaborating with others. I’d love to see more girls having the confidence to have a crack at sports - and to then go on and do well in them.

Sam Quek was speaking to Camilla Palmer

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