For Australian player Ross Hall, field hockey has been a significant part of life from the get-go, as he started playing when he was just three years old. By age 14, he was representing Western Australia out on the field. There, he played both indoor and outdoor hockey until he was 19. Ross had the chance to tour South Africa as a member of Australia’s U16s, and was a part of his country’s National Junior Program until he was 21. Currently, Ross plays for Northern Territory in the Australian Hockey League. And all of these amazing home-grown hockey experiences were only complemented when Ross decided to play for Brooklands Manchester in England!
Ross’s interest in playing abroad first occurred when he was still in high school. He says, “I went on a school tour at 16 years old to Holland. Whilst in Holland we went to KO16 in Bloemendaal. Seeing EHL pitch side ignited the fire for me to want to play abroad at the highest level possible.” Fast forward to 2014, Ross choses to go to England on what he calls a “spur of the moment occurrence”. Interestingly, a friend of his was actually supposed to be the one heading to England to play for Brooklands, but had a sudden change in plans. Ross tells us that his name was given to the coach as replacement, and two weeks later he was on a plane. Talk about a sudden leap of faith!
What’s more, Ross didn’t have much to go off in terms of expectations for his time in Manchester. He says,
All I’d heard is that England hockey isn’t attacking and only plays backwards which is obviously quite a big difference and change to the Australian game. I suppose I was expecting a very ‘boring’ style of play but I’ve actually loved the high level of tactics and work that is put in to improvement.
Ross reckons that having a varied playing style exposure has greatly impacted his skill set. He notes,
I think both have just given me a much broader understanding of the game. I love that in Australia we play so direct and out work a team and I like that I can take that to playing in England. On the English side I love that we focus on our tactics and look to outsmart teams whilst out working them.
Apart from the hockey skills, Ross has gained many additional benefits from playing overseas. He attributes a lot of this to Brooklands, as he says,
My club and its members have been great. A lot of the club was eager to put me up with accommodations, and has helped me with transport and what not so it worked out nicely.
Consequently, Ross says he has made lifelong friendships and has loved experiencing the English culture.
Love is found when you do what you’re passionate about
And for Ross, getting involved with Uru afforded him an even deeper connection than friendship: love! As someone who is very passionate about giving back to the game that has given him so much, Ross joined an event hosted by Uru Sports that consisted of a panel of athletes for an audience of students from Hong Kong. He says,
For me as an up and comer in the game I always had a lot of support from people I looked up to. When I got to the age where I’d made a bit of a name for myself I felt it was best to try and do the same.
While participating in the talk, Ross got to know Naomi Evans, the person he would soon fall in love with. Naomi now plays hockey in the UK, so she and Ross have had the time of their lives exploring Europe together while he has been competing for Manchester. Perhaps the Uru Sports team should consider match making as an added service to the platform!
Too many good experiences to choose one highlight from playing abroad
We asked Ross to name the place he’s enjoyed the most out of his travels, and the extensive amount of exploration that has accompanied his season playing field hockey abroad made it a tough one to answer. In the end, he called a tie between Holland and the UK, saying,
…Holland first started my desire to go abroad with my hockey…the UK has given me a gateway to explore Europe and I feel like playing hockey here has rounded my game 10-fold.
Not being able to decide the best part of an abroad experience is the type of positive problem near all of athletes run into. From travelling, to the relationships made, and of course to the amazing athletic opportunities, players return home with the most invaluable experiences of their lives. Plus, playing one season abroad often lights the fire of motivation to take the next. For Ross, he has his dream-team sights set on playing in Holland. He tells us,
I’ve always wanted to play EHL so any of the top Dutch clubs. Top of the list would definitely be Blomendaal.
Seize the opportunity of an lifetime by playing abroad
At the end of our talk with Ross, we asked him if he had any advice for an athlete considering going to play in another country, and why he believes it to be such a worthwhile life investment. He said this:
Enjoy it! A lot of people go away to try and prove a point or think they’re away specifically for hockey and end up hating their time. The only way to better yourself and improve yourself is to be enjoying and loving what you do. People should definitely go abroad given the opportunity. It’s an experience of a lifetime, and in this day and age its readily available, so why not seize the chance.
Why not seize the chance? Playing abroad can positively transform players not only as athletes, but as people. You will be able to see and measure your sporting improvement, but perhaps even more significant is the interior progress you will make as an individual. International athletes report back to us saying their newfound independence, or the exposure to new cultures and languages and people, has completely propelled them forward in ways they never would have previously imagined.
For Ross, playing abroad entailed traveling the world, enhancing his hockey game, making lifelong friendships, and falling madly in love. Ask yourself: What will I gain when I play a season overseas?
Sign up with Uru Sports today and start discovering the answers to that question. We believe every athlete should have the chance to experience their sport abroad, and we are excited to help you get there. A huge thank you to Ross Hall for sharing his story, and we wish him all the best, in love and in sports!
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