For Irish Masters International Claire Bell, the women she shares the pitch with provide more than just friendship. Here, the World Cup winner delves into the details of the special camaraderie that breeds Irish success.
Claire Bell’s passion for hockey has burned bright since the age of 10.
Despite the challenges of raising 3 children and juggling a full-time career as a Primary School teacher, Claire has always found time to work hockey into her lifestyle.
Today, at 56, her love for the sport is still going strong.
A stalwart member of the Irish Masters hockey community since 2012, Claire has recorded an incredible 46 caps for her country.
In addition to her individual achievements, she’s enjoyed her fair share of success alongside her teammates. Their most notable triumph was a Masters Over 50s World Cup win in 2018, which saw them named Irish hockey’s most successful Ladies Masters squad ever.
When asked about the secret to this success, Claire attributed it all to “hard work, a motivation to improve and most importantly, the special camaraderie amongst the group.”
Motivation to improve
When Claire initially embarked on her Masters hockey career, she was met with nothing but encouragement and support from her teammates.
Constant motivation from her peers ignited improvements in her game and with this a drive to improve and achieve bigger and better things.
With the help of her team and their friendship, Claire quickly realised that “even though you’re in a certain stage of life it doesn’t mean you have to hang up your shoes and stop playing.”
She explains, “Individually I’m quite hard on myself but as a team we’re very encouraging towards each other. That motivates you to keep improving because you’re getting positive feedback and insights into ways to improve your game further.”
“We’re a tight-knit group and we’ve done really well in terms of results – that in itself breeds success and motivates the whole team to work hard for each other.”
The supportive nature of her teammates on the pitch has been central to the team’s success, however it’s the extension of this support system off the pitch that’s had the greatest impact.
As a self-funded organisation, Claire’s Masters team have come together to overcome a number of hurdles simply to be able to compete.
Claire believes that giving people ownership of different club functions has been key to maintaining the strong bond keeping the team together.
From scouting sponsorship, to reducing personal expenses, to providing food and accommodation to those who travel for training, each individual does their bit for the greater good of the team.
“A lot of our success with regards to our strong team morale comes from good communication and organisation,” says Claire. “We have a coach and a fantastic manager in Gill Jackson, but we’ve also given ownership of different areas to different people. Everyone has their role both on and off the pitch.”
The power of friendship
For Claire, the relationship with her teammates is a special kind of friendship only people who’ve played team sports can really understand.
They’re more than just teammates. First and foremost, they’re friends.
From injury woes to tough personal circumstances, this fantastic group of women rally around each other in times of need.
Claire explains they help each other both on and off the pitch: “Lots of the girls have been through family things and we just rally around them. Masters hockey has come as a saving grace to them as they have something to focus on and a way to meet new people.”
“I went through a divorce in 2012 and Masters hockey and my teammates gave me a new focus for my passion for hockey. It was a new chapter.”
“We have each other’s backs. It’s a special kind of friendship – it’s more like an extended family. We have each other’s best interests at heart.”
This special bond resonates throughout the wider Masters community too.
When asked about the friends she’s made throughout her Masters career, Claire says,
“The camaraderie is fantastic. I’ve met so many new people, I’ve got friends all over the world. When visiting my daughter in Australia I spent time visiting one my Aussie friends I met whilst competing. I’ve met so many interesting people.”
Claire has experienced the many benefits of Masters sport. She’s enjoyed success, seen improvements in her personal game and benefitted both physically and mentally.
Of greatest value to her are the incredible, life-long friendships she’s made along the way. For her, these relationships off the pitch are the key to success on it.
To those considering returning to team sport at Masters level, Claire’s advice is to “come along to try it out and see what it is all about. If you’re motivated to join and already have a skill set, you can resurrect that. It does take motivation and training to get back at it but it’s definitely worth it!”
If you’re interested in taking up a team sport, why not do so through the Masters Games? Take a look at our upcoming events.