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Abertay hockey international heads to Rio as Scotland prepares for Commonwealth Games

25 February 2013

Our Sports Development Officer Ali Bell plays hockey for Scotland and, as part of the team’s preparation for the Commonwealth Games and World Cup next year, she is off to Brazil for a two week tour starting this Tuesday (February 26).

Here she tells us a bit about how she balances her busy training schedule with her day job at Abertay and also talks about Scotland’s medal hopes for Glasgow 2014.

What does your role as Sports Development Officer at Abertay involve?

It’s a varied role with a number of responsibilities including overseeing the gym, the exercise programme, the sports clubs, the elite athletes programme and the sports injury clinic.

I also have responsibilities regarding promotion, marketing and budgeting.

My overall purpose is to develop and improve sport at the university so anything really to do with that comes to me.

What can Abertay offer students who play sport at an elite level?

We have the Elite Athlete Development Programme that students can apply for.

If selected they can get free access to a range of support services such as strength and conditioning, psychology, nutrition and lifestyle management.

They also receive financial assistance with any costs related to training and competition.

This year we currently have nine athletes on the programme who play a variety of sports.

You are an elite athlete yourself, playing hockey for Scotland – how long have you done that for and what position do you play?

I’m a forward – so one of the goal scorers – and I’ve played for the senior side for seven years. Prior to that, I played one year for the Under 18s and three years for the Under 21s.

How many caps have you received during that time?

I currently have 90 caps, but it’s pretty exciting because, with Rio coming up, I’ll be closing in on my 100th!

How often do you train with the Scotland team and does the amount of training you have to do go up if there’s a big competition on the horizon?

I train on the pitch two or three times a week with the squad at the moment, and then we have prescribed running and weights sessions to do as well.

When a big competition is coming up, the amount of training normally increases and we’re on the pitch four or five times a week with the squad, and there are normally training matches scheduled in as well.

How do you find the time to do it all when you work full time?

It can be difficult at times but just means managing your time well to make sure you get everything done.

So I train in the morning before work some days of the week and then train again after work. I do one or two sessions a day so normally before and after work.

You were recently awarded your PhD but represented Scotland in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi while you were studying – that must have been a lot of pressure. How did you cope with the demands of both? And what was it like taking part in such a big event?

Studying for my PhD leading up to Delhi was an ideal situation as it was flexible and I didn’t have set hours like I do now, so I could work my studies around the training commitments.

The Commonwealth Games was an amazing experience and definitely one of my favourite hockey experiences. Because it was a multi-sport event it was great having other sports and athletes around you and being part of a bigger team, Team Scotland.

Delhi was a cool place to visit as well.

You’re off to Rio for the World Series Round 2 this week – what is the World Series?

The World Series is a tournament which allows us to play countries from around the world and get world ranking points. There are four rounds altogether and this competition is being used as a qualifier for the World Cup.

When, and where, is the World Cup being held?

It’s going to be in Holland next year (2014).

When was World Series Round 1 and who did you play then?

It was in August 2012 and we played France, Italy, Belarus, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

How did Scotland do?

We came second.

How long will you be away in Rio for?

Just under two weeks.

How much training will you get to do when you’re out there?

We will just have a few days training before the tournament starts. Usually we would go out earlier to acclimatise to the heat and train for about a week, but we couldn't get on the pitch due to another tournament taking place, so we’re only getting a few training days beforehand for this tour.

Who will you be playing?

Brazil, USA, Chile, Trindad and Tobago, Uruguay

How many matches?

Five matches in total – one game against each country.

Are we expecting to do well against those teams?

We’re aiming to get into the top two so that we can progress to Round 3 in the summer. Chile and the USA are ranked higher than us, so we need to beat one of those two teams.

Will you get to do any sight-seeing while you’re in Rio, or will the team’s focus be entirely on hockey?

It is a busy schedule of training and games and we don’t normally get that much time off, as rest days are for recovery and video analysis, but hopefully we will get to do some sightseeing as most of us in the team have never been to Brazil.

You’ve just returned from playing in Italy – what was that for? How long were you away, and how many games did you play?

Italy was a training camp in preparation for Rio. We were away for six days and played four matches and had five training sessions so it was pretty full on.

Were you allowed to enjoy the local Italian food or do you have to eat particular kinds of foods when you’re playing for Scotland? Surely pasta is good fuel for doing lots of sport!

Pasta was essential to refuel! Yes we do have to think about what we eat and when, as it is very important for optimal performance and recovery.

Does all this training for the World Cup also go towards the Commonwealth Games? Which comes first in 2014? And is one more important than the other, or are they too different to compare?

Well, all the training and competitions are building up for the Europeans this summer and then the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

The World Cup would be before the Commonwealth Games in 2014, if Scotland make it – it’ll be the first time in a long while if we do, so it’s something we definitely we want to try to achieve.

But at the moment we are just focussing on the Europeans this summer and building up to the Commonwealths next year. The World Cup would be an added bonus and an event we would love to get to.

What are Scotland’s chances in the Commonwealth Games? Are we a medal hope?

Yes we’re aiming for a medal. We have had some good results against top ranked countries since the last Commonwealth Games so hopefully we can continue that form.

What advice would you give to anyone who dreams of representing their country in hockey or any other sport?

Follow your dream – with belief, hard work and commitment you can do this.

Ali leaves for Rio with the rest of the Scottish Hockey team on Tuesday, February 26 and will return on March 11. We wish her the best of luck.

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