Introducing ….. Calum Giles, Head of Hockey

Calum Giles joined Eltham College in 2014 as the Hockey Professional coaching students Hockey on a part time basis. Calum is also the owner of Stickwise, a company which runs fun-based hockey camps for players of all ages and abilities.

We caught up with him to find out about his journey to becoming a double Olympian, and the advice he would give to budding players.

How did you initially start playing Hockey?

Sitting down, reading and learning in the traditional way wasn’t for me. At the age of 5, I ran home from Sunday School, a week later my neighbour took me with him to hockey training and that was it, my passion for the sport began.

I was diagnosed with ADHD in my mid-twenties and now looking back it makes a lot of sense why I never found textbook learning interesting. Throughout my secondary education I was always in trouble for being disruptive, disorganised and for not putting enough effort into my work.  When it came to sport however, I was a different child, taking part in cricket, tennis and football at school.

Were any of your siblings into sport?

None of my siblings were sporty and I don’t come from a family of sportsmen and women. My Grandad played football and cricket and would come and watch me play whenever he could.

What was your path to getting selected for England?

My journey was very different to the one most boys and girls take, as they begin to play a sport at school, develop a skill and passion and are supported by teachers and parents. Hockey was not offered as a core sport at school when I was growing up. I played for clubs outside of school until I went to Sixth Form College, where it was then on offer.

I continued playing all of the core sports at school, but hockey was always the one I would practice in my spare time. At the age of 16 I joined Havant Sixth Form College, mainly because I knew they worked with Havant Hockey Club, which was one of the best clubs in the UK at that time.   At Havant I was able to pursue hockey with real ambition and able to play hockey during the college day with college friends.

When did you first get selected to play for England?

I was selected for England Under 21s after selectors came to watch divisional matches. Players would be invited to training camps and to play friendly matches.  By this stage I was too old to be selected to play for the U16s and U18s. I was 19 when I was first selected, I was one of the youngest and smallest players on the pitch. The first tournament game I played for the Senior England team was the European Cup in Dublin, in 1995.

What were the challenges you faced?

It was difficult to break into some teams due to the school I went to and because of the club I played for.  I think this is partly due to my social background, few people really believed that I would succeed so I was rarely encouraged or told to believe in my dreams and pursue them.

Being 19 and getting selected for the U21s and being the smallest in the team, I was constantly told that I would be too small to do well.  However, being the smallest worked to my advantage as I had to read the game quickly and understand the game and be smart when playing. I was always able to score goals and if you score goals you would always be selected.

Did you have a lucky break?

I had proved myself as a drag flicker in the premier league, which is a specialist move in hockey. In one of my first games for England, I was sitting on the bench when we got a corner. My coach said why don’t you go on and take the corner. I went on and scored. I finished the team’s top goal scorer in my first International tournament. In Dublin 1995, England won the bronze medal and in the process, I became the first English player to win a top goal scorer award in a major competition. For the next three years I was firmly cemented in the team, which was a good thing.  However, I got pigeonholed for this and was just known for taking short corners, and this became people’s perception of me.

What happened next?

In 1998 after the World Cup in Holland the rules changed for hockey – players were no longer allowed to come on pitch to take corners. I was told by everyone again that my was career over. I had spent two years training really hard and luckily I got taken on two tours to Egypt and another tour to Argentina, I started playing on the pitch and proved myself a good enough player to play for England.

You went to two Olympics, Atlanta and Sydney, which one was your favourite? 

The Atlanta Olympics in 1996 were the best Olympics for me. We were based at the Georgia Tech Campus. I was very young and had only been in the squad for one year. The stadium and the village were very close, as was the hospitality suite, so you could see your loved ones. I played well and scored lots of goals and was in demand by the media.

The opening ceremony was amazing.  The final moments of the Olympic torch being carried in was an awe-inspiring moment for me. It ended with 140,000 people in the stadium and Evander Holyfield and Janet Evans handing the flame to Muhammad Ali, a historic moment.

Which famous celebrities have you met or seen at an Olympics?

I’m not sure if the boys and girls will recognise any of these but I was lucky enough to see and meet: Dolph Lundgren, Ziggy Marley, LL Cool J, and Jim Belushi in Atlanta.

What have you been most proud of during your time at Eltham College?

My proudest moment at Eltham College was winning the Kent Cup with the 1st team.

What are your plans for hockey at Eltham College?

I want to provide a fun and quality programme for everyone involved, while winning as many competitions as we can.

What would your message be to our students who have similar dreams?

I want our students to understand that if you believe in something and work hard for it, really hard,  you can achieve it. I was bullied at school, I never had the best sticks or equipment and I didn’t do well academically, but despite all the odds against me I managed to fulfil my dream. I want to give our students the confidence and belief that they can go out and achieve their dreams. Never give up.