Danny Kerry said it was the lure of getting back to doing what he loved that ultimately saw him return to the Great Britain coaching role, a decision that culminated in his team winning the women’s Olympic gold for the first time.
Kerry coached the GB women from 2004 to 2012, aiding their rise to a bronze medal in London before moving on to be the Performance Director. However, after two years in that role, the opportunity to get back into coaching with the women’s team came up once more after a tough World Cup performance, finishing 11th.
Speaking about his journey back into the fold, he said: “After 2012, I was pretty fried and pretty exhausted. I moved on to performance director; I didn’t enjoy it.
“I spent a lot of time pushing paper around and wanted to get back to coaching. An opportunity came up and it took a big decision to do it; most people don’t usually decide to take a step down the career ladder but I wanted to do what I enjoy and am passionate about.
“I want to do things that I love and think I am good at. That was my choice and it has worked out pretty well!”
He saw his side find a way to win against a Dutch side who he admits “battered” his side for three quarters, hanging tough in the face of an onslaught before picking off goals from their scarce attacks.
And Kerry believes that some of the mental resilience to pull a result like this out of the fire comes as part of the GB team’s mental conditioning, primarily on “Thinking Thursdays”.
“As soon as it went to shoot-out, I knew. In the last few games, Maddie [Hinch] didn’t have to do a great deal but in the final, she showed her class.
“Holland battered us for the first three quarters but some days, it’s like that and you find a way. We have a thing called ‘Thinking Thursdays” where we talk about finding that way [to win]. It’s two hours of physically and mentally hard preparation.
“It’s working their way to the highest degree in terms of intensity in training but they have to win the game by doing certain [mental challenges at the end], thinking their way through when they are absolutely dead on their feet.
“We know there are certain games at the top end of the world where this is what it is about and today that is how it was. We had to defend and dig trenches and then we changed stuff in the last quarter and it paid off. We always talk about finding a way to win and that’s what it was today.”
He also hailed the influence of the squad’s experienced players like Kate Richardson-Walsh, Helen Richardson-Walsh and Crista Cullen. All took time away from the game – either due to a personal break or injury – before coming back rejuvenated for the challenge.
“Eight of the group are multiple Olympians and we needed that experience. It will be the end for some of them. I remember watching Dame Kelly Holmes win gold in 2004 and that lady kept getting up and giving it more.
“That’s the same with the likes of Kate, Helen and Crista. If you keep getting up, you get there in the end. You get knocked down, you keep getting back up on the horse. That’s why they have gold medals around their necks.
“It was pivotal in the Commonwealth Games when I spoke to Kate and said ‘Look, two more years of your life and I think we can turn things around’. She went away and had a think and came back.
“Some people have tough periods in their life. Some of the injuries and back surgery Helen has had; there is a real story here when you scratch the surface of what some of their players have been through, coming out the other side, it is a genuine and real story. They deserve everything they get.”
Now, he hopes that English and GB hockey can capitalise on the success of the team and hopefully create a long-lasting legacy that will see hockey flourish further in the country.
“After London, some ridiculous percentage of new hockey players aged between 14 and 18 took up the game. There was a new young cohort of people playing our sport. I think England and Great Britain hockey work really hard to capture this.
“At the moment, we have HockeyFest which is giving people a facility to get involved in the sport. It’s welcoming for all ages, all people of all walks of life. It really is the Hockey Family and I hope today helps push that along.”