Becky Ward retires from international hockey
After 179 caps for Scotland and 14 years playing in the senior women’s squad, Becky Ward has retired from international hockey.
During a tremendous international career Becky has represented Scotland at three Commonwealth Games, several EuroHockey and FIH tournaments, and been a key part of Scotland women’s programme.
Becky said, “I’ve given my all and it’s my time to call it a day. I’ve played for Scotland for 18 years, 14 years as a senior, it’s been an honour and a privilege to play for so many years and for that I’m grateful. I’m getting married later this year and I’m really looking forward to spending more time with family and friends.
“The squad is heading in a fantastic direction, and I’m sad to be leaving the journey at this time, but it’s the right time for me. Chris Duncan and Vikki Bunce have been great to work with and the team is progressing really well. I’ll definitely be cheering them on at every opportunity.”
Becky made her Scotland debut against Belgium in February 2008. “I remember it was very cold and I was waiting to get on. The first thing I did in a Scotland shirt was fall flat on my face! I remember it was a side line ball and somehow I managed to fall over.
“I’d already been away with Scotland to play indoor in Vienna in 2007. The squad signed a poster for me on that trip, and I still have it on my wall. But when it came to playing with the outdoor team I remember really feeling like a youngster – it was a big experience for me.”
The experience proved to be an important building block in Becky’s development and before long she was selected to play in a major tournament for Scotland.
Becky’s first big tournament experience came in 2009 in the EuroHockey A Division, with a trip to the fabled Wagener Stadium. Ward said, “I remember the stadium, and it was different then. I’ve played in the Wagener Stadium quite a few times in my career, and these days it has a lovely big modern stand, but back then it was quite old school with wooden seats.”
Fast forward to 2014, which was a huge year for Becky with the build up to Glasgow 2014 including test series’ against South Africa, Ireland, and Spain; as well the London Cup and Champions Challenge tournaments.
Becky’s only goal for Scotland came in 2014 against India in a 4-0 victory at the Champions Challenge in Glasgow ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Becky explained, “It was a penalty corner. It’s quite funny as I was normally the trapper, and after the huddle at the top of the D I realised Emily Maguire was in the trapper position. So I decided I would run to the post, just to stay out the way, but the ball just fell to me and I put it in. I think I was the happiest person on the planet at that moment!”
Glasgow 2014 was the first of three Commonwealth Games appearances for Becky and was a special experience. The Glasgow National Hockey Centre was built for the Games at Glasgow Green and preparation for the tournament was an exciting time. “The country was buzzing and I remember being so excited. Seeing Glasgow Green for the first time with the stands up is a memory that really stands out, everything was new and we were all just raring to go.
“I also remember when we were in that full time training block before the games, the travelling girls from Dundee and Edinburgh pretty much lived in a hotel in Glasgow. All the ladies who worked in the dining hall used to give us hugs when we returned from our days off back home because we had been staying there so long. Just from the build-up you just knew it was going to be good.
“The matches were so noisy and it was amazing having all our friends and family there. The atmosphere was great; the village was great; and mixing with all the other athletes was great too.”
Four years later when Gold Coast came around Becky was cemented as one of the senior players in the squad, and part of the team’s leadership group with Kaz Cuthbert and Bex Condie. The leadership role was one that Becky embraced and enjoyed. She said, “For Gold Coast I had added responsibility for sure. We wanted to go there and improve on Glasgow – it wasn’t just about competing, we wanted to do better. Some of the games were so close, which was good and bad. On one hand it felt like we were getting somewhere, but also we’d put in so much and got so close but not all the results we wanted.
“Off the pitch though Gold Coast was special for different reasons. It’s the most I’ve ever felt part of Team Scotland, probably because we were all on the other side of the world. Being so far from home seemed to make Team Scotland more together than ever.
“Birmingham 2022 was similar to Gold Coast in that we came so close again. It’s still fresh in my mind obviously, but the crowd was amazing – there were so many saltires in the stand.”
Becky has been a stalwart for Scotland and represented the country at EuroHockey and FIH competitions in 2011 in Poznan; 2015 in London; 2017 in Valencia, Brussels and Amsterdam; 2019 in Glasgow and Banbridge; and 2021 in Amsterdam and Pisa.
One of her best memories of playing in a Scotland shirt was the EuroHockey Championship II, held in Glasgow in 2019. Scotland won gold at the jam-packed tournament with a 100% record. The success in 2019 not only secured the Scots a gold medal, but gained them promotion back to the top tier of European hockey.
Becky said, “2019 was great, to go and win every game was just amazing. We’d had so many close games with Italy, and fell short, so to beat them in the final in Glasgow was like a turning point. We’ve beat them again since and it felt like we got that monkey off our back in 2019.
“I enjoyed the 2015 A Division as well. We had some tight games against Belgium, Germany and England. When we scored first, against England in our first game, it was brilliant. The goal was a corner and we’d worked on it for so long, so for Kaz to score it was such a great moment. Most of the other teams were pretty much full time hockey players but there we were showing them that we could compete. Playing against those world class players was what I thrived on.”
Scotland women’s Head Coach Chris Duncan also highlighted Becky’s achievements and contribution to the Scotland team. He said, “Becky has been a standout within the national programme over the course of a 14 year and 179 cap career. She has been a leader with her performance levels, her attitude towards training, and her tutelage and support for those around her.
“Becky has well and truly had a magnificent international career spanning three Commonwealth Games, multiple European Championships and has had a significant impact on the development of the squad alongside being a consistently world class performer.
“Within the programme we speak about the focus being ‘people first’. We have athletes who combine multiple commitments at home, at work, within further education and more, whilst also balancing the demands of international sport. Becky has been a standard setter within all of these areas and we will miss her.”
When you have an incredible career like Becky’s there are so many people to thank for their contributions and support down the years. Becky said, “I want to say thank you to Dundee Wanderers, I started at the club when I was eight years old and they really nurtured me and gave me amazing support down the years. Ben and Marlyn Gibson in particular were great for me, I call them my hockey parents, and I’d like to thank them for all their support.
“A huge thank you to all my family and friends, and a massive thank you to John and my parents, June and Steve, who have been there through all the highs and lows – they’ve picked me up so many times and I’d never be where I am without them.
“Thanks to my employer, The High School of Glasgow, for all the amazing support to allow me to go and play hockey for Scotland. Thanks to my current club, Western Wildcats who have been great over the last few years as well.
“I’d like to thank all my team mates and coaches down the years; all the players who I played with on the journey. It’s been an amazing experience and I have so many fond memories to look back on.”
A huge congratulations from all at Scottish Hockey to Becky Ward on a fantastic Scotland career.