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Back You are here: Home Sports Hockey Kwa Zulu Natal Hockey: Heather McEwan One of The Best!
Thursday, 28 June 2012 11:46

Hockey: Heather McEwan One of The Best!


HEATHER McEwan is 17 going on 18 and in matric at Epworth in Pietermaritzburg this year with subject interests including consumer studies and life sciences (biology) but what sets the bubbly teenager apart is one abiding passion and talent - hockey.

heatherHailing from Assagay just outside Hillcrest, where she spent her pre-primary days before going on to St Mary’s in neighbouring Kloof for the next eight years, McEwan has spent her hockey career in provincial and national age-group teams.

After starting hockey in Grade one, the KZN Inland star is now enjoying her second year in the South Africa U21 Junior World Cup squad, not bad at 17, and has a seamless future in the game providing she keeps focused.

Former South Africa captain and legend in the game in green-and-gold country, Lindsey Wright, is the SA U21 Junior World Cup head coach and likes what she sees in what team manager Charmaine Koekemoer describes as “the bundle of energy”. And with well over 200 Test match appearances at Olympic Games and other showpiece events behind her, Wright has seen a couple of decent players in her time.

As to what McEwan brings to the team environment, Wright is clear. “Heather has a very good training ethic which rubs off on team members. She is always asking questions to make sure she understands what is required of her on the field, and is extremely competitive, which I love in players as this means she is always pushing hard to make sure her team is winning. A team always needs a motivator, and Heather is never happy when the performance has been below standard. In hockey ‘down time’ off the field, she is a fun and happy person, which is always good for a team.”

Contacting this busy young woman by cellphone, one invariably encounters her whacky voice mail, which immediately offers a window into the lively person inside the considerable hockey talent. Another clue is the reaction when asking Heather whether there is anything her friends don’t know about her. “I have a fear for ostriches. This stems from a personal family experience, so I definitely won’t go riding an ostrich!”

Down time away from school and the hockey pitch also paints a picture of the person that is Heather McEwan. “I love socialising with friends, going to the beach, snowboarding or wakeboarding, cooking, dancing, and just being on holiday – a big plus! I am an outdoor, adventure person, keen on anything that captures my interest, within reason.”

Being up to three years younger than her SA U21 team-mates might appear daunting for McEwan, but coach Wright has no worries on that one. “Heather definitely does not let her age get in the way of competing with the older players. She has the attitude that she can be better than anyone else on the field and it’s this kind of thinking that makes her a good hockey player at this level.”


"I love just going down to the turf on my own and practising skills that I wish to perfect"

Like many talented young South Africans, McEwan’s dream is to represent her country at the Olympic Games one day, but her immediate goal is to make the cut for the SA U21 team that will compete at the African continent’s Junior World Cup Qualifier Tournament scheduled for Potchefstroom in September.


Self-motivation to go out and practice and train on your own is what often singles out the great from the good. McEwan is hard on herself if she has had an uncharacteristic off day. “I am a determined person who likes to give 100% of myself in everything that I do, and every time I lack motivation I think about what other people are doing, and say to myself that to be better than them I have to put more in than they do. I love just going down to the turf on my own and practising skills that I wish to perfect.”

After what coach Wright has seen of Heather, does she have the maturity and dedication to take her hockey career all the way to the Investec SA national team and does she have the drive and ambition to go through all the hard knocks that will come along the way?


‘today I will do the things that others won’t, so tomorrow I can do the things they can’t.”


“I believe Heather has strong potential but all our young players must remember the sacrifices that will have to be made to first be selected for the senior national team and thereby put themselves in a position to attain that Olympic Games goal one day. They have to want to commit themselves to the lifestyle that a top athlete is expected to lead, the discipline and plain hard work to compete with the not only the best in the country but also the best in the world.

"They have to take personal responsibility if they want to reach the top, as hockey in South Africa is an amateur sport, so players cannot wait for things to happen, they have to train as if they are professionals. This is what separates the best from the talent, but the journey is one well worth experiencing if you want to be an Olympian one day.”

McEwan, whose idol is Investec South Africa national captain Marsha Marescia, has insight into herself – a critical ability for anyone who wants to achieve in life – the awareness of what lies ahead. “There have already been times that I have doubted my willingness. Many a time sacrifices have had to be made in order for me to reach my goal and I won’t deny these have proven difficult. However I try to take one day at a time, and re-focus on my goal, and thanks to the support of those around me I am able to achieve just that. My motto is, ‘today I will do the things that others won’t, so tomorrow I can do the things they can’t.”

SA captain Marescia plays professionally for Rotterdam Hockey Club in Holland’s Hoofdklasse, a league that McEwan says would be “an absolute privilege” to play in one day.

Coach Wright, who played close to 250 Test matches for South Africa, many as captain, first noticed McEwan at the U16 interprovincial tournament at Maritzburg College’s Pape’s Astro last year. “In her first two games at IPT Heather ran incredibly hard and had the elimination skills that are required in a midfielder. She always threatened opposing players because of her workrate and ability to get behind defenders, deliver passes to strikers. Unfortunately Heather was unable to keep this workrate up for the remainder of IPT, something she will have to work on as all tournaments are played over an intensive period. It is important to deliver a consistent performance that enables her team to win tournaments.”

McEwan is working on her stamina by following an impressive training regimen during the year. “I train twice a week with the Epworth first team under coach Ms Tracy Bestall, I also receive personal coaching with [former Junior World Cup men’s player] Devon van der Merwe twice a week, I go to gym two or three times a week, where time permits, and I am following a training programme for the U21 JWC squad which is designed to condition us overall for hockey.”

How does being at Epworth help in developing McEwan’s talent in the sport? The player cites “the most wonderful mentor, Mrs Jenkins, who has from the outset always been a ‘silent supporter’ of my abilities. Through her and Epworth they have allowed me to develop at my own pace, and given me recognition, which has helped me build self-confidence in my sport.” 

Family support also plays a crucial role. “I owe it to my parents, Gavin and Gail, whose unconditional love and support has allowed me to follow my ambition. My older sister Megan and younger brother Murray often played hockey, baseball, soccer and cricket in the back garden with me, but it always ended with a broken window!”

Is McEwan planning to study after school; what, where and why? “My first choice is to study Sports Science or BA Humanities at Stellenbosch, but I am also looking at Tuks in Pretoria, studying Human Movement Science. Both these universities are renowned for their hockey, which ultimately will go well with my love of the sport and further to gain a degree. I hope one day, to be able to coach and have my own business practice.”

Athletics, cross-country, water polo, canoeing and tennis have all enjoyed time in McEwan’s life. But hockey commitments have made them less so than in the past.

As to the biggest influence on her career? It’s come from a number of people. “Mrs Jill Drummond and Mrs Adele Madsen in my junior school days to Ms Bestall, Mrs Jenkins Devon and Mevrou Koekemoer more recently, but I think there are two people that come to mind that have influenced me the most in pursuing my hockey, these being [former KZN Inland senior provincial player and school coach] Binks Robinson and Lindsey Wright.”

Perhaps the last word on Heather McEwan should come from her Junior World Cup manager Charmaine Koekemoer and Epworth first team coach Tracy Bestall.

Koekemoer, director of sport at Voortrekker in the KZN capital, is impressed with McEwan’s positive attitude and energy levels, and believes she shows a hockey maturity beyond her years. “I am so privileged to not only be her manager but also a mentor. It has been a wonderful experience to see her grow, not just as a hockey player, but also as a person. She is very responsible and disciplined and has shown good leadership skills.”

Bestall cites McEwan’s natural leadership skills that have made her Head of Sport at Epworth. “Heather leads by example, is a hardworking player and has the respect of her team mates. She is very approachable, which is a great quality to have in a captain. Heather is determined to succeed. She is very well organised and manages to fit everything into her schedule. She is well liked by everyone.

"Heather definitely has the dedication to keep working hard for what she wants to achieve. I do think that she is still very young [even though she is a mature person], and as she matures in age, she will mature as a player and her game will improve further. I think that she will be faced with some challenges in the future, especially when at Varsity, but will remain on track to achieve the green and gold. She has huge support from her family members who will aid her every step of the way and will help her to rise up with each knock that she may face. She brings a fighting spirit to our team, does not like to be beaten and will give her all to ensure that doesn’t happen.

"She is starting to become aware of the big picture. Heather has had to make some hard choices in order to pursue her hockey career as she is talented in many other sports, which she has had to give up in order to free-up training time and keep her focus on hockey.”

Heather McEwan, hockey player. Watch this space.