The Coffs Coast is home to a large number of talented sportspeople, and rising hockey stars Lianna Watkins and Sophie Watt are no exception. The duo have been fortunate enough to secure a full-time field hockey scholarship to RMU (Robert Morris University), where they will play and study for 4 years …
Where did you both grow up and go to school?
Lianna: We both grew up in Sawtell, and we went to Mary Help [Mary Help of Christians Primary] then JPC [John Paul College].
How long did you actually live on the Coffs Coast, and what are some of your fondest memories from your time spent there?
Lianna: I lived there for 16 years. Fondest memories are writing my name in our cement and the beach – love our beach. It’s the best thing we have.
Sophie: Thirteen years on the coast, but I moved from Bello. My fondest moments are going to the beach, having sun and getting a sun tan.
How did you first become involved with playing hockey, and what teams have you played for?
Lianna: When I was 8 years old, I started playing for Sawtell. Then I moved to play for Bello when I was 10 and played with Sophie. When I was 16, I joined Urunga. I’ve played for Urunga and also for Grafton ever since.
Sophie: I started at the age of 7. I stayed with Bello until 16 and then played for Urunga and also played for Grafton. I’ve been playing for Grafton and Urunga ever since.
What is the scholarship you won – it’s obviously taken you to the States to live and play for a time?
Sophie: We got a field hockey full-time scholarship [to RMU – Robert Morris University]. This covers our tuition, hockey expenses and accommodation. We have to perform in field hockey and academics to keep the scholarship, which means we need to balance school and hockey together. This can be quite challenging at times!
How long will you actually get to stay in the States, and how have you enjoyed living there so far?
Lianna: We will stay in the States for 4 years doing uni and playing hockey. The trip was long – we are struggling with the time difference, but it’s an amazing experience. It’s what you see in the movies and so much more. The people are great, team is great and school is great. We are loving it!
What is something you’ve found attending uni and living overseas that has come as a bit of a surprise?
Sophie: Our dorm was bigger than we expected, which is great for us! We got a bigger room than we expected; it’s cozy, but not squishy. The university itself is huge; we didn’t know what to expect, but it’s above and beyond any expectations we had!
Is there anything about Australia you particularly miss?
Lianna: Of course we miss our family and the friends we left behind, but we both miss the Australian food. The American food isn’t particularly healthy, as it is quite fatty, so we are continually watching what we eat. This can be quite difficult at times – especially when you’re tired and you become lazy. Most foods are deep fried or consist of layers upon layers.
What positions do you generally play on the hockey field, and what skills do you need for these positions?
Lianna: I play striker/ forward, which requires good ball skills and hitting to beat defenders and score goals.
Sophie: I play defender, and I need to have hard hitting and good trapping skills to clear the ball and to get the ball to the forwards. We often like to play all kinds of positions, but this is where we play normally.
Lianna: I am number 9 and Sophie is number 13. The tops we are wearing in our photo are our training tops. We are only allowed to train in navy, red or white, as they are RMU colours.
What has been the highlight of your sporting career so far – an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
Lianna: I was a state swimmer from the age of 10. I haven’t exactly tried out for state in hockey, as I’ve had too much on my plate. But getting this scholarship was definitely the best thing!
Sophie: In 2011, I made the NSW state team, which travelled to S.A. and ended up winning, then getting selected in the under 21 country Australia team, which travelled to Fiji. I met so much talent and nice people along the way. I have 2 girls over here that I actually played state and Australia with.
Who is an athlete (not necessarily a hockey player) that inspires you, and what is it about them that impresses you?
Lianna: Ian Thorpe. He was the best in his field – long distance. He was one of the best swimmers I have known, but changing to short distance came as a struggle. He kept with it, because he knew it was something he wanted to do. Even though he went from best in his events to near bottom in his new events, he kept going, training harder and correcting everything about his swimming. He had to change everything for short distance: faster arms, different arm style etc. It must have been difficult, but he kept at it – no matter what the media says.
Sophie: Doris Cowan from Sawtell, who helped train me and Lianna before we came over to the States. She inspires me because she is so dependable, and it is because of her that I now love to train and run. She pushes you to your limits and teaches you that giving up isn’t an option.
What hockey matches do you have lined up to play over the next few months?
Lianna: Our competition runs from 24 August ‘til November; we play roughly 6 games a week and tend to travel around a lot.
What are your future goals and aspirations … what do you plan to do once your time in the States comes to an end?
Lianna: I plan to travel around America. I plan on bringing my degree back to Australia and working for a year, just so I have some money to begin with. If I get offered to play at a higher level, I certainly wouldn’t turn it down, as it would be the experience of a lifetime – just like this trip. I was going to do primary teaching, but I am planning on changing it to events and business management.
Sophie: I’d like to travel around America and continue to play hockey at a higher level. I am planning on bringing my business degree back to Australia and settling down in my job after I finish travelling and playing.
Thanks Lianna and Sophie.
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This story was published in issue 25 of the Coffs Coast Focus