As befits a good captain, though, she’s not allowing herself or her team to get over-excited. She had to watch from the sidelines as Great Britain put together a few disappointing performances and results at the Investec London Cup in mid-June, but she puts a positive spin on it.
“It was nice to give an opportunity to younger players, some of whom won’t be playing at the Olympics, and it was an opportunity for us to go out on the pitch and concentrate on our play, not worry about the results, even though of course we always want to win.”
Walsh is nearly back to full fitness, and found it incredibly frustrating not to play in that warm-up tournament. “I’m more nervous watching than playing – I can’t do anything about what’s happening!” she says.
Summertime is normally busy for field hockey players, but even an experienced player like Walsh, with nearly 300 international caps for England and Great Britain, admits that 2012 is just a little bit more exciting than usual.
“Most of our international tournaments are in the summer, but a home Olympics is extra-special,” she admits.
“We’re just doing the usual tournament prep. We have a few high-profile obligations, corporate functions and gala dinners, but other than that we want it to be business as usual as far as possible.”
And how refreshing to see the women’s national team have corporate dinners to attend. That’s mostly thanks to the sponsorship they’ve received from Investec, which has increased their media profile enormously. “It’s gone through the roof compared to what it used to be,” enthuses Walsh. “We’ve been on the side of taxis, we’ve been guests at the Epsom Derby – they’re keen to promote hockey as a sport.”
As is Walsh – she is an ambassador for the Back to Hockey campaign, which encourages women to take up the sport, which they most likely dropped immediately after leaving school. “It’s an opportunity for women to go, be social, learn new skills, meet new people – and it’s really relaxed. It’s so fun, it’s so inclusive!”
Even if you weren’t the sportiest of people at school, or you can’t commit to regular attendance, Back to Hockey could still be for you. “Everyone can play at whatever level,” promises Walsh. “Even if it’s just once a fortnight, or once a month, even.”
Walsh grew up around hockey, watching her mother play, and then taking up the sport herself at school under the guidance of an enthusiastic and supportive PE teacher. She thinks hockey is a great sport for all kinds of people because of the variety of skills it uses – but not everyone is required to be good at all of them.
More than that, though, she thinks hockey has helped her personally. “Hockey has really helped me off the pitch – I used to be shy, and being part of a team has improved my confidence.”
Walsh is 32 now, and this will be her third Olympics. “Maybe I’m coming towards the end of my career now,” she muses.
Would she consider a move into coaching? “That might come down the line. I think it’s hard to go straight into it. You need to be able to see hockey from a different perspective to coach well.”
And will she be packing away her stick entirely? “No, I’ll still play club hockey. I just love hockey. I’ll always have it in my life.”
Kate Walsh will be in the Great Britain squad for the 2012 Olympics, which begin this month.