12 March 2021

Big name hockey and cricket stars talk elite sport at John Lyon

As part of the School’s drive to inspire the next generation of sporting excellence, Olympic Champion Maddie Hinch and England Test batsman Rob Key have spoken of their own journeys to elite sport at John Lyon.

The online talks in Spring Term, focused on each player’s route through their sports, from keen young all-rounders right to the very top, and how they each achieved excellence.

In February, Hockey goalkeeper Maddie Hinch spoke to pupils about the commitment and singlemindedness that led her to Olympic glory in 2016. “I always had goals”, she said, and “my inspiration has always just come from whoever is in the position I want to be in. How are they there and what do I need to get there?”


Similarly, speaking in March, former England Test cricketer Rob Key talked about how he dreamt of being at the peak of the sport and how his imagination helped him to get there: “Professionalism doesn’t mean you can’t dream and imagine. It doesn’t mean being serious all the time. I used to imagine in my room, probably 13 or 14, I used to play shots with my bat and I’d imagine Curtley Ambrose running into bowl…See what the best do and try to get better than them.”


Despite playing different sports and having careers at different times, the same important messages came from both Maddy and Rob, that hard work is important, that in sport you will have both ups and downs, and that while you should work on your weaknesses you shouldn’t neglect working on your strengths.

On being a Hockey goalkeeper, Maddie said: “Goalkeeping is an awful lot of learning — a lot of getting it wrong and learning from that. When you’re playing you’re always learning and decision making is just experience. Every time you’re getting a decision wrong, trust me, it’s making you better…

“You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Strengths – make them super-strengths. Don’t make mistake of only concentrating on weaknesses.”


On improving as a Cricketer Rob answered: “Just hit balls. Play the game as much as you can. Practice. Get people to throw balls at you. Play with your mates. The absolute key, I think, is to think for yourself. If you’re given all the answers what you’re not learning is how to work it out for yourself. When you’re older and standing in the middle, you need to make your own decisions. Don’t be looking for the answers from someone else all of the time.”


Despite being well-known for specific career moments — and Olympic gold medal and a double century at Lord’s — both Maddie and Rob pointed to other points in time as career defining highlights. Maddie looked back on her GB debut against Germany, having been a surprise selection at a point in her career at which she didn’t know what the future would hold. Winning the match and playing well was “a huge point in my career. I had proved to myself and everyone else”.

Rob recalled a match winning partnership with teammate and best friend Freddie Flintoff, in which he scored 90 on the way to victory against the West Indies at Old Trafford, and the pair got to leave the field together.

In her Q&A session with pupils, with some questions coming from girls who are set to join the School in September when it becomes coeducational, Maddie talked about being a sporty child, how her ambitions changed as she progressed, the challenges of being at the top, the impact of social media and how lockdown has affected her training. She listed three key qualities as hard work, grit, and a willingness to learn. And she talked about who those with passion for what they do will go on and achieve great things.

elite sport at john lyon

Maddie Hinch makes a crucial save in the Olympic final

Answering questions from keen cricketers Rob talked about playing with and against some of the greats of the game, such as Wasim Akram, Shane Warne and Murali, and said that what made them stand above other players was their willingness to work hard and always selecting the positive option when playing. He discussed the future of Cricket, including the rise of the short form T20 game and how with money and facilities being soo good that there has never been a better time to be a cricketer.

elite sport at john lyon

Rob Key celebrates scoring 200 at Lord’s

Speaking after the events, John Lyon’s Director of Sport Mr Shane Cloete said: “As well as being good to watch, the world’s best sports men and women are also inspirational to listen to and to learn from. This is certainly the case with Maddie Hinch and Rob Key.

Despite playing different sports at different times, their messages are so similar: that talent must be backed up by hard work, that it’s ok to have setbacks but that it’s important to learn from them, and that sport should be enjoyable. Hearing about the world of elite sport at John Lyon is invaluable to our pupils and we hope they take what they’ve learned from Maddie and Rob out onto the practice pitch and into competition.”