PENRHOS College student Caitlin Cooper will swap her school books for a goalie kit and a hockey stick next month to represent Australia at the Youth Olympics.
Caitlin said she was very excited to go to Argentina and play for Australia in a modified, fast-paced version of her sport – even though it means she will have to miss her Year 12 mock exams.
“I’m very excited to make new friendships with the girls on my team – there’s about nine of us going – and I’m very excited to experience a new style of hockey which I have never actually played before so it will be really, really good,” the 17-year-old said.
Caitlin, who lives in Manning and plays locally with Old Aquinians, was one of nine players selected at the under-18 national championships to play in the qualifying round in Papua New Guinea, before attending a selection camp in Adelaide that led to her being chosen to go to Argentina.
Field hockey is usually played with 11 team members on the field but the Youth Olympics has adopted a five-a-side competition.
The game is played on a small pitch with four field players and a goalie with no sidelines.
Caitlin said the modifications made the game more physically demanding.
“In normal hockey you get to set up your defence and have a lot of time, whereas in fives it is very fast,” she said.
“You have to make sure that all four of your field players are in the right positions.
“You have to be very agile in your movements whereas in normal hockey it’s more like setting up your defence to counter any attacks that they make.”
Caitlin said she was in her last year of high school and had to miss her mock exams for the competition.
“I’m in the last three weeks of Year 12, so it’s very, very demanding,” she said.
She said she started playing hockey as a field player and later switched to goalkeeping.
“I started around the age of five as a field player and then when I hit about 12, my dad told me I had good hand-eye coordination and from then on I started goalkeeping,” she said.
“Within the first two years I made a state team which was pretty good,” Caitlin said.
She said her goal after Argentina was to continue building her goalkeeper skills, trying out for state teams and seeing where it takes her.