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Alex Danson MBE

" My identity was completely stripped from me. I went from leading out the team at a world cup to being unable to hold a conversation."

- Written by Catherine Rees

Why are we telling this story?

Former Great Britain and England hockey captain Alex Danson-Bennett retired from hockey in 2020 because of a long-term concussion she suffered after hitting her head on a wall 18 months previously. The Olympic gold medalist won 306 caps for England and Great Britain and scored a joint-record 115 goals. 

Profile

  • Name: Alex Danson MBE
  • Sport: Hockey
  • Team: Team GB
  • Position: Forward
  • Honours: Olympic Gold (2016) and Bronze (2012) Medallist, 3x Commonwealth Games Bronze and 1x Silver Medallist, European Champion (2015)
  • DOB: 21 May 1985

“The injury was a life-changing event so I had almost gone through the process of retirement over an 18-month period,” says Alex on making the decision to retire. “It wasn’t an ordinary retirement. I hadn’t been with the team, not in competition, not involved in the day to day for some time, so in that sense sport had already gone. The challenge at the point of retirement was accepting that I would never play international hockey again.

“For 18 years I was border-line obsessive with how I competed, how I trained. I never missed a tournament. I’d been very lucky, I worked very hard and always made decisions for my hockey. I’ve no regrets about how I lived my career. I was all in. But it was difficult to be all out.

“Overnight I went from leading out the team at a home World Cup, in front of 10,000 people, to being unable to hold a conversation with one person. It was like that for about eight months and during that period I felt that my identity was completely stripped from me.

“My first response was I want to get back, I’m missing out, I’m not doing what I do. I missed that belonging and sense of purpose you have every day. Since I was 15, I have belonged and had a purpose for the good of a team. Losing that can be a real pitfall for a sportsperson. You have to find your new anchors.

“My advice to any young sportspeople is to make sure you have something else outside of sport because you need to keep one eye on retiring as you never know when it will happen. Having other strings to your bow puts you in a stronger position. Interests outside of sport make you a better athlete as well as a better person.”

Alex runs The Alex Danson Hockey Academy and is a corporate leadership trainer. 

 

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