This past week, the LEAP team got to catch up with Anna Toman, an international hockey player hailing from Derby in the United Kingdom. Anna’s interest in hockey was sparked by her mom, who was a hockey player herself. After trying out and playing many sports, hockey was the one that stuck, and her obvious love for the game leaves no one wondering why!
Anna was involved in all of Great Britain’s national age group squads, from U16s to U21s. In England, she played in the Premier league for the University of Birmingham for the three years she was a student, and an additional year after she graduated. Following that season, Anna decided to take the LEAP to Perth, Australia to play for the Westside Wolves! Before the season started, she was able to do a bit of traveling and visit some amazing places, like New Zealand, Fiji, and the Australian East Coast. And the adventures didn’t stop when the season kicked off! She tells us, “…there was still plenty of time and amazing places to visit that weren’t too far away. For example, we went down to Margaret River numerous times which was beautiful. Perth is such a pretty place in itself that we found you didn’t always have to go too far to find some incredible spots.”
Before heading to Perth, Anna says she didn’t know quite what to expect from her time in Australia. When we asked if she had any preconceived ideas before taking the LEAP, she noted, “Well of course the weather conditions, in comparison to the weather we play in at home. I also heard it’s more of a laidback lifestyle but apart from that it was all a very new experience and I wasn’t sure what to expect out there.” And she was proven right about the weather in Australia certainly being favorable to that back in England; one highlight she mentioned from her time abroad was going an entire season without having to wear an undershirt!
In terms of hockey and the comparison of playing styles between England and Australia, Anna states, “I think the biggest difference is the fast counter attacks that the Australians have mastered so well. I felt it was a lot more forward direct play in Australia than it is back home.” Anna reckons that her exposure to the different style has most definitely enhanced her skills as a player, telling us, “It has really improved my attacking game and given me the confidence to go forward more at pace.” Anna is not the only international athlete to believe an abroad experience positively impacted their athletic abilities, as countless players note improvement due to the exposure.
As she picked up new skills on the hockey field, Anna simultaneously made amazing memories outside of her sport. She says, “I learnt just to ask people questions and interact and network with people out there and you realise how accommodating they are and how many exciting opportunities there are.” Living in and learning about a new culture is always a highlight of an athlete’s stint abroad, and exposure to different ways of life and people can really change one’s life and goals, both in and outside of athletic careers.
And this experience obviously meant a lot to her, as she says she couldn’t recommend going overseas to play enough. She tells us, “To experience a new culture and meeting new people whilst playing your sport can’t be beaten really.” She does, however, strongly advise that players do their research on clubs prior to taking the LEAP, because as Anna says, “…ultimately that can really affect what sort of experience you have out there.”
One thing that made Anna’s time in Australia particularly amazing was that she got to experience it all with her boyfriend, Will Byas! Exploring beautiful places and a new culture is a terrific experience on its own, and only heightened when doing it with someone you love. Anna says, “It worked quite well that we could do it together, so we could do the traveling and the hockey. The wolves have been really good to us.” Anna and Will received great accommodations, including getting connected with jobs and coaching for the club, transportation, housing and amazing travel opportunities all through becoming Wolvepack members! It sounds like their tandem abroad experience made for some great memories to tell the kids!
Here at LEAP, we couldn’t agree more, and we work to facilitate that necessary research and make communication between players, coaches, and leagues as easy as possible. Part of the reason why Founder Ainsley McCallister is so passionate about LEAP’s mission is that she realized the importance of knowing the complete ins-and-outs of an abroad opportunity after a stint overseas which didn’t turn out how she had anticipated. LEAP Worldwide is working to eliminate the unknown aspect of playing abroad, and we want YOU to join the community and help us to build the LinkedIn of the athletic world.
So, now that Anna is back in England, what’s her next move in her hockey career? Excitingly, it was announced in late January of this year that Anna would be a member of the Great Britain squad training towards the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo! With her nation coming off a gold medal finish in Rio, she tells us that she is absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to help defend that championship. Anna says receiving her first cap in South Africa on February 25th meant the absolute world to her, going on to tell us, “We were presented with our shirts the night before our game and it was really quite emotional. It was such an honour to play with people that I had looked up to, and to receive my first cap along with players that I had been playing with for many years. Nothing can compare to putting on that shirt for the first time, it’s something I will never forget.” Anna notes that this feels like the perfect time to pursue her senior level career seeing as she’s completed her studying and gotten to see the world, and she can completely focus on hockey.
Congratulations to Anna and all of the new members of Great Britain’s 2020 squad! We thank her for sharing her story, and we are so happy to have her as a part of the LEAP Worldwide community. To follow along with Anna as she works toward the Olympic games, and so many other international athletes, join our always growing network! Sign up with LEAP below!