About a year ago, when LEAP Worldwide was taking form, Founder Ainsley McCallister got to chat with her then-teammates Jen Wilson, Dirkie Chamberlain, and Line Milan while they were all playing for Canterbury Hockey Club in England. This marked a unique roster, as Jen, Dirkie, and Line represent three generations of import players from South Africa playing for the same team across the world! Canterbury has a strong history of having players from South Africa come over to compete, but this situation is one of kind. Perhaps what made this so special was the fact that Dirkie was one of Jen’s biggest fans, and Line had regarded Jen and Dirkie as her hockey inspirations when she was growing up! It’s amazing to think that she then was able to play right alongside them, as she became an inspiration to the generation of players following her.
Jen, Dirkie, and Line have all allowed their love and dedication for hockey to take them across the world. Their experiences are different and significant in their own ways, but they share their South African background and culture, which they of course celebrated together while playing for Canterbury! Below you will find information on each of their experience’s separately, including how they first got the opportunity to go abroad, and how they think they could’ve or will benefit from using the LEAP Worldwide platform. Then, you’ll be able to hear from Jen, Dirkie, and Linè together as they discuss what it’s like to have fellow South Africans while playing in England!
Jen Wilson is a South African hockey legend. She competed for SA in three Olympic Games: 2004 in Athens, 2008 in Beijing, and 2012 in London. Her first LEAP abroad was to Ireland, and this opportunity came about when the former goalkeeper for the National Team, who was also a teacher at Jen’s school, had the chance to go there and coach. As such, she believed this was the perfect opportunity for Jen to challenge herself and build her career. Flash forward to 2003, and Jen believed it was once again time for her to take her hockey abroad. This time, to England. There she competed for Canterbury HC for thirteen seasons, with multiple national championships and European Hockey League appearances. During her time at Canterbury, Jen got involved with coaching and realized she had a true passion for developing and mentoring players and teams. Most recently, Jen just finished her first season at Seven Oaks in the East Conference, coming in second place. Now, Scotland’s Women’s National Team is lucky enough to have Jen as their assistant coach! Click the video to hear from Jen herself as she discusses her time abroad both as a player and coach, and how these experiences have changed her hockey career and life.
Dirkie Chamberlain has represented Team South Africa in the 2012 London Olympics, and the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games. Her older fellow South African teammates described her as the number 1 Team SA supporter when she was a youngster, always vowing to work hard to be in their shoes one day; and that she did! Dirkie has enjoyed multiple stints abroad in Holland, England and now, Belgium, and it’s obvious that she is extremely passionate about athletes allowing their sports to take them across the world and shaping them into being the best they can be! As a result of her dedication and hard work in the gym and off the field, plus her exposure to a variety of different playing styles and coaching methods, Dirkie was the top goal scorer in the most competitive Belgium league, the Honour’s Division, netting 20 goals! Click the video to hear from Dirkie as she talks about how her first overseas experience was organized, and why she believes LEAP Worldwide will revolutionize how players go abroad.
Line Milan is a South African up and comer; she received her first cap for Team SA in 2015. She was first approached about heading to Canterbury HC by the aforementioned Jen Wilson, who witnessed Line’s skill when she lit it up at the Junior World Cup in Germany. That following year, though she was right in the midst of her university studies, Line was able to head to Canterbury to play for 3 weeks.This taste of abroad play, though quick, was enough to trigger Linè’s return for a good chunk of the following season! After her season in Canterbury when this footage was taken, Linè took her next LEAP to play in Perth. Unfortunately, Line didn’t get a chance to compete that season due to an Achilles tendon tear. This isn’t stopping her from getting that Australian exposure, however, as now that she has taken her time to recover, she will shortly be on her way back to Perth to compete with the newly promoted Hale Hockey Club! Click the next clip to meet Line and hear about her first abroad experience, and how she believes it is amazing just how far your sport can take you.
In this next clip, you’ll find Jen, Dirkie and Line discussing how they brought their South African flare into life at Canterbury. From speaking in Afrikaans to the confusion of their teammates, to enjoying a braai (not to be called a barbecue), it is clear that all three of these players enjoyed having fellow South Africans in England, on and off the field. Click the clip to hear from them and join in on the laughs!
Their intertwined experience, apart from representing some good fun, also reflects the trend of serious South African players pursing stint’s abroad in places deemed more competitive than their home country in order to improve their game. This is true for players in many different countries that lack a competitive club league or similar opportunities to play other than college level and with the National Team. This trend indicates that now more than ever, there is a need for the large world of sports to be interconnected so as to get these amazing opportunities to players, and these amazing players to coaches and clubs. LEAP Worldwide hopes to facilitate this global sports network. We aren’t just aiding in sports opportunities, but community building, and we could not be more passionate in our mission to connect players, coaches, and teams from one corner of the world to the next. It’s time to empower players to take the fate of their athletic careers into their own hands, and by players, we mean you. Sign up today to become a part of the always growing international sports community.
Thank you to Jen, Dirkie, and Line for believing in LEAP’s vision from the get-go! We wish them the best in their own hockey endeavors, and together as part of Team South Africa. Click below to find out more about their journey’s, and to start planning your own!