It’s not quite the school of hard knocks but Dundonian hockey star Charlotte Watson certainly hasn’t done things the easy way to reach the top of her sport.
Injury has meant she’s missed a lot of hockey in the past year but the 23-year-old isn’t giving up hope of making the Olympics later in the summer.
Watson is no stranger to adversity, bucking the trend by becoming a full Scotland and Great Britain international despite attending a state school.
🐦 Is it a bird?
✈️ Is it a plane?
— Great Britain Hockey (@GBHockey) December 5, 2020
Hockey is a sport where private school pupils tend to dominate due to the focus on extra-curricular activities at many.
Her education at St Joseph’s Primary and then St John’s High, absent of much in the way of valuable on-field practice, never held her back, though.
In fact, quite the opposite, as the forward expressed her desire to make the final cut for the Tokyo Games, which get under way at the end of July.
Overcoming adversity second nature to Watson
“When I was coming through the age groups I was always one of maybe a handful of people who went to a state school,” the Stobswell-native said.
“It was mostly just private schools but I’m very proud of where I come from.
“When I was younger I don’t know if subconsciously I knew I had to work a wee bit harder because I wasn’t getting on the pitch as much.”
That attitude is something Watson carries forward now after a long spell on the sidelines.
Despite missing out on recent warm-up matches in the FIH Pro League as she continues her recovery from ankle and foot knocks, the former Dundee Wanderers’ star is determined to prove her lack of game time is nothing compared to her drive.
“I hope I’m on the plane to Tokyo but I’d say I’m borderline right now,” Watson added.
“It could go either way because I’ve had so many injuries recently.
“They (the injury problems) first came up when we started back in training last July.
“A couple of weeks after that I then had a back injury which set me out for four months or something.
“I came back around early December and then in January this year I got hit with a hockey ball in the foot. That was another two months.
“It’s not long that I’ve been back and in that time I’ve been hit by a face mask and I’ve got a bit of a dodgy shoulder.
“I’ve been out longer than I have been training this year and that’s an issue for me right now.”
Staying positive in the face of mental strain
Watson has progressed her way through the ranks, starting at Wanderers, first getting her hands on a stick aged five, and has picked up 67 Scotland and nine GB caps since.
Now with Loughborough Students, the former Team GB Elite Development Programme athlete is experiencing one of the toughest times of her career.
Not just physically, but mentally, too, she has been feeling the strain of missing out.
That said, former Dundee University student Watson remains positive in the face of it all.
She continued: “It’s hard because the back injury itself would’ve been fine but after the Christmas period, when you’re meant to get your head down and get yourself into the team, I was out for two months.
“During that time people are making connections on the pitch and I wasn’t.
“It’s not great but I’ve just got to do what I can do right now and what’s in my control.
“It was hard because I just didn’t imagine I’d be out for that long.
“Some days I just didn’t want to be there but there was about 10 of us injured at one point so I wasn’t in it alone.
“We were getting through it together and having fun in the gym so that definitely helped.”
Commonwealth Games a taster of what’s to come?
Having represented Scotland at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia, Watson has a taste for major tournaments.
With a few more years’ experience under her belt, she’s hungry for more in Japan this summer.
“That was unreal,” she said of her Games experience Down Under.
“It was something I’d never experienced before.
“I think I was still 19 so I was relatively young and I didn’t really think I would go but I did.
“I’d been in the team for a couple of years but it’s just one of those things I didn’t expect.
“It was unreal getting to play Australia in Australia. I really enjoyed that.
“Going to events like that reminds you how good it is to play your sport daily and represent your country on these big stages.
“When I was younger I don’t think I really appreciated it.
“I don’t even remember watching the 2012 Olympics. The first I really got into was the 2016 one and I remember thinking it would be cool to play on that stage one day.
“Since coming into the programme, I’ve got a lot more appreciation for it all and it would be absolutely class to go out there.”
‘I don’t do all this running about for nothing!’
Although she doesn’t want to get too far ahead of herself, having not even booked her place in Mark Hager’s 16-strong squad yet, Watson is setting her sights high.
Defending the gold medal GB Women won at Rio in 2016 is the target and, for someone used to overcoming the odds, nowhere near as daunting as you’d expect.
The former Holcombe star hopes to continue to impress at their Bisham Abbey training base before discovering her fate.
Will she join female Midlands heroes of days gone by – Alison Ramsay, Sue Fraser and Pauline Stott – in becoming Olympians?
She doesn’t get to make the call but Watson will be trying her damnedest to stay in control of her own destiny.
What's been your favourite moment seeing her in a GB shirt so far? 🏑 pic.twitter.com/FKBEzlzvWl
— Great Britain Hockey (@GBHockey) July 15, 2020
“That’s the top goal – that’s what we train for,” Watson asserted.
“We can’t go to the Olympics and not try to medal.
“We just have to remember we are a completely different team. Everybody knows we’re not the same team that won gold last time.
“Our team – we need to try to make our own legacy.
“I don’t do all this running about for nothing! Winning gold would be really special but I can’t quite think about that yet.
“I’m not quite there yet. I’m in a better place mentally and physically now, though, after a hard couple of months.”