Two international hockey players are set for a busy year as they plan to coach hockey at Durham School, promote wellbeing to pupils, continue with their Master’s degrees, and play hockey for the Durham Uni 1st team.
Kerry-Anne Hastings (24) and Katie Birch (22) are taking part in Durham School’s resident tutor programme alongside their studies. The programme allows them to board rent-free and develop their leadership skills while supporting pupils with coaching.
Away from school, the pair both play hockey at the highest levels. Katie represented England in the Europeans and Kerry-Anne has represented Scotland. Now, they both play for the Durham University 1st team with Kerry-Anne acting as captain.
Kerry-Anne said: “This Durham School opportunity played a massive part in my decision to come to Durham University. The school have such a close partnership with the university and that is how I found out about the resident tutor programme. I thought it was the entire package really, to study at one of the best universities in the country with a top hockey team whilst also gaining experience in coaching children. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse.”
Both Kerry-Anne and Katie are determined to help make a difference to the pupils at Durham School, helping out not only on the hockey pitch, but also with academic study, and in their personal lives. They believe it is crucial that pupils have good mental wellbeing because it is the foundation that everything else stems from. Kerry-Anne and Katie are keen to promote the advantages of talking about mental health and hope it will have a knock-on effect across other departments throughout the school.
Katie said: “The main thing I want to encourage the pupils to do is to enjoy their sport and to have fun. I want to support their development as players but also as people too. Teenage years are stressful and Kerry-Anne and I want to ensure that the girls we coach have a safe environment to come to. This is why we have set up a Coffee Club that will take place once a month during one of the games sessions. The aim of the session is to allow the pupils to bring forward any concerns that they might have about school, their sport, or their personal life. We want them to know that they have someone who will listen to them.”
Kerry-Anne added: “We want to develop a mutual respect between us and the pupils. Our first Coffee Club was really successful and we have already seen an improvement in the pupil’s attitude towards each other and to training.”
Kath Rochester, Head of Co-Curricular and Boarding, said: “It is a real privilege for us to have Kerry-Anne and Katie as members of our Durham School community. They offer us so much with their infectious enthusiasm and expertise, when coaching our hockey teams and their support to our boarding programme, offering activities and supporting our younger boarders with their homework.”
Kerry-Anne, who first captained the Durham University 1st team in 2019, has been playing hockey since she was eight years old. For her Undergraduate degree she studied Applied Sports Sciences in Coaching at Northumbria University. Now, Kerry-Anne is doing her Master’s degree in Education at Durham University and her dissertation has a particular focus on pupil experience of emotional release. Kerry-Anne has played hockey for Scotland at age group level and she also captained the U21’s.
When asked about her biggest sporting achievement, Kerry Anne said: “It would have to be gaining my first cap for Scotland. It was only eight months after my knee operation and I was told I wouldn’t play for a while so going out so soon after and proving that I could do it was a proud moment for me. It was the moment that I realised hard work and determination pays off.”
Katie, who is originally from York, completed her Undergraduate degree in Geography at the University of Iowa in the States and is now completing her Durham University Master’s degree called Risk which has a large focus on Humanitarian Affairs. Katie captained the University hockey team in Iowa and in 2019 she was awarded the MVP award for the third year in a row.
Recalling her proudest sporting achievement, Katie said: “For me it would have to be when I captained the England U18’s at the European Championship in the A division. It was a real learning opportunity for me.”
Both Kerry-Anne and Katie have had huge success in their sporting career and academics so far and they have high hopes for the future too.
Katie said: “Looking forward, I would like to keep competing at a senior level and enjoying the sport. My humanitarian ambition is to try and make a difference and do some good, a potential focus for me would be Yemen because the situation there at the moment is horrendous and I want to help.”
Kerry-Anne said: “In the next five years, I want to continue playing for Scotland and would like to aim for larger competitions. In terms of teaching, I would like to inspire my pupils on and off the pitch and motivate them to make a difference just like my PE teachers influenced me.”
Kieran McLaughlin, Headmaster at Durham School, said: “We are very fortunate to have Kerry-Anne and Katie here as resident house tutors. Their passion to develop the pupils on the sporting field, in the classroom, and on a personal level is inspiring and we couldn’t ask for anything better for our pupils. We are grateful for their hard work and look forward to seeing their Coffee Club thrive!”