Mindset is everything
"Since receiving my first stick, I never missed a season of hockey. It is a part of my identity and who I am."
Hard work, grit and determination. That is how she looks, plays and shines. Time to meet one of the coolest looking female hockey players on the planet, with a portfolio of gorgeous pictures made by her sister, on her journey, dreams and plans for the future.
Johnson: ’We are currently in a nation-wide lockdown. Next week we will see if we can move around. Schools and retailers are closed. Shops for food are open, the rest happens online. For the moment we have three thousand cases and it will increase because we didn’t hit the point yet where the maximum is reached. We are still trying to flatten the curve in order to contain the spread of the virus. However, we are more at risk as we are a third world country. We have a lot of poverty. Hunger is the biggest challenge. And with the economy not running currently, people can’t make money. For the moment, also for South Afrika, no hockey.’
Johnson: ‘Right after the start of my hockey ‘career’ - I must have been nine years old, and I discovered hockey in my school in Johannesburg - I knew, this is it! My first wooden Kookaburra stick was a second-hand one I got from my cousin. I am still very thankful for that because you don’t know whether you are going to make something out of a sport. Right?
I was playing on a junior level, but I liked it immediately. I guess I started at the right age. Young enough to get used to the ball and stick, and to learn quickly, and already mature enough to understand the game. The fact that I never put my stick down since receiving my first one, says it all, and I never ever missed a season of hockey. (laughs) So I guess it is definitely a part of my identity and who I am.’
"To be honest, it is always you against you in top sports."
‘I knew that I was good at playing hockey, but I have to work very hard to achieve what I have, which has taken time. Initially playing the scords, more to offer to the sports, it took time to develop. I definitely had something special. When going to University, I got the chance to improve my individual skills because of the opportunity to play with really great players in a very good team.
South Africa is very different from Europe. Hockey competition is run by a school system. If you achieve well at school level, you can excel to university level. The biggest you can do is making the National Team.’
‘The nicest thing about hockey I found is the team spirit. You can play with your friends and enjoy the game together. The most fun and cool thing about sport is experiencing special moments that you can only feel and share on the field with your teammates. It is really about the connections you have, for example, when a set-piece on the training pitch happens in the match. Those are the moments we enjoy as sports people. Traveling to different countries and meeting other players from other countries, being sponsored by such a cool brand and really incorporating it into my lifestyle! No, you won’t hear me complaining.’
‘Over my career, I have been very fortunate enough to play two seasons in Belgium at HC Leuven, I played with and against some phenomenal players. One athlète that stands out for me is Pietie Coetzee, who I was lucky enough to play with and be coached by her. Simply unforgettable.’
‘My best hockey year so far was 2015. We had the best team and we were simply unstoppable. We won everything we could and were in that special flow. When that happens, you really put more effort into each game. You spend those extra hours of training on the pitch. You bring some sacrifices along the way, but they are expected. It all just depends on what you want to achieve. It is really a choice that you make. And it is completely up to yourself if you want to do something or not.’
Johnson: ‘Travelling to different counties, meeting other players from other countries, being sponsored by such a cool brand and really incorporating it into my lifestyle!’
‘Besides hockey, I also have a full-time job as a sports coordinator in a school, so I get to work with children and sport. I also work with the hockey girls, which is of course really nice. My work is really helpful in combining and balancing out work and top sport. I need my rest, enough sleep, healthy lifestyle. But you don’t hear me complaining. They are super real and very understanding.’
‘After my hockey career, I would really like to pursue something in the creative space, maybe something in fashion design or something with sport development. My mom was a fashion designer, so that could be something that suits me as well. We will see what the future holds, for the moment I am still focusing on playing as much hockey as I can and to enjoy it at the highest level possible.’
‘My younger sister, Tayla Johnson, is actually pretty creative too. She is my photographer. We are always discussing new ideas and ways of taking photographs, and we always want to do more with it. We like to think outside the box so I think doing some collaborations with other Osaka players would be really cool as an idea.
Good lighting, a nice setting, and the color scheme of your clothing helps. Osaka gear provides me with the perfect aesthetic to take really cool photographs so it also provides the extra shine. It also helps when the photographer is your sister, so I definitely feel more relaxed and helps to just be yourself. Be yourself and be relax, is my best advice to hockey players in front of the lens.’
‘Hockey is quite a tough sport, but I don’t think it is harder for girls. I think it’s the same because both are competitive. It depends on how you develop as a player and of course the goals that you set to achieve. Girls play a girls' game, and the question is: Where do you want to be? If you are a softer girl, you will have to get used to the physical side. A lot depends on the mindset.
You have to have that strong mindset, for the top level. In my opinion, every successful player has a strong mindset. Because, to be honest, it is always you against you in top sports. You have to be completely honest with yourself if you look at yourself in the video analysis for example. Not always easy, but to grow, is to learn from your mistakes. Trying to make yourself better time after time. And you have to keep your positivity, always.’
Why did you start?
‘To starting hockey girls I can give the following advice. Always remember why you started playing hockey. If you can remember this, it will keep your feeling true and you will enjoy playing and continue to play with that same enthusiasm of the first day.’
‘Hard work, Grit and Determination. If you can control your mind you can control what you want to achieve. I also believe that if you continue adapting, learning, and evolving as a person you will always improve. Always strive to be the best version of yourself. Better people make better hockey players.’
‘I play for both National Teams: indoor and outdoor. My dreams for the future for indoor are to attend the Indoor Africa Cup Qualifiers 2020, The Indoor World Cup in Belgium 2021 (Wouldn't that be fun?), and of course the ultimate dream of all, I would like to go to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. Yes, I have a few nice ambitions for the upcoming months! (laughs)
Beginning of next year, we will know if I am selected for the Olympics. I will have to fight for my spot, just like anyone else. But also, you want the best team to go, so you have to get prepared to be the best.’