Edinburgh teenage sporting prospect Katie MacCallum is set to start living the American dream in the summer after earning a place at a top university in the USA to continue her hockey journey.
The 17-year-old George Watson’s College pupil is currently preparing for her S6 exams and her final few weeks at school, but come August the Scotland age-grade cap will be heading off to The University at Albany in the state of New York.
Katie started playing hockey in P4 after seeing all her friends take up the sport and she has not looked back since.
She used to swim a lot when she was younger, but enjoyed the team dynamic and was soon moving up through the years at school playing the sport.
“I was swimming at Scottish schools events and such like, but when I had to make the decision hockey came first because I loved being part of a team and playing with my friends,” Katie said.
“By the time I was in S4 I was selected to make the step up to the first XI and that was quite a big jump, but a challenge that I relished.
“As a forward you soon realised that the defenders at that level are more physical, don’t give you as much room and are always at your back so you have to be clever to try and create chances.
“It was a learning curve, but a good one and to play for the first XI at Watson’s for three years and captain the team this season before I leave is something I will never forget.”
Another step-up for Katie was playing for her country at under-16 level – “there was a lot more pre-match planning and tactics than I was used to, but it made me realise where I wanted to get to” – and recently she earned Scotland under-18 caps.
Katie, who also plays for Watsonians at senior level, said: “Playing for your country is just amazing and it just makes you realise how many good players there are from different schools and clubs. The first game I played for the under-16s was in Holland and the standard over there is very good.
“It makes you work that bit harder and a few weeks ago I was in Wales playing for the under-18s against the hosts and Switzerland. That was a good achievement for me and I m very committed to my hockey.”
So, how did the move to America all come about?
“We went on a tour to America with the school hockey team last year and played teams in Washington and other areas,” Katie explained.
“I just loved the hockey over there and I guess that first planted the seed in my mind that it would be a great place to go and further my hockey development and also study if I could.
“Hockey was very big out there and the facilities were superb and, after speaking to some of the American coaches, I decided I should really give it a go.
“So a few months later I started looking into how to apply to go and study in America and I spoke to Eilidh Thomson, who left Watson’s a few years ago but had taken a similar route, and that really helped.
She had gone through an agency to gain a hockey scholarship so I put together a video of me playing so that prospective universities could watch me play and see the level I am at.
“Certain universities are also after players in certain positions so because I am a forward the ones looking for attacking players were the ones I started to get in touch with.
“I also had to sit my SAT exams [the test widely used to gain entry into higher education in the USA] which were completely new to me, but I managed to get the score required.
“I am lucky enough to be heading to the University at Albany in the state of New York come August and when I went over there to see the place I was just blown away.
“You can look at it all on the internet, but until you get somewhere you don’t know what it is like.
“It was snowing over there, but I met the whole hockey team and the coaches and I just got a feeling that it was where I wanted to be – I felt so welcome.
“College sport is so big and they treat it so professionally, when you are playing sport there you almost feel like a professional athlete and I cannot wait to be a part of that.
“Alongside my hockey I will be studying for a general degree and in my first year there I hope to try out a number of different subjects and then decide what I want to specialise in.
“On the hockey pitch I know I will have to work hard alongside some great athletes, but I am going to embrace that and who knows one day I may be able to go on and win full Scotland caps.”
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