YOU never get too old to listen to your mother. Emily Dark may be an established Scotland hockey international on the cusp of a GB breakthrough, a third year physics student at the University of St Andrews and a future RAF pilot, but that hasn’t stopped her taking on board some well-received maternal wisdom.

“I have had to manage hockey and studying since I was about 13 so I’m definitely used to it now,” she revealed.

“It is always challenging but I always try and stick to my mum’s words of advice: divide it up into little chunks. If you set out little sections of time for things, it’s amazing how much you can get done.”

It is an approach that is working well for her. The pandemic may have kept her off the hockey pitch for longer than she would have liked this year but the return of the FIH Pro League has taken the 20-year-old a step closer to realising her dream of one day appearing at the Olympics.

Dark headed south to train with the GB squad for a fortnight before travelling with the group for the recent double-header away to the Netherlands and Belgium. If there is disappointment at not getting on the pitch to earn a first cap, it is tempered in the knowledge that she is now tantalisingly close to doing so.

“I had been working towards this goal for so long and to see the hard work paying off was really rewarding,” she added.

“It was a great experience to be living down in Bisham, training every day and meeting all the girls. I definitely learnt a lot, both tactically and technically, which I’ve been reflecting on and bringing into my play more.

“It did give me a bit of a taster of full-time training, and if in the future I got called up again, I will know what to expect and it will be easier to slot in.

“I was disappointed that I did not get on in the games and it was tough watching everyone play. But I learnt a lot from watching and when I do get another opportunity I will be able to look back on this as a learning experience.”

All being well, the GB squad will go to Tokyo in the summer trying to defend their Olympic title. That will roll around too soon for Dark, but the Fifer hopes that Paris in 2024 and then Los Angeles four years later represent more realistic targets. “Walking out onto

the pitch wearing the GB

shirt has been a dream of mine for a long time and so competing at an Olympics would be amazing,” she admits. “Paris and LA are currently my longer term goals.”

There are targets for Scotland, too, including next year’s European Championships and then the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

“I absolutely love playing for Scotland,” she adds. “I have had the best three years so far and I can’t wait for the A division Euros.

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge of playing some of the world’s top teams. It’s a shame our training has been interrupted but the team has been working hard throughout lockdown and staying connected with one another.”

Dark will turn her attention shortly to training of a different kind as she looks to follow a family tradition by taking to the skies.

“I am in the RAF Reserves and will start my Phase 1 training as a Regiment Gunner this weekend. I had been thinking about joining the reserves for a while and I will be the fifth generation of my family to serve.

“I’m joining the RAF Regiment which specialises in force protection, weaponry, combat tactics and fieldcraft. We also could support special forces operations. The RAF only started allowing women to apply for this role in 2017 so I will be one of the first females in this role at 603 squadron.”

SHE could head off to that training as a winner having been named as a finalist in the Sportscotland Young Sportswoman of the Year category in the Scottish Women in Sport awards.

“I got an email a couple of weeks ago telling me that I had been nominated and I was now a finalist, so it was quite a shock,” she added.

“I was absolutely thrilled, especially with everything that’s gone on this year. It’s really nice to be having a bit of normality with the awards taking place, even if it is online.”