Earlier this month, Claire Cahill, Finance Director for Elastic FM interviewed a local rising star from Bolsover, Riley Douglas and his mum, Naomi Douglas to learn about the fabulous opportunity he has been given to play ice hockey for England.

Riley’s life to date. 

Riley is a typical 12 year old boy who loves anything to do with sports. He lives with his mum, dad and younger brother Rory.

Riley has participated in all kinds of sports in the past from football to having his own pony. He even loves to fish and has all the equipment at their caravan to do this.

His mum, Naomi,  remembers one time that you have to be 14 years old to fish on the lake and Riley wanted to go, however he was only 10  and his dad and grandad wasn’t there so it was just his mum, Riley and his brother, Rory. Naomi said “Riley, I don’t have a clue what you need to do” to which he replied “It’s ok mum, I can do it all, you just sit there”.

True to his word he set up and caught a big fish, it was Naomi who was panicking as to what to do, but Riley just took it all in his stride which he always does with anything thrown at him.   

What are some of Riley’s challenges?

“Riley currently attends Bolsover school and will return in September to year 8. Riley does struggle academically and has been diagnosed with Dyslexia. This is something that we have worked hard with, resulting in us having Riley privately diagnosed, however this is something that Riley will speak openly about and doesn’t bother him. If he needs to ask for help or support he is not afraid to ask which many of his secondary school teachers have told me in his school report. Riley doesn’t find school easy, however he tries his best and that’s all we ever ask of him”. 

What is Riley passionate about?

“Riley just loves his sports. He takes good care of all his hockey kit and his new boots are his new pride of joy and have taken centre place in his bedroom. The hockey bags are quite big and Riley won’t let me put his in the garage as he likes to look at it so it’s under the stairs the majority of the time”.

“Riley is very close to his grandad who is my dad. He used to ask his grandad to take him over to Sheffield so he could practice on the ice when he first started to skate and he would sit for hours just watching Riley going round and round”.

“My dad even paid a couple of the local boys to teach Riley a few tricks in stopping and starting and turning when they were there”. 

How did Riley get into ice hockey?

Riley was invited to an ice skating party and spent the whole time watching people play ice hockey on the opposite side of the ice rather than participating in the party with his friends. Once the party had finished Riley asked if he could play ice hockey, to which Naomi replied “but babe you can’t even skate”.

Riley said he was going to learn so they went up to reception to see about having lessons. Riley needed to skate to level 6 before he could play ice hockey so Naomi signed Riley up for skating lessons. He went from level 1-3 in the first 2 weeks quickly followed by 3-6 in 8 weeks.

Once Riley was in level 6 the instructor said to Riley “you don’t really want to learn to skate do you?” to which Riley replied “no, I, just want to play hockey”. The instructor said “well, off you go then” and that was it. 

How often does Riley train and where?

Riley trains 3-4 times a week at Sheffield hockey academy. He has even played with the Sheffield Steelers at training on game day where he had photos with his favourite players. 

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a family?

“The demands of the sport can be challenging on the family. Riley has to be on the ice for 6.20am 3 times a week, so this often results in myself finishing work and picking Riley straight up from home and not returning home until gone 9pm”.

“At weekends, Riley can have games all the country. We have been to Coventry and Birmingham with the Sheffield Academy and players have to be there an hour and half before the game even starts so it can be a lot of just waiting around”.

“Riley has participated in tournaments in Hull and also played for England in Dumfries in Scotland where we had to find accommodation near the ice rink and then spend the whole weekend with some very early morning starts of 5am”

“When Riley did trials for the midlands these were late at night from 10.30pm to 1am in the morning due to that being the only space for ice time and to train so it can be hard work whilst demanding as a family with both me and his dad working full time”.

“We also have to consider Riley’s younger brother, Rory and his interests”. 

How do you balance all the commitments?

“We have to plan, and be organised with everything. Often me and his dad, Drew split ourselves up so Drew does Rory’s sport and I take Riley or vice versa. Sometimes we have to say no to Riley as there just isn’t enough hours in the day because we also have to think about his brother Rory, although Rory loves nothing more than coming on game days and cheering his brother on from the side of the glass”. 

How did Riley secure his place on the England team?

“Riley attended some trials which are called P10, this is a program for under 13’s to which they attend to get them onto the tracks of GB”.

“This can be a weekend trial which can be 10-12 hours a day”.

“I’m shattered most of the time so I’ve no idea how Riley does this”.

“Riley has had to have psychological tests as well as physical tests to ensure he is emotionally stable to meet the demands of the sport as well as physically”.

“Once the trials have finished you have to wait for an email to see if you have been selected for the team which is where Riley constantly asks me daily if I’ve heard anything”. 

 What’s the reality of supporting a rising star and future professional ice hockey player?

“It’s hard and sometimes difficult to juggle everyday life with a demanding sport where Riley is showing full potential to become an athlete of the future, but as a mum and family we will always support Riley to follow his dreams and be the best he can be even if that means sitting at an ice rink at 5am for the next 12 hours or rushing to finish work so you can get him to the ice rink on time for training resulting in not sitting down to eat tea until 9.30pm -10pm”.

“Even washing his smelly kit after games and training is a juggle”. 

How can the community help you with sponsorship?

“Riley has a sponsor called Sarah Mann photography who is helping with the cost of trials because each trial we have to pay a fee for which can be anything from £100 – £150”.

“As I’ve mentioned, these trails aren’t local and due to the early starts we have to stop over the night before”.

“Riley’s kit is also expensive. He has just had a new pair of hockey boots that cost £250 and he is still growing all the time! Luckily team grandad has been a godsend to help with funding, but Riley is now part of the midlands and England teams and its getting very expensive”. 

Riley and Naomi will be appearing on Al & Di’s Friday vibes show on 9th September between 1 & 4pm so listen in to hear the story live.

If any local businesses would love to sponsor Riley and be linked to a rising star who will play for the England ice hockey team, please contact Naomi Douglas on 07889 278 349

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