Mel Clewlow is an Assistant Director of sport at the University of Kent, responsible for Sports Development, Fitness and Finance (pictured with Vicky Annis, Natasha Brennan and Felicia Hull discussing sport, University experience and the Olympics). Also known to many as a double-Olympian (Sydney and Beijing) with over 250 international hockey caps and playing with Canterbury Ladies Hockey Club. She brings a wealth of experience to Kent Sport and is ideally placed to manage the sports scholarship programme to inspire and support others that are working hard to reach their goals. Some may also know her for sharing her unique insights about hockey as a radio and tv commentator. Having played hockey at three Commonwealth Games (1998 – 2006) she has since been well placed to provide commentary there as well. Mel has now followed the Team GB ladies hockey team to Rio from where she will be providing match coverage. Before she left she told us all about it.
So you’re off to the Olympics again…Who are you commentating for?
My contract for Rio is working for the BBC. Although I will predominantly be working on the TV side, there is a possibility that I will occasionally be called in to work with BBC radio.
How did this come about? – tell us a bit about the background
I have been commentating now since 2010. Once my international playing career was finished I still had a passion to be involved in the elite side of the sport. I also didn’t like listening to women’s hockey on TV and hearing two male voices covering the match! I contacted the England Hockey CEO who I knew really well & also one of the male commentators and asked what I needed to do to get involved. England & GB hockey have been brilliant in supporting me and putting my name forwards to cover events. Rio will be my second Olympics as a commentator but fourth overall.
Will you be working with anyone notable?
Initially I am working with Matt Chilton who is the main commentator but it will depend on how well GB women do. In 2015 England reached the final of the European Cup and I suddenly found myself in front of the camera doing the pre-show / half time & full time with Sir Matthew Pinsent!
What will the role involve? What’s it like in the commentator box? Do you do anything to prepare or wing it?
My role is to support the main commentator and offer ‘expert’ advice on formations, players, umpiring interpretations, skills that the players execute and any replays that are shown. It is tough and I certainly prepare notes prior to any event which usually have some interesting facts that can be used at any point. Once I am there I try to speak to as many coaches and players as I can to expand my knowledge base and use the information during matches. I am fortunate because I still know a lot of coaches and players so they usually tell me more than they should! I think they all understand that I am there to help promote the sport as much as I possibly can.
It is a lot of fun in the commentary box but it probably takes two matches to recognize the players but you also know who the key players are so you keep building up your notes as each game passes. You build up a relationship with the main commentator which hopefully comes across during matches!
Will you be tweeting about your experience?
I try to tweet as much as I can – usually before or during half time and at the end of matches. Anyone who wants to follow me please do so – melclewlow6
What’s the funniest thing that happened to you while commentating – did you ever run out of things to say?
You don’t ever run out of things to say but sometimes the matches are really dull so time can feel like it is going in reverse! You learn to fill gaps by promoting up and coming tournaments or talking about a previous test series the teams have played.
Do you have any catch phrases?
I don’t think so – I have been known to mention the differences between hockey players being hit with a ball who just rub the bruise and get ready to face the next thing and overpaid footballers who seem to fall over blades of grass and roll around in agony!
What’s more fun at the Olympics – on the pitch or in the commentating box?
Tough question because they are completely different experiences.
My childhood dream was always to go to Sydney in 2000 which I managed to achieve & then to go to a second in Beijing was amazing.
With the commentary I would say I am more nervous because I can’t physically change the outcome of a match. It is also tough trying to be impartial when all I really want is for GB to win gold!
Which part of the Olympics are you most looking forward to?
The first match that I am commentating on because all the emotions come out – excitement, nerves, a tinge of jealousy that I can’t compete at this level any more.
I am also very lucky that my accreditation gets me into any venue so on rest days I can visit other sports and watch some amazing athletes competing.
Are there any sports persons that you are particularly routing for?
I would love to see GB win a medal in a less high profile sport. There are many household names who you always want to do well (Ennis-Hill, Farrah, Daley, Wiggins) but personally this is a massive opportunity for the unknowns to make a name for themselves. I don’t like golf, football or potentially tennis being part of the Olympics because I don’t believe these sportspeople judge the Olympics as the pinnacle of their sporting career….for them it is more about the Majors, the World Cup or the Grand Slams.
Will there be any other University of Kent people or Kent people involved at the Olympics on the pitch or otherwise? Tell us about them…
From a university perspective we have alumni Susannah Townsend (hockey) taking part. Susannah is fast becoming one of the best players in the country. She is a dynamic midfielder with explosive pace which in turn can be a game changer for any team she plays in. She still plays locally at Canterbury Hockey Club which is also proof that our scholarship programme keeps some of the best talent in Kent local.
Any tips for budding commentators or future Olympic hopefuls?
Just believe in what you do and give it 100%. I personally would rather give something everything and if I don’t quite make the top it is purely because I wasn’t quite good enough at that time. I take comfort in the fact I have pushed others to be better which in turn can only be good for the team. Don’t look back and have regrets and begin sentences with ‘if only’.
Which sports person most inspires you?
Novak Djokovic – he understand his role within sport and how he has a huge influence over the next generation of tennis players. He has a great sense of humor and is always gracious in defeat.
Which sports commentator do you most admire?
Not a commentator as such but Clare Balding I think is brilliant- she always seems to ask the questions that people at home want to know the answers to. I also love the rowing commentators – Garry Herbert in 2012 tried his best to be impartial but you could feel his emotion coming through during the race and he really made you nervous and excited.
Any predictions for Team GB at Rio?
It will be tough for Team GB to beat their medal haul from London because the home support was incredible and being able to train at the venues months in advance gives an advantage over other countries. Having said that more funding has been put into sport due to this success so anything is possible!
Does your experiences at the Olympics enhance what you do at Kent Sport?
I think certainly within the sports scholarship scheme I am able to relate to the athletes and offer them guidance and support within their respective sports. It is however important that scholars make some mistakes along the way as it is the only way to really learn….I try to listen to their point of view and ask questions in such a way that they make the decision that is best for them.
To find out more about Kent’s involvement with the Rio Olympics visit www.kent.ac.uk/sports/olympics. To stay up to date on Kent Sport news follow UniKentSports on social media.