The story behind ‘History Makers’, Illustrated Sports Book of the Year

SJA treasurer SARAH JUGGINS can now add award winner to her name after her co-authored book on the triumphant Rio 2016 British hockey women was voted Thomson Reuters Illustrated Sports Book of the Year last week.
And there could be even more recognition for ‘History Makers’ with the overall Sports Book of the Year decided on a public vote, which ends on Friday. To vote, click HERE.
Here Sarah reveals the story behind the joint project with Richard Stainthorpe.

When co-author Richard Stainthorpe said to me “we should write about Great Britain women winning hockey gold at Rio”, I went through two emotions.

The first was a buzz of excitement at the thought of tackling the challenge of writing a book; the second was a frustration “why leave it until now to suggest it, we have missed the boat.”

How wrong I was. We started the writing project in January 2017, a full five months after the Great Britain women’s hockey mesmerised nine million viewers in the UK and forced the BBC to shift the 10 o’clock news to a later time slot.

We finished the writing process in May and the editing process by the end of June. There was then a three month wait for the designers to perform their magic and lo, a book appeared in the second week of September 2017.

What followed amazed us both. People actually wanted to read the book. We were invited to hockey clubs and schools around the country to talk about the book. It seemed that people just couldn’t get enough of that gold medal win.

The icing on the cake took place just a few days ago when we won the Thomson Reuters Illustrated Sports Book of the Year at the Sports Book Awards.

Our publishers, Paul and Jane Camillin at Pitch Publishing, were equally delighted. Several times their authors had been shortlisted for various categories at the Sports Book Awards but had never brought home the trophy. This year, they had two winners. Our ‘History Makers’ and Steve Neal’s cricket book ‘Over and Out’, which won the Heartaches Cricket Book of the Year.

As a first-time author with no experience of this type of thing, I now expect the furore to die down and the next poignant step in the journey will be when I spot a copy of the book in a second hand book shop or lying sadly in a box at a car boot sale. But that will never dispel the memory of the enjoyment or the agony of getting that book from an exciting idea to a solid reality.

For anyone thinking of bringing their own sporting story to life through book form, this account of the process might be useful.

We first broached our idea to England Hockey, the national association that runs Great Britain Hockey. They were very supportive, although chief executive officer Sally Munday warned us that the gold medal win had changed the landscape for many of the players involved.

Many of them now had agents and their time was tightly tied up with media and public speaking engagements. How right she was.  Team GB were our next port of call. We spoke to their communications officer and he was both excited and keen to help.

But he was leaving the organisation. Before he departed however, he did give us the name of a publisher he felt would take our book on. His enthusiasm was infectious, his recommendation for a potential publisher was not so successful but now we had the bit between our teeth.

Three publishers later and we found Pitch Publishing. An independent publishing house that specialised in non-mainstream sporting stories. They were also looking for more female sports writers so at least one of us hit that brief.

The next few months were the most enjoyable in the process. We interviewed players, coaching staff and the people in the background who had all contributed to the success of the team. We had trouble tracking down some of the players. Sam Quek was in the jungle on I’m A Celebrity… Maddie Hinch had disappeared to play hockey in the Netherlands and only returned to do media events. Some of the players had gone on extended holidays. Hannah MacLeod was sailing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Eventually however, the words were on the page.

Our book would not be the success it was without one vital element – the photographs. In this we struck our own gold medal. Dutch photographers Frank Uiljenbroek and Koen Suyk are masters in their field. Both are award-winning hockey photographers and they had a gallery of images from Rio 2016, London 2012 and a heap of other events. Enthused by the project, they gave us unlimited and free access to their collections. It was the most generous act and it won us the Sports Book Award.

Since the book was released we have had highs and lows. Both Richard and myself had that ‘authorly’ moment when we walked into Waterstones and saw the book on the shelf for the first time. Yes, selfies followed.

We also had the disappointment of trailing 200 books to a hockey club in the south-west that had promised an excited audience of junior players and club members only to turn around and take 190 back with us because no-one had actually thought to publicise the event.

Are you rich like JK Rowling

Schools have generally been hugely receptive and questions from kids about the process of writing a book have been challenging and fun – from the straightforward “why did you want to write a book?” to the more fanciful “Are you rich like JK Rowling?”

But I think the best moment, awards evenings aside, was the moment one of the players, Shona McCallin, told me that while all the publicity and social media coverage had been great, the book meant the most because she would be able to show it to her grandkids.

The History Makers: how Team GB Stormed to a First Ever Gold in Women’s Hockey by Sarah Juggins and Richard Stainthorpe, Pitch Publishing, £19.99