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It is full-time, 'but hockey doesn't pay the bills . . .

ANYONE who thinks their life is hectic should compare notes with Susan McGilveray.

There is barely a spare second in her day. As the 25-year-old law graduate talks almost matter-of-factly about the three jobs she works on top of her commitments as an established international hockey player, you start to feel grateful - and a bit guilty - that she somehow found 30 minutes spare to sit down for an interview. That she is also helping to plan and organise a black-tie dinner for next month to help raise funds for the Scotland team only adds to her incredibly busy schedule.

Hockey at elite level is like football or rugby in terms of the demands it places on its athletes but without any of the financial benefits that professionals in those other sports enjoy. It creates a situation where those driven and focused enough to want to compete at the top - and McGilveray counts among their number - must find a way to juggle the demands of day-to-day working life with those of full-time sport.

"It's a fine line that you're trying to toe between your career and your dreams," is how McGilveray puts it. "Unfortunately, it's not a full-time, professional sport, although you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise given the amount of time and effort that the girls put in. But it doesn't pay the bills."

To that end the Clydesdale Western player has taken on one full-time job and two part-time ones. It is a serious workload but the good news is that two of them have a connection to hockey, while the other comes with a considerate, understanding boss.

The day job, for now, is coaching hockey to pupils from St Aloysius College at the new Glasgow National Hockey Centre, the venue for this summer's Commonwealth Games.

The first part-time job is a placement with legal firm Harper Macleod, secured through the Search Athlete Career Enhancement programme. McGilveray was one of only 14 UK-wide to land a place on the scheme created to help athletes bridge the gap from top-flight sport to full-time work. Harper Macleod, legal advisers to the Games, have created a tailor-made position that lets McGilveray sample life as a lawyer without disrupting her hockey training programme.

"I did my law degree and graduated from Glasgow two years ago and it was maybe getting to the point when I was almost out of it," she adds. "Because I've been so focused on my hockey I hadn't managed to get a traineeship but this programme's been able to place me at Harper Macleod and I'm really enjoying it there. It's made me realise it's what I want to do with my career and it's still within reach.

"My career's almost on hold just now as hockey takes priority. A lot of girls in the squad have had to make similar sacrifices, whether taking a year out of university or maybe not getting a promotion at work because of hockey commitments. After the Games, whether I feature or not, I do need to start to put the balance more towards work rather than hockey."

The other job is a 10-hour Friday shift as a waitress at Paperinos, the Italian restaurant in Glasgow's west end. The money comes in handy, of course, but McGilveray almost feels a sense of obligation and loyalty to the owners given how they have treated her over the past five years. "I worked at Paperinos all the way through uni and they've been incredibly supportive. My hockey commitments have never been a problem and they're always right behind me."

Such a frenetic lifestyle should start to become easier soon. Thanks to funding from sportscotland, the Scotland women's team will train together full-time from April until the Games start in late July without having to worry about getting time off work. The hope is that it will turn them from medal contenders into medal winners. "It should make a massive difference in our preparation in terms of the recovery you can get, and being able to structure your sessions through the day properly, rather than having to fit it around your work. Instead this is your work."

The Games creep ever nearer, the prospect of competing in them something McGilveray has thought about since making her Scotland debut almost four years ago. Preparations will continue this weekend when the squad jets out to South Africa for warm-weather training and seven matches against their hosts. When they return, the excitement over the Games will only grow. "With the hockey girls it's all we talk about. It's everywhere, all-consuming. Being a home Games it's an opportunity to play in front of your family and friends that you don't often get. That would be amazing. I think about the Games a lot. And because I work and train at the hockey centre it's a constant reminder of what could be if I make the squad. Winning my first cap was my proudest moment in my career so far but that would probably surpass it. To have a dream for so long and finally achieve it . . . that would be the pinnacle."

Scottish Senior Women's fundraising dinner takes place at Glasgow Caledonian University on Saturday March 15. Tickets, priced £50 per person, are available from media@scottish-hockey.org.uk or 0141 550 5999 (opt 5).

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