JEN WILSON must have thought qualifying was the hard part.

Having successfully guided her Scottish women’s team back into the elite division of the EuroHockey Championships, Wilson has found the onset of a pandemic has made preparations for the finals somewhat trickier than they ought to have been.

A final decision on whether this summer’s tournament can go ahead will be taken by the end of this month but, all being well, Scotland will line up in the Netherlands against the cream of European hockey and battle for their lives.

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Planning would have been difficult enough for a part-time team with other commitments but throw in the added complication of Covid regulations for a squad based across six different countries and it becomes far from ideal.

Wilson is making do the best she can but believes the girls deserve enormous credit just for getting there in the first place.

“For the girls to have qualified to take part in a major tournament like this as part-time athletes is a terrific achievement,” said the 41 year-old who juggles her own part-time role with a similar position with Sevenoaks Hockey Club in England.

“They are not full-time professionals, most of them have another job or are you in education, so they’ve all put in a mammoth commitment just to be able to compete against nations whose players are fully-paid professional athletes. That’s immeasurable. They are an incredible group of women who are all fantastic role models for so many.

“This will be an exciting event for the players to be a part of. If you had to compare with another sport, this achievement is the equivalent of the Scotland men’s football team qualifying for the European Championships. Except we’ve done it with part-time players.”

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Trying to meet up, however, to train and prepare ahead of an event that starts in three months has proved challenging.

“It’s definitely tough,” added Wilson. “There are restrictions worldwide at the moment - which are understandable – but it does pose challenges for sports teams who are trying to compete internationally.

“There are a few quarantine exemptions for elite athletes but that doesn’t cover all scenarios. So to get the group together for a five-day training camp some players would have to quarantine for 10 days to take part in the camp and then go back to the country where they live to then follow their quarantine guidelines.

“For a fully professional outfit that would be possible. But for girls who have full-time jobs or who are students that makes it really difficult, especially when we have players based in six different countries at the moment.

“We’re in the process of arranging a training camp against the GB elite development group that will happen over Easter. From that we will proceed towards warm-up matches against some of the other home nations.”

One bit of good news for Scotland has been the creation of a play-off system ahead of the next edition of the Euros in two years’ time.

Whereas previously the teams in seventh and eighth would be automatically relegated to the second tier, this now provides something of a safety net.

“It used to be there was automatic relegation out of the A division so teams had that yo-yo act and it took you a four-year cycle to get back in which wasn’t necessarily healthy,” explained Wilson.

“So the adjustment now is that there will be a European qualifying event next year for the teams who finish from fifth to eighth this summer.

“It’s pleasing and a better format. With the juggling act that our girls have had this year, it leaves us in a better position to be able to have another year of progression to retain our A division status. That’s a very positive outcome for us.”

Wilson has plenty of personal experience she can draw on from her playing days as a three-time Olympian, who also represented South Africa at three Commonwealth Games and three World Cups.

She laughs that she tries not to drone on too much about her own glory days but admits those experiences have helped shape her coaching style.

“I try not to harp on about that too much! But the more experience you have of high-profile events as a player, the better understanding you have of what is required to get there.

“That is something you can pass on to the players looking to achieve the same. Having that exposure has definitely helped me as an international coach.”

The Scotland women’s team are looking for commercial partners to help them with their preparations ahead of this summer's EuroHockey Championships. Anyone interested can contact Jen at: jen.wilson@scottish-hockey.org.uk