In the ‘Disappeared Hockey Players’ series, talents from the past answer the question of why they stopped abruptly. In this episode Sam Saxton (29), who became world champion with the Dutch Juniors, but two years later followed her heart and chose an adventure as a singer.
Much in life revolves around timing. Three days after the interview in coffee bar Vascobelo in Amsterdam, the musical career of the former player of Bloemendaal and Hurley reaches a milestone. After years of giving shape to her singing ambitions mainly by providing performances, she now releases her very first single: Misty Days. It can be listened to via this link.
At the end of the interview about her retirement from hockey seven years ago, Saxton says: ‘Now that I think about it, my single has a lot in common with my hockey career. Keep following your own path, even if you encounter bumps along the way. I loved hockey, but the world of music attracted me more and more.’
She thanked for Dutch Girls U16
At the age of seventeen, Saxton made the switch from her childhood sweetheart and then transitional division Bloemendaal to Hurley in the big league. She then won the world title in 2013 in Mönchengladbach with the Dutch Juniors. She stopped playing hockey two years later.
In retrospect, the first signs may have already presented themselves when she thanked Dutch Girls U16. My week was way too full. School, guitar lessons, training six times a week, I couldn’t do that. One time I was crying in the car on the way to training. I also felt completely out of place in the team. There was a certain atmosphere that I didn’t like. I played hockey mainly because I liked it, not because I wanted to get Orange. Many of those girls had known each other for years. There was a certain competition among themselves, which I did not like at all’, says the former striker about how she experienced that period.
What I really noticed then is that when you play at the top level you have to be happy to be selected for those kinds of selection teams Sam Saxton
In addition to some understanding reactions, the fifteen-year-old talent also received some negative reactions to her decision to stop at Dutch Girls U16. ‘Some people reacted quite strongly to that. Especially those who put me forward and felt that I owed the selection to them. Even though I didn’t ask for that at all. They thought I was ungrateful. What I really noticed then is that when you play at the top level, you have to be happy to be selected for those kinds of selection teams. That is the path you must walk. But that didn’t apply to me.’
A few years later, it was Rick Mathijssen – her coach at Hurley and assistant to Raoul Ehren at the Dutch Juniors at that time – who asked her if she was open to participating in the selection training sessions at the Young Orange. ‘My first reaction was that I didn’t want to. My thoughts immediately went back to the oppressive atmosphere that hung at Dutch U16. But Rick insisted that there was a completely different vibe at Jong Oranje. He suggested I just give it a try. I have done that. And let’s be honest: Rick was right. I really liked playing in the Dutch Juniors. In the end I am very happy that I did that, because I had two great years there,” says Saxton, who, in addition to the 2013 World Cup, also won the 2012 European Championship.
Acting instead of training
Parallel to her hockey career, Saxton set her first footsteps in the music world. Around the age of twelve she learned to play the guitar from her parents. Later in life she started singing. Eventually her first performances followed.
‘I took my guitar with me to the Under-21 World Championship. Together with a roommate I wrote a song for the whole team. I think it was always very clear to my teammates that besides playing hockey I also really enjoyed singing.’
Her singing ambitions became increasingly serious when Saxton withdrew from evening training at Hurley because she had been invited to perform somewhere. ‘It was a performance I really wanted to do, in a village, on a beautiful stage, with a band. Of course, you don’t just cancel a training. Luckily Rick was okay with it. But if he hadn’t agreed, I would still have gone to that gig. I wanted it so badly. In retrospect, you might say that that was the first split between me and top hockey.’
End of hockey career
After the world championship, Saxton was still of the age to play for the Dutch Juniors, but she no longer stood for election. She and her boyfriend made a musical journey through Canada. Back in the Netherlands she dared to follow her heart more and more. Two years after the world title, she hung up on her stick.
‘Besides my increasing interest in music, my persistent back problems also played a role in stopping hockey. Once in a while I went through my back. Playing for the Dutch Juniors was already quite a challenge with my back problems. If I wanted to make the step to the Dutch national team, those complaints would only increase, I expected. I didn’t think it was worth it. Moreover, the lure of the music was too great for that. Instead of four times a week, I started training twice a week during my last months at Hurley. That was ideal for me. But you are on a team. You can’t possibly demand that you train less often, but play just as often. That’s why I decided it was time to stop.’
Her first single
With her empty agenda on weekday evenings and weekends, space became available for performances. Saxton did not release his own music at that time. In addition to her singing career, Saxton also focused on her Psychology studies.
The former hockey star cannot live off music today. However, at the beginning of this year she started working one day a week less to focus more on singing. That resulted in the release of her first single, seven years after she stopped playing hockey.
‘It took quite a while before I released my first single. But that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting still all these years. I occasionally did some gigs and made my own music with my boyfriend, which we didn’t release at the time. In that time, many ideas arose that eventually grew into a full-fledged album that will be released in 2023. I haven’t really missed hockey in all that time. I do look back on my time as a hockey player with great pleasure. I think it’s very cool what I experienced with Bloemendaal, Hurley and Jong Oranje. I am incredibly proud of that. But the fact that I eventually stopped was a good choice.’