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Long Sutton twin sisters promote the values of sport as fun and character building




The sporting lives of Long Sutton twins Connie and Emmy Gittins (both 17) are just as paired up as their relationship at home and school.

Both teenagers are currently playing a crucial role in Long Sutton ladies firsts' current run of five games without defeat in Division 2NW of the East Region Hockey League.

Connie and Emmy also have more than a passing interest in the fortunes of Long Sutton seconds' cricket team, helping their side to avoid relegation from Division Two of the South Lincs & Border League by just nine points.

Connie Gittins in action for the 'Green Army' against a coaches' side at Long Sutton Cricket Club's annual six-a-side tournament.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-250819-009TW.
Connie Gittins in action for the 'Green Army' against a coaches' side at Long Sutton Cricket Club's annual six-a-side tournament.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-250819-009TW.

Emmy said: "We played a lot of sport at Long Sutton Primary School when its teachers were trying to encourage more girls to take part.

"It was netball at first before the school ran a Chance to Shine course which introduced me and Connie to cricket."

Connie said: "We did a year of cricket at Long Sutton Cricket Club and then one day, John Sullivan from the hockey club came over during a session and asked if any of us was interested in playing hockey."

Emmy Gittins in action for Long Sutton against Spalding at Glen Park, Surfleet.Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-121019-033TW.
Emmy Gittins in action for Long Sutton against Spalding at Glen Park, Surfleet.Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-121019-033TW.

Jenny Gittins, the sisters' mum and self-confessed "taxi driver" in taking her daughters to and from training sessions, said: "There was quite a sporting group at Long Sutton Primary School and it was nice that the juniors played together in mixed teams.

"So there was never an issue for the girls and if it wasn't for cricket, Connie and Emmy wouldn't have played hockey."

Long Sutton Primary School's Chance to Shine initiative has resulted in Connie and Emmy becoming dependable members of the town's ladies firsts hockey team.

The regard in which the twins are held became apparent at the club's most recent awards evening in April after a 2018-19 season for which Connie was named both top scorer and young player of the year, while Emmy was voted players’ player of the year by her team-mates.

The Gittins sisters ready to bat for Long Sutton 2nds.Photo supplied.
The Gittins sisters ready to bat for Long Sutton 2nds.Photo supplied.

Ladies firsts' captain Jo Bland said: "Connie and Emmy are both absolute assets to the club and they have come on so well in the last few seasons.

"They are both very talented and they have both flourished at our club, but for them it's all about giving back, not receiving."

Emmy said: "The award was a surprise and I wasn't expecting it.

Emmy and Connie Gittins (back row second and third left) with their trophies at Long Sutton Hockey Club's 2018-19 awards presentation evening held at the town's Peele Leisure Centre.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-060419-106TW.
Emmy and Connie Gittins (back row second and third left) with their trophies at Long Sutton Hockey Club's 2018-19 awards presentation evening held at the town's Peele Leisure Centre.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-060419-106TW.

"But when everyone votes for you, it makes you think that your team-mates are relying on you and that you've done such a good job to help them out during the season."

Connie admitted: "We're both very competitive, even at school where we ask each other what marks we've got for our work.

"But we end up with pretty much the same marks so we've recognised that we're as good as each other."

Emmy and Connie Gittins (back row second and third left) with their Long Sutton ladies' 1sts team-mates before their derby match against Spalding at the town's Peele Leisure Centre.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-171118-23.
Emmy and Connie Gittins (back row second and third left) with their Long Sutton ladies' 1sts team-mates before their derby match against Spalding at the town's Peele Leisure Centre.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-171118-23.

Jenny and her daughters point to the influence and example of husband and dad Mark for what they described as his children's "sporting genes".

"My husband played a lot of football when he was younger and after leaving school, he was given a semi-professional contract at Lincoln City when he was 16," Jenny said.

"Mark went on to play for them and Leyton Orient until an injury left him with nothing to fall back on.

Emmy Gittins (left) on the attack for Long Sutton ladies' 1sts against Saffron Walden, with sister Connie (right) ready to join her.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-191019-048TW.
Emmy Gittins (left) on the attack for Long Sutton ladies' 1sts against Saffron Walden, with sister Connie (right) ready to join her.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-191019-048TW.

"He always has sport on the TV but he's also able to say to Connie and Emmy: "Enjoy sport because it's good, but also concentrate on your education'".

This proved to be a challenge for Connie about two years ago when she was called into Lincolnshire Cricket's Junior Emerging Player Programme (EPP).

Branded as "the pinnacle training environment of the county cricket representative pathway", promising young players aged between 12 and 16 from across the county are put into an "elite performance environment focusing on the key performance areas of technical, tactical, physical, mental and lifestyle".

Emmy and Connie Gittins (back left and right) line up for Long Sutton in a mixed sevens' hockey tournament at the town's Peele Leisure Centre.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-170819-3.
Emmy and Connie Gittins (back left and right) line up for Long Sutton in a mixed sevens' hockey tournament at the town's Peele Leisure Centre.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-170819-3.

From playing cricket at primary school under the Chance to Shine banner, Connie and Jenny found themselves having to juggle education and hockey training with a high-pressured sporting culture that also tested a child's strength and conditioning, psychology and nutrition.

Jenny said: "When Connie was selected for the Junior EPP, it meant a journey to Lincoln on the same night as her hockey training.

"They would run tests and measurements and then report back to Connie on how she was doing.

"But it was having an impact on her school work so we were glad when they told her that she wouldn't be progressing any further on the programme."

Both sisters still juggle with hockey and cricket, but this time entirely on their terms, with some emphatic results in Emmy's case.

She said: "In the last game of the season for Lincolnshire Girls' under-17s, I took six wickets against the East team in a game played at Long Sutton Cricket Club.

"All the people from the hockey and cricket club were there which made it really special."

But hockey, along with the first year of sixth form studies at Spalding High School which Connie and Emmy both attend, is the sporting priority for the twins at the moment with Long Sutton ladies' firsts now above their South Holland rivals Spalding in the league.

Emmy said: "We've grown up in a period when no one is bothered about the rivalry with Spalding.

Connie Gittins in possession for Long Sutton, watched by sister Emmy, against Spalding at Glen Park, Surfleet. Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-121019-032TW.
Connie Gittins in possession for Long Sutton, watched by sister Emmy, against Spalding at Glen Park, Surfleet. Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-121019-032TW.

"While there's an element of tactics against certain teams, it's ultimately up to us how we played.

Agreeing with her sister, Connie added: "We have a lot of friends who play for Spalding and we go to school in the town, but I don't think rivalry should determine how you play your game anyway."

Nevertheless, it was Long Sutton Cricket Club where Team GB's 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic hockey gold medallist Crista Cullen chose to hold her masterclass for junior hockey players in September 2016.

Emmy (left) and Connie Gittins with Olympic gold medallist Crista Cullen at Long Sutton Hockey Club in September 2016.Photo supplied.
Emmy (left) and Connie Gittins with Olympic gold medallist Crista Cullen at Long Sutton Hockey Club in September 2016.Photo supplied.

Connie said: "It was really good when Crista came because it gave us someone to look up to.

"The fact that someone like Crista came to our club, in the middle of nowhere compared to hockey clubs like Cambridge and Peterborough, really meant something."

Emmy said: "Crista Cullen has proved that it's possible to achieve things in sport and there's no reason why anyone else can't do the same things as she did."


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