"They instilled in me that it didn't matter I was a girl, I could do anything I wanted"

Hollie Pearne-Webb Rio 2016
From attending a school with just 11 children in her year to becoming an Olympic champion and captain of her country, Hollie Pearne-Webb’s journey to the top has been remarkable.

Despite growing up in the small countryside town of Belper in Derbyshire, she was always destined to achieve greatness.

Why? Because, from a very early age, she was allowed to believe she could by two very important people.


“By far the biggest influence has been my parents,” the 2015 European champion said whilst speaking to GB and England team-mate Emily Defroand in the latest episode of #CuppaNNatter. 

“They’re not hockey players; they’re not sporty at all. I’ve never seen my mum run, she can’t swim.

“But they always instilled in me from when I was little that it didn’t matter I was a girl, I could do anything I wanted to do. They got me into football and cricket and everything. They always said that if I was willing to work hard enough, I could do anything I wanted to do. 

“I definitely didn’t really believe them and I wasn’t and am still not the most confident person but it definitely gave me a work ethic and a mindset that I’m not going to give up, I’m going to enjoy it and I’m going to give it my all to achieve what I want to achieve. In terms of attitude and the mental side – which is the biggest thing in elite sport – I’d say my parents [were the biggest influence].”

For a town with a population of just under 22,000 people, the number of international stars produced by Belper HC has been remarkable. This includes the likes of Pearne-Webb, Anna Toman and former England and GB forward Ellie Watton.

Alongside her parents, Belper were also crucial in allowing a young Pearne-Webb to believe that anything was possible.

At a time where women in sport was still somewhat of a taboo subject, where female athletes were often kept far away from the public imagination by the media, they also showed her that hockey was a place for anyone regardless of their gender.
 
“I was really lucky that I grew up in Belper. [My parents] took me down to the local hockey club on a Sunday morning and I just picked up a stick, started playing and loved it,” the 2017 EuroHockey Championship Player of the Tournament recalled.

“I think I loved it so much because it was both boys and girls, you weren’t separated. It was competitive, aggressive, fun and I just loved it from day one. 

“The amount of volunteers at the Mini Hock on a Sunday morning, whether they were parents or hockey players, to help us as youngsters gave me the buzz and the love of hockey. 

“I also had a really good junior hockey coach at Belper called Tim Barlow who coached a number of the girls in our squad and girls who have retired. He had a huge influence in terms of naming the basics. 

“I’m not one of the most skilful or talented players and never will be but learning the basics gave me a huge love of the game and then I started to develop what sort of player I was going to be and what my strengths were.”

During her interview with Defroand, the former Surbiton defender spoke about how she often uses her spare time to sit back and reflect on her moments in career.

Listening to her speak, it’s clear just how grateful Pearne-Webb is to her mum and dad for the sacrifices they made to ensure she could do what she wanted. She knows that if it wasn’t for them, she may not be where she is right now.

“I’m really, really lucky that my parents gave me and my sisters the opportunity to do everything,” the 29-year-old said. 

“Because my mum had all girls she wanted us to be ballerinas so we went to ballet and I definitely didn’t enjoy it, it was probably one of the only things I haven’t enjoyed so I gave that up pretty soon. 

“The love of sport came quite early on and that’s purely down to them giving me the opportunity by taking me to swimming or athletics or whatever. They were never in, one of them was always taking us to a sporting event. On a Saturday I would go from a football game to a hockey game and I would play in the boys’ cricket team at school. 

“They probably don’t realise the impact they’ve had by just giving me the opportunity. We didn’t have a hockey pitch at school so we were never going to get those opportunities there. 

“It was the opportunities parents gave us by throwing us out there to sports clubs. I’m very, very thankful they did that and they gave up their lives driving us around the country to play sport.”