With just over one year to go until the postponed Tokyo Olympics, Hollie Pearne-Webb is hoping to use what she’s learned in lockdown to lead her team to glory once again next summer.
The Rio 2016 gold medallist has been captain of the GB women’s squad since October 2018, moving into the role after Alex Danson-Bennett’s concussion meant she was unable to train or play.
Having played under the captaincy of two of the hockey’s best in Danson-Bennett and Kate Richardson-Walsh before her, Pearne-Webb knows she has big shoes to fill.
Speaking with fellow GB athlete Emily Defroand on #CuppaNNatter, the defender said: “I’ve been very, very lucky that since I’ve been in the GB programme to have played under two exceptional captains. Exceptional in their own different ways but both who are legends of the game.
“I think the definition of captain should just be Kate. Then I had Al for the first two years of this cycle, who led in a completely different way to Kate but was such a talismanic figure for us on the pitch, off the pitch. Everything about her embodied what we were about.”
While she didn’t focus at the time on what made those two such fantastic leaders, since taking on the armband Pearne-Webb has begun to understand the factors that made the previous incumbents so successful.
“I just thought that they were the captains, they were great at it and they fulfilled the role,” the 29-year-old said.
“One of [the key factors] is leading by example; I think that’s huge. As a captain you have to be willing to do it yourself, you can’t ask people in your squad to do it if you’re not prepared to do it yourself.
“Another thing is that sometimes you’ve got to be ok with not being popular all the time. There’s a lot of things that can happen and you’ve got to make decisions you believe are in the best interests of the team. That has got to be the first thought.
“And then also you’ve got to really believe in and live by our values. We’ve got a strong system and vision of what our values and behaviours are and you’ve got to really embody and believe in the process with every single one of those.”
Having been unable to train for four months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Pearne-Webb was left without any hockey for the first time in a number of years.
However, as well continuing her work as an accountant and volunteering to take food to people in her local community, she also used the time to review on her own captaincy.
“In the past few months I’ve done a lot of reflecting in terms of the qualities and I nowhere near tick all of those boxes at all but I think it’s been good for me to try and figure out what sort of leader I want to be,” she told her former Surbiton team-mate Defroand.
“I can’t be the same as Kate and I can’t be the same as Al because they’re completely different people. I’ve just been trying to figure out where my strengths are, where my gaps are and where I can move myself up and do some reflecting and learning.”
The team have been back training for two weeks now and a few days ago it was announced that the FIH Hockey Pro League is set to return in October.
Having put in some impressive performances during their games against Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, Pearne-Webb is excited to see what the team can achieve when it is safe to play again.
And, despite the time spent away from each other, she thinks that lockdown has made the squad even stronger as they look towards Tokyo.
“One thing that has really impressed me is that every single member of our squad is still so committed to what we want to achieve together in 12 months’ time. The goal posts have moved but everyone’s desire is still there” she stated.
“Speaking to a lot of the girls at various points over the past 12 weeks they seem even more determined. It’s been good to see people over webcam and good to hear how people are doing but I think everyone is just excited about getting back to training, even though it won’t be the same.
“It’s been tough and challenging but an experience that I’ve learned a lot from.”
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