Volunteering, work and GB captaincy keeping Olympic champion Pearne-Webb busy during lockdown

Volunteering, work and GB captaincy keeping Olympic champion Pearne-Webb busy during lockdown

07 May 2020 / 09:30
Hollie Pearne-Webb doesn't like to sit still.

As captain of the Great Britain hockey team, she can't afford to if they are to successfully defend their Olympic gold in Tokyo next summer – especially after a tumultuous couple of years that has seen a new head coach arrive, several players depart and results yo-yo.

Off the pitch, she works part-time for Defra, the government’s environment department, and is aiming to finish her accountancy exams by next summer.

Even during lockdown, Pearne-Webb is on the move. If she’s not in her homemade emergency gym – a hastily converted garage that contains an air bike and weights – she’s out in her local community, fetching prescriptions and picking up shopping for those most at risk.

But if she does sit down for an hour on Thursday afternoon, she might stumble across the latest #TeamGBRewind – and it’s definitely worth a watch.

Rio 2016 was full of glorious moments. Forget Super Saturday, this was Super Monday, Super Tuesday, Super Wednesday and so on as the medals flowed in the samba sunshine.

Team GB thrived from the diving pool to the golf course and it was Pearne-Webb that provided perhaps the iconic moment of the Games when her penalty secured hockey gold following a thrilling 3-3 draw with the Netherlands.


You’d think she’s watched it back hundreds of times, with family, friends and teammates. But Thursday could be the first.

“We were playing in it and by the time we got back and the craziness died down, I was back playing and looking forward to Tokyo so I still haven’t watched it,” she said.

“If it was on, I would. But it would be interesting to see how close it is to my memory. 

“I can remember quiet a lot and how I felt in certain moments so I’m not sure how that would change by seeing it from a different perspective.

“It would be interesting to watch it. I have seen the goals and the shoot-out but not the whole thing. I try to not watch too much TV!”

To be fair, Pearne-Webb rarely has the time, so busy the past four years have been.

In 2017 she was made vice-captain behind Alex Danson, but a year later Danson suffered a mild traumatic brain injury on holiday after hitting her head on a wall.

Head coach Danny Kerry left to coach the men’s team at the same time, leaving new head coach Mark Hager and interim captain Pearne-Webb to steer a new group through the inaugural international Pro League.

However, results suffered as a new group of players knitted slowly, and it was only after a two-legged play-off win against Chile in November that their place in Tokyo was secured.

Danson was unable to come back into the fold and subsequently announced her retirement in February this year, leaving Pearne-Webb as the new permanent captain and results steadily improved. In February, they beat Commonwealth champions New Zealand 3-0 away from home.

But just as their tails were up, the world was paused and the Games knocked back. Through all that, there’s hardly been time to breathe.

“It has been a challenging period and there has been some ups and downs but when I look back at the four years leading into Rio, it was exactly the same,” she added.

“Five weeks out from the Olympics, we came fifth out of six at a tournament and then we didn’t do very well at the 2014 World Cup.

“Looking back, the journey to Rio – and how hard that was – it was made it all so much better. It made us tighter as a squad and that is what has happened here too.

HollieWebbPodium (1)

“I think it will come together at just the right time.”

Like all captains, Pearne-Webb, 30 in September, has been thrown a little by the lockdown. There’s no blueprint for how to handle the crisis and there’s been some trial and error to see what works.

But the squad are still connected, whether it’s group workout sessions or a weekly quiz.

“It has enabled us some time that we don’t normally get to have conversations with individuals in the squad, not about hockey but about family,” she said.

“We see each other every day but there are so many meetings involved, you don’t always talk to people. Now, we are doing that more.”

Pearne-Webb is also working hard to ensure no-one in her local community is feeling cut off.

As soon as the lockdown was announced, she volunteered for both the NHS and a SOS group in Bourne End, Berkshire.

She’s been made a pod leader of the latter and is in charge of ten volunteers who fetch medicine, deliver groceries and phone the most vulnerable to check that they're alright.

“It is quite nice getting to know people even though you don’t really know them, you just drop the food off at the doorstep and go,” she said.

“People are so grateful. We have a lady, Peggy, who lives opposite that we never knew before, and she is so grateful all the time. You really don’t mind helping people when they are so grateful.

“You get to know their shopping lists and what they’re having for tea, some of the ingredients I have never heard of! It’s nice.”

Requests come every day and can land at any time, some more urgent than others. And come rain or shine, Pearne-Webb gets out her bike and heads to town.

“It makes you feel like you are actually doing something, so in that way it has been good.”

However, if she’s not helping the needy, studying for exams or working out, there might be time to sit down. And if so, Thursday at 4pm is a good time to start.

Sportsbeat 2020