Hockey club inundated with messages of interest after Olympic glory
Belper Hockey Club's ladies section has been inundated by people keen to take up the sport, following Team GB's success in Rio.
The women’s hockey team claimed gold in the Olympic Games final against defending champions the Netherlands on Friday night.
One of the club’s most decorated player, Hollie Webb, played and kept her nerve to strike the decisive penalty in a dramatic shoot-out.
A nation was seemingly gripped.
The BBC has revealed more than nine million viewers tuned in to watch Great Britain and Webb strike Olympic gold for the first time.
Laura Harris, Belper’s ladies chairperson, was thrilled to have so many people talk about hockey and is eager to make the most of it.
“So many people have got in touch saying they want to give it a go,” she said. “Some have thought about it in the past and been a bit nervous about playing but now want to play. I don’t think they realise what an inspiration they are to so many.”
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Laura has known Hollie since the now Olympic champion was playing in Belper’s under-11s team that won a regional tournament.
She said: “It’s really exciting when you think of how she’s progressed. When she came she was just a little whippet and picked the game up so quickly, like she has been playing for years and now look at all the medals she’s won.
“I cried when she took that penalty and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
“We played together when she was 12 and she was far better than anyone. We just knew if we gave the ball to Hollie she could do something. She was so calm on the pitch and she needed to be to take that penalty at the end.
“Hearts were in mouths and it was a very surreal moment. She was the person to turn to.”
Not even a friend’s wedding was going to stop Laura from watching the final.
“The club was too far from the venue so I went home and watched it,” she said. “It was probably best because there was a lot of shouting. It was manic at the club as well. It was an unbelievable game.
“I was getting loads of messages from people who have never watched or played hockey before. They were all nervous, all excited, all over hockey. My email has been set alight by messages of congratulations for Hollie.”
The club have been a part of England Hockey’s Back2Hockey initiative designed to encourage people to take up hockey or return to the sport.
The programme has been a success for Belper who have ran sessions for the last five years.
“We have been lucky with it. We had so many players down we got a new team out of it and we were debating whether to do it again this year. I had so many requests of interest during the game from people inspired to take it up,” said Laura.
Hollie has been a regular visitor back to her first hockey club over the years.
“When she does come down there is a real buzz around the place,” said Laura. “She’s spoken to juniors in the past and offered tips and encouragement and it means the world because they can physically see a champion in front of them.
“It pushes everyone on and not just the juniors, the older players take encouragement from it as well. It’s a positive vibe and we’re keen to maintain it as long as possible.
“We have so many juniors now at the club. We’re over-subscribed with juniors and they all want to follow in her footsteps. They are striving to win the titles she won.”
Belper are in discussions to commemorate Hollie’s achievements ahead of their club day on September 4.
Laura added: “Her work rate was exceptional, she had the right attitude and fully focused on the pitch. There was a drive and determination. She had a game face. We knew she would go far but didn’t quite realise how far. We’re so pleased for her.”
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