In this series of articles we meet, recognise and celebrate some of the many members of the hockey community – administrators, officials, players – who are at the frontline in the fight to contain and stop Corona Virus. Our ‘Excellent Eight’ featured in this series represent the thousands of people from the European hockey family putting themselves and their health on the line at this unprecedented time.
She took on the responsibility of the decisive shoot-out attempt at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, scoring the winning goal to give her team victory but now Great Britain captain Hollie Pearne-Webb is taking on some very different responsibilities in the fight against COVID-19.
Away from the hockey pitch, Hollie works for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It is the department responsible for safeguarding the natural environment, supporting the food and farming industry and sustaining the rural economy. During this crisis, Defra is playing a huge role in ensuring that the food chain continues to provide for the population.
The department is facing challenges on many fronts, as Hollie explains: “The main challenges facing the agriculture and food production industry currently is the increased demand for the supply of food, the shortage of and difficulties of a rural workforce in order to harvest crops at this time.”
In her role as a management accountant, Hollie supports the business areas within the government department, ensuring they meet their objectives at this challenging time. “With my work at Defra I am working more hours. I am able to work from home when needed and help my colleagues out who normally cover me when I am away with hockey.”
While her work with Defra is now the immediate focus, the past few weeks have been unsettled for Hollie and her Great Britain teammates as they, first of all, dealt with the impact of self-isolation on their training and then heard the news that the Olympic Games was to be postponed for a year.
“Daily life has changed a lot for me since the virus first appeared,” says Hollie. “The main one being that we are not able to train as we are used to. The GB programme is a full-time pro-gramme and therefore I am used to training with the squad four to five days a week. We were supposed to have just got back from a warm-weather training camp in South Africa and continued with our final preparations towards the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“We are all now in separate locations training in our own at home – for me in my garage. What we can do with a stick and ball is limited and we are all just having to do as everyone else is around the world right now and doing our best in the current situation.
“The type of training and phase of training has also now changed with the Games having been pushed back by 12 months. We are all keeping connected as a squad and staff and are using this period as an opportunity to work on areas that we may not have had the chance to during a busy training schedule.”
Alongside the work for the government agency and restricted hockey training, Hollie and a number of her Great Britain teammates have joined the 600,000 people who have signed up for the NHS GoodSam Volunteer scheme.
This involves work in one of four areas: Being a friendly voice on the end of the phone for those who are isolated; Being a friendly voice and calling those who are isolated and on their own; collecting food and supplies for those who are vulnerable and self-isolating; collecting prescriptions and medicine up for those who are self-isolating, and collecting patients who have been discharged from hospital and have no way of getting home.
Hollie has also been involved in her local community group, food shopping for elderly and vulnerable people and collecting supplies for the local food bank.
The huge impact COVID-19 is having on society has made Hollie reflect on her own life: “Hockey is my life and as an elite athlete your life can be quite selfish. Every decision you make revolves around training schedules, goals and the squad. Now hockey is still a priority and we are still chipping away at that but we are reminded of the importance of our health and that of our families and friends. This is and always will be the biggest priority and right now the focus is on how we can help one another through this period of time.”