As any player who has faced this speedy, energetic and determined 19-year-old will know, Hollie Harrington is an incredibly formidable presence on the lacrosse pitch – and that’s not just because of her past experience practising judo!
Having played lacrosse for seven years (many of them spent in the Centex England training program), the fiesty midfielder is now heading to Hannover for her first taste of elite international lacrosse as part of the England U19 World Cup team.
Nervous, excited and raring to go, Hollie has been looking forward to the Championships ever since the final squad list was announced a few months ago.
“They sent us an email…” she remembers.
“When I first read it I couldn’t see my name anywhere and then it just jumped out at me and I cried!
“I can’t remember how I felt, just that I spent the entire day re-reading the email and crying.”
While being selected to represent England is an incredible honour, it has meant a severe increase in training and fitness in the lead-up to August. Every player has had to improve in every area to ensure that they are at their peak when they arrive in Germany, where they will face tough competition from some of the world’s greatest players.
“We are starting to cut down on training now to enable our bodies time to recover,” Hollie explains. “A couple of weeks ago it was pretty intense though.
“It’s hard because when I’m doing it I always ask myself why. Then once it’s done and you’ve recovered all you think about is representing your country which makes it so worth it!
“As for diet, it’s brilliant! I can eat double what I would normally eat and still stay the same size! I’ve tried to be pretty healthy but I’m sure that everyone has had a couple of binge outs…!”
Diet plans, fitness routines and a summer spent tirelessly training come rain or shine would sound like hell to many people but not, as Hollie explains, when you have the opportunity to win international gold for your country.
Despite the added pressure to perform and stay fit, she insists that the stress has not caused any rifts between players and, if anything, has helped them all to grow stonger as a unit.
“You create bonds with every single person in the squad” she says. “When we got down to the last cut for the final team I think everyone was just working for England as a whole rather than themselves.
“When the squad was announced it was tough because the people who had made it were elated, but we were obviously so sad for the people who hadn’t.
“I think the reserves have the hardest job. They come to every training session with us, work really hard, but they know that they may not get to go to Germany.
“They are an amazing bunch of girls and have supported us in a way that I could never have imagined.”
The team are now making their final preparations ahead of their flight to Germany and Hollie is hoping that all of their hard work pays off: “I think we have a great team and we have great coaches backing us.
“But, like in all sports, the game is unpredictable and sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. If the last 18 months all come together I think we have a fighting chance of being in the final but we have to depend on ourselves now.
“Everyone really wants the gold but I think we are aiming to equal or better the result from four years ago. We really want to bring back another medal.”
With the team facing tough competition from the likes of America, Canada and Australia, not to mention domestic rivals Wales and Scotland, they certainly have their work cut out for them. It’s a challenge that Hollie is ready to face head-on however, and her enthusiasm for the competitve nature of the sport will most certainly give her the necessary edge to beat out her tougher opponents.
“I’m really looking forward to playing America,” she says. “You know that that’s where the top lacrosse is played and I think it will be a whole new game and experience playing against them.”
Luckily Hollie will have the support of her mum, brother, godfather, boyfriend and former coach out in Germany cheering her on as she prepares to step out onto the pitch and she’s eager to show them all what the team is capable of. Medal or no medal Hollie makes it clear that the England girls won’t be going down without a fight.
But while the Championships have dominated much of her life for the past 18 months, the Blues centre is determined to remain at the top of her game after it’s over and is already looking ahead to 2013 and the senior World Cup in Canada.
“I’m at the age where everything starts coming together and I want to play at a high level for as long as I can,” she explains.
“I think I’ll have to take a month out after Germany to just let my body get back into the swing of normal life, but I’m always aiming for something new to achieve and the senior World Cup is a great thing to reach for!”
With a place already lined up at one of the country’s top lacrosse-playing universities – Birmingham – Hollie’s lacrosse career looks set to go from strength to strength. One thing remains certain: she won’t stop fighting until England are atop the podium waving down at the US with gold medals in hand.