Future stars: Lily Owsley

Lily Owsley in action at the Investec World League 450x323

There’s a wave of new talent flooding into England’s Men’s and Women’s teams, and leading the charge is 18-year-old forward Lily Owsley. Ross Bone caught up with her at the Investec World League to find out what it takes to make the step up to international level.

If you speak to most sports fans, their childhood dream is to represent their country. After making her England debut against South Africa in the Investec World League Semi-Finals in July, Lily Owsley is already living that dream.

A student at Clifton College, Owsley caught the eye throughout the competition, with England captain Kate Walsh telling Hockey that she “came in and right from the start showed she was a really confident, skilful player – definitely one for the future”.

Electing to pursue her ambitions of playing hockey at the highest level has meant that Owsley has had to turn her back on a promising athletics career – she can apparently run 800m in 2.09.95, not far off the qualification time for the IAAF World Championships – but track and field’s loss has very much been hockey’s gain.

Speaking with her in between matches at the Investec World League at Chiswick, it’s pretty obvious that she sets high standards for herself but is adapting to the international set-up just fine…

How did it feel making your debut in front of a big, passionate home crowd?
It was amazing. You can’t really ask for more – getting your first cap, winning the match and doing it in front of a home crowd. It was brilliant.

Were you nervous, or just focused on doing what [Coach] Jason Lee had instructed you to do?
A bit of both, really. I can’t pretend I wasn’t terrified, because I was! It’s my first senior tournament, so I didn’t know what to expect. Once I got out there, the crowd was so supportive, which really helped. I was trying to be focused and concentrate on helping the team rather than worrying about myself.

Were you happy with your performance?
It was definitely a shock to the system. I’d like to think I contributed, but I have so much more to work on and I need to keep improving. I’m nowhere near the level I need to be performing at.

How do you feel the team has been performing?
The standard of competition at the semifinal stage is really tough… South Africa was hard because we weren’t sure what to expect. Ultimately, in a tournament, you need to win games so we have to be happy that we managed to edge past them.

How’re you settling into the squad?
There’s such a good team dynamic. The senior players are so supportive and everyone gels together really easily. I’m really enjoying it.

How hard has it been juggling your A-levels with being an international hockey player?
It was a really intense period. When I wasn’t playing hockey I was studying and vice versa, so there wasn’t much time to relax! There were a few times when I got home from a long day’s training, exhausted, knowing I had an exam the next day and I had to knuckle down. I did the best I could under the circumstances – I don’t want to say it went well until I get the results!

There are quite a few intelligent girls in the squad, so did anyone help you with your revision?
I have Susie Gilbert to credit for my biology A-level! She was my tutor when we were in Germany. One of the questions she taught me came up in the exam, so hopefully I nailed that section!

Who has been the biggest influence on your hockey career so far?
I’d probably say my school coach, Tim Lang. He’s worked with me for five years as part of the school side but also individually as well. He’s a really good player himself so he’s been helping me with things I need to develop. My two best friends have been there the whole time too – they come to watch, help me with my revision and help me to relax when I need a break.

What would you say your biggest asset as a player is?
I’d probably say speed on the ball and eliminating players. Once I’ve developed into a better player I should be able to use those skills in the right areas to benefit the team.

How’re you finding Jason Lee as a coach?
He’s a great coach. He’s new to the set-up, which I think helps as it’s a clean slate for everyone. He’s going to be in my ear because there are a lot of things I need to improve on. I don’t have any hard feelings though; I think it’s fantastic to be pushed by such a great coach.

What would you like to achieve in hockey?
I’d like to have a positive impact on the team, and play well regularly in the senior squad. Obviously the ultimate aim is to go to Rio – that would be absolutely fantastic.

There is a bit of an age gap between you and some of the squad. How does that go down in terms of, say, musical taste?
They never judge me, fortunately! It is quite funny sometimes because I often don’t know the singers they are talking about, but everyone gets on so well it can be quite fun. I’m trying to get them to listen to more Eminem though.

So you don’t have a problem with Alex Danson and her listening to endless S Club 7?
I was in the car with her the other day when she had it on; everyone loves a bit of S Club! I’ve seen them live, so I can’t really say anything to Alex!

You can find more interviews from Ross Bone at www.thetopofthed.com