Published: 00:00, 08 March 2019
Holcombe’s Izzy Shelley is believed to be the youngest girl in the country playing hockey at national league level.
The 15-year-old made her 1st XI debut on Saturday in a 4-1 Women’s Premier Division win over Slough.
“We’re really proud, it’s an amazing achievement,” said Izzy’s mother, Tracey. “It’s something that she’s been aiming for ever since she was a little girl.
“She was 15 two weeks ago, and you have to be a minimum of 15 to play – that’s the ruling.
“Over the course of the last season and this season she has played some training matches with the 1st XI and she went on their pre-season tour, but hasn’t played officially for them.
“As far as we know the only other club that has 15-year-olds registered is Surbiton but we don’t know if they are playing them or not.”
Izzy normally plays in midfield but was used up front in the 1st XI as they utilised her pace at the top of the pitch.
Holcombe has certainly been a major part of Izzy’s life.
She made her first visit to Holcombe when she was just three days old.
“Izzy was born into the club and has spent her life there basically,” explained Tracey, who met her husband Ian in the summer of 2000 when Rochester & Gillingham merged with Old Holcombeians to form Holcombe.
“Ian still plays for Holcs and helps coach junior hockey, where our son Alistair plays for the under-14 boys. I no longer play but have been a Holcombe umpire for men, women and juniors since 2001.”
Holcombe have become well known in recent seasons for bringing in stellar international names.
Maddie Hinch, Ashley Jackson and Barry Middleton are among the big names to have featured.
But rather than hinder her development, Izzy has used that quality to improve her game.
“At Holcombe, for a long while we didn’t have a lot of youth players,” added Tracey. “It’s taken a while to build the structure and bring them through the system.
“Izzy is one of the first ones and there are other players coming through behind her.
“We’ve got a number of Welsh internationals in the 1st XI and the captain Steph Elliott is a former England player so Izzy learns a lot from them.
“One of the big things for her is she used to be a ball girl for the 1st XI and she would study the players from the side of the pitch and pick up little things from that.”
The Invicta Grammar School pupil now has her sights set on featuring for Holcombe when they host the EuroHockey Club Trophy at Easter. Long-term goals, not surprisingly, include playing for England and Great Britain.
Izzy, who is in the regional performance squad, is not restricting herself just to hockey. She plays cricket for Kent at under-15 level and has also represented Kent in the English Schools Cross-Country Championships.
More by this authorMatthew Panting