This year has already proven to be one to remember for Lauren Hemp but 2017 could be about to get even better for the North Walsham footballer after she was shortlisted for SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award. Lauren, who plies her trade for Bristol City in FA WSL 1 when not on international duty with England, broke into the Vixens side in 2016, scoring on her debut.
This year, the 17-year-old was awarded the Vauxhall England Young Player of the Year award having captained her nation at the European Under-17 Championships. SportsAid’s One-to-Watch Award was launched in 2006 with double Olympic medallist and current diving world champion Tom Daley the inaugural winner. In addition to Daley, five of the other previous recipients of the award represented Great Britain across the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016.
Lauren is now in line to join such illustrious company as one of 10 nominees selected from over 1,000 rising British stars supported by SportsAid across more than 60 different sports. Dame Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, and five-time Paralympic champion Natasha Baker are among the panel of judges for the award.
The winner will be presented at the charity’s annual SportsBall on November 23 and Lauren couldn’t be more shocked to see her name on the shortlist. “I was over the moon when I was told, I was out in Kazakhstan with the England Under-19s squad so I was very pleased to hear the great news,” said Lauren, who has been supported by SportsAid in 2016 and 2017.
“SportsAid have helped me a lot with funding, helping me to pay for training, boots and accommodation because I’m currently living with a host family. It’s made me into a better player too, because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to do some of the things I am doing now. It gives me so much motivation because I know they are right behind me. It gives me the belief that they believe in me and my potential to be a really good athlete.”
In order to boost her development on the pitch, Lauren now lives in Bristol as she looks to continue her rise through the England ranks. And having relished every second of her time wearing the Under-17 armband, Hemp hopes further opportunities can come her way. “In September, I won England’s Young Player of the Year award for 2017 and I also captained the England Under-17s in the European Championships,” she said.
“We got through to the finals in the Czech Republic but we got knocked out in the group stages. It was such an honour to captain my country. Just to be playing on the pitch was amazing but to lead the squad gave me a sense of ownership and responsibility. It meant people looked up to me and I was a role model for the younger players in the squad.
"For Bristol, I’ve started all the games so far this season after scoring on my debut last year, so it’s going well. I’d love to play for the England seniors one day, but we’ll see what the future holds for me.”
The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s annual SportsBall in London on Thursday 23 November. All the funds raised from the SportsBall help to support the next generation of British athletes. Please visit www.sportsball.org.uk for ticket information.