'It's all worth it when they achieve their dreams' - Letchworth siblings captain Cambridge University netball team and keep goal for England
PUBLISHED: 09:55 21 February 2017
Tom Smith of Letchworth is an extremely proud father - not only is his daughter captain of Cambridge University's Varsity netball team, he also has a son who plays in goal for England.
Hayley Smith, 20, is set to captain Cambridge in the Varsity match against Oxford this Saturday – barely a week after her shot-stopping brother, also called Tom, kept a clean sheet for England’s under-15 football team.
And Tom Smith the father – who lives in Sollershott East and confesses to being a ‘mad sports guy’ – said seeing his kids achieve their dreams made all the long evenings in the pouring rain worthwhile.
“We are a very sporty family and there isn’t a sport we haven’t tried,” said 50-year-old Tom, whose children have all gone to Stevenage’s John Henry Newman School.
“My wife Diane is a super badminton player, and my 18-year-old middle son James won many awards playing football, swimming and squash – but is more focused now on his academic studies.
“I am a mad sports guy and regularly swim, cycle and golf – but footy is no more after my 50th birthday testimonial last May, which the Comet covered.
“We are very proud of them – and all those evenings and weekends in the pouring rain, long drives to training and matches, are all worth it when you see them reach their potential and achieve their dreams.”
The younger Tom Smith started playing football in the under-6s with Ashwell Academicals, before playing for Stevenage Borough Juniors as an under-7 and Cambridge United as an under-8 in their under-9s team.
He was initially a left-winger, but his heart was on playing in goal – and it was Cambridge United who put him permanently between the sticks.
“His passion for goalkeeping was helped by his elder brother always telling him to go in goal for shooting practice,” his father said.
While with Stevenage, Tom – who, like his father, supports Leeds – was scouted by Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at under-9 level, and he chose to join the Gunners at the urging of scout Brian Stapleton.
Tom attended England training and selection camps in August and October last year, and was picked to play in goal for the under-15s against Belgium at St George’s Park in Burton last Thursday.
He kept a clean sheet in a very tight match as the Three Lions ran out 1-0 winners.
You will still often see Tom and his dad at Letchworth’s Baldock Road park on a Sunday afternoon, practising his kicking skills.
Hayley, who has already played in two Varsity netball matches, started playing the sport as a 10-year-old at St John’s RC Primary School in Baldock, and has since played for Turnford Netball Club and England Netball’s East of England academy.
She said: “Cambridge have had a superb season, winning the Midlands 1A league and remaining unbeaten. We’ll now be competing in the play-offs for a place in the national Premier League for the first time in over a decade.
“Since Oxford were relegated to the league below Cambridge last season, the Varsity match will be the first time Cambridge and Oxford face each other on the netball court.
“Cambridge netballers have been training incredibly hard this season, and I am confident that the light blues will bring their A-game to the Varsity match.”
The Varsity netball match is being played at the University of Cambridge Sports Centre at 1.30pm this Saturday.