TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

March 6, 2015 — Moving beyond miracles

Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. men’s national field hockey team saw one of its two avenues to qualification to the 2016 Olympics cut off with a 2-1 loss to Austria in the quarterfinals of World League Round 2.

The defeat puts the United States in the losers’ bracket of the classification round, and the Americans cannot qualify for the third round of the World League, during which the qualification berths for Rio 2016 will be doled out.

Now, the other avenue for the U.S. men’s national team for making the Olympics is the rather Herculean task of winning the Pan American Games in Toronto this summer — yep, on Canadian soil.

It’s pretty well established now that the U.S. men’s national field hockey program requires more than just training and scrimmages to excel on the international level and to even make the field for international tournaments such as the Olympics and the World Cup. It would require a convergence of some very fortunate events, such as being drawn in the correct pool and positioning in the knockout rounds.

So, what’s it going to take in order for the U.S. men’s program to make real progress on the international level? As this space said back in 1999, it’s going to take a grass-roots movement to get boys’ field hockey in the schools, and men’s field hockey in university athletic programs.

I also think it’s going to take a redoubling of outreach on the part of the people who run field hockey in the United States. The model that U.S. Lacrosse has done in terms of tripling the footprint of the sport the last 20 years needs to be studied and adopted.

In addition, there needs to be an outreach into other stick-and-ball sports such as Dek hockey, ball hockey, roller hockey, and even lacrosse to find athletic types with great hand-eye coordination.

It’s also going to take constant reminders that field hockey is neither gender-normative nor gender-specific. USA Field Hockey needs to raise its voice when a state governing body looks to restrict or ban boys from playing field hockey at any level.

But I also think that the United States Olympic Committee needs to show some leadership in this regard — not only by correcting state athletic governing bodies, but helping to grow the game through its marketing assets and through helping establish the same kind of club infrastructure that made the United States a world gymnastics power in less than two decades.

It is notable, however, that while U.S. gymnastics has caught and surpassed former Eastern Bloc countries on the women’s side the last few years, men’s gymnastics is dying on the vine in its developmental structure. Only a handful of schools contest the sport on the NCAA level.

Sound familiar?

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