Just days after it was announced that Craig Parnham was leaving his post as head coach of the U.S. women’s national field hockey team, it was announced this afternoon that Chris Clements would be stepping down as coach of the U.S. men’s national team after one four-year cycle.
The men’s national team, which has not qualified on its own for an Olympics since 1956, continued the run of form during his tenure despite a training regimen and ethic encapsulated in the twitter hashtag #NoDaysOff. The slogan became a rallying cry for the diaspora of players who had to train and suffer on their own with little in the way of being able to measure themselves against other international sides except for scheduled continental and World League competitions.
Oddly enough, Clements exits his position a winner, as the Boys in Blue won their first-round World League tournament recently against the likes of Barbados, Mexico, and Guatemala. The new coach of the team will inherit that World League second-round berth for a tournament to be held in Trinidad and Tobago this coming March.
The tournament will be a baptism by fire for whoever comes in to coach the U.S. side. And, frankly, anyone chosen to coach the American men will have the usual obstacles. Even after initiatives announced by USA Field Hockey over the last half-decade, there are still no varsity men’s field hockey teams at any U.S. college, and no varsity boys’ field hockey teams at any U.S. secondary school.
Indeed, the opportunity for boys and young men to participate have actually regressed in the last four years.
This can’t necessarily be placed on Clements alone; it’s a lack of leadership amongst entrenched stakeholders in the game who have failed to realize that the quickest way to double the national footprint of the game nationwide is to add a boys’ field hockey team at a school currently having a girls’ team.
It’s easier said than done, for sure. But in an era when the concept of gender fluidity and the questioning of gender norms have entered in the national conversation, I think it’s about time to remove the phrase, “That’s not for you” from the language of sport.
Without that, the next coach will keep at his Sisyphian task of trying to improve an amateur national team with a Go Fund Me budget against well-sponsored foreign sides.
In short, business as usual.