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Archive for September 26, 2017

BULLETIN: Sept. 26, 2017 — An appreciation: Bobby Issar, attacking midfielder, United States

One in an occasional series.

Bobby Issar, who died this morning after a massive heart attack last week, had a varied and rich field hockey life.

He was a United States international player and a well-respected coach. He was an untiring advocate for the sport as well as a tenacious gadfly who spoke up when he saw something wrong. He was conservative in some of his methods, but he was unafraid to test new methods in order to improve his players.

And it was within these contrasts where he made his career as a builder and developer in the sport, especially at the club level.

Years before names such as WC Eagles, XCalibur, IFHCK, Texas Pride, and Saints came to define the field hockey club culture in this country, there were the Spirit Eagles.

The Spirit Eagles were an offshoot of an organization called Spirit of USA Hockey Club, and it was that club, back in 1992, which helped form the first U-16 national select team to travel to Holland for an Easter field hockey tournament.

But it was after a mid-decade split amongst organizers, leading to the formation of the Spirit Eagles, when Issar was able to truly put his stamp on the game of indoor field hockey in the States.

There were immediate dividends in 1997, when his indoor team won its pool with a 56-1 goal differential. Two future members of the senior women’s national team were in the side: Carla Tagliente and Robyn Kenney.

He would later introduce trainers from the world of American football to help with plyometrics and biomechanics, trying to get his players to find that extra edge in speed and body control on the pitch. The emphasis on this kind of sport-specific training is widely credited for the reason why some field hockey clubs routinely dominate their opponents.

Always the forward thinker, Issar tried to figure out ways to qualify not just his elite team, but multiple teams to the National Indoor Tournament, much like the way that today’s superclubs will often send up to a dozen or more teams around the country trying to place in the various qualifiers. Indeed, in one NIT qualifier tournament he hosted back in 1998, the Spirit Eagles player pool furnished seven out of 16 teams in the field.

Behind all of that thinking was one saying, which is prominently displayed on the Spirit Eagles website:

“I’m of the belief that winners are made, not born. Kids most times will always try to do it right; in field hockey you must have someone who can show them the right way to do it and how to correct it.”

If you ever talked to Issar on the sidelines of a game, it’s the last clause that really has driven him to try to get his peers to improve and grow the game by “doing it right.”

He left the question, “What is the right way?” to the listener, because “the right way” evolved as the game has evolved away from mulberry and leather and grass to carbon fiber, plastic, and an increasing number of water-based turf pitches.

And Issar knew that the game was not being taught correctly in the years between the Los Angeles and Atlanta Olympics, having seen aggressive “big ball” players not have even the basic skill necessary for receiving the ball on turf. Frequently, he lambasted people in positions of authority within the United States Field Hockey Association for not recognizing the skills gap until only the last decade or so when the States started qualifying for the Olympics and World Cups on a regular basis.

Issar had basis for his critiques. He was an attacking midfielder for the United States men’s national team program in the 1980s, and he developed an enviable skill set that he exhibited at various adult competitions such as the National Sports Festival, the North East Field Hockey Association, or at the Garden State Games.

It was a December night in the mid-1990s when Issar was at his particular best, even after a decade away from Test hockey. Back then, the Spirit of USA adult team was invited to scrimmage the U.S. senior women’s national team at “A”-Camp, which, back then, was an annual affair with year-long tenure rather than holding selection camp just a few weeks before a particular tournament.

The scene was the indoor football practice dome at Rutgers University’s Busch Campus. Nobody knew what the score was, or particularly cared. The few invited spectators relished the chance to watch the highest level of field hockey in the absence of boutique networks carried over broadband or the internet.

I can still see the play: Issar had the ball about 40 yards from goal on the left wing, and advanced into the circle. On the dead run, he flicked his wrists with the shaft of the stick more or less perpendicular to the ground, and the ball went into the cage under the crossbar.

To this day, it’s the finest goal I’ve ever witnessed live.

It’s been said that the loss of Issar is going to leave a huge hole in field hockey in the United States.

Actually, I disagree. Over the last three decades, the number of number of clubs with roots in the Spirit Eagles has numbered nearly two dozen. Former coaches with Spirit Eagles as well as alumnae have started their own indoor teams which have competed at the highest levels of USFHA national tournaments.

It’s for this reason that Issar’s impact will be felt for a very long time.

Sept. 26, 2017 — Top 10 for the week of Sept. 24

Despite a number of challenges last weekend, our Top 10 holds station for this week. But that all could change by the end of this week because of some more important early matches. I can’t remember a September with more potentially important games than this year.

Our honorary No. 11 team of the week is Amherst (Mass.) Regional. Despite having a pair of collegiate programs for role-modeling, the Hurricanes have not had much luck in the game of field hockey the last three years. But with a 3-0 win over Turners Falls Franklin Tech (Mass.), Amherst snapped a 39-game losing streak.

1. Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.) 9-0

Donegal got by Plymouth Wyoming Valley West (Pa.) in overtime, and plays the Falcon Invitational this weekend at Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)

2. North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 9-0

West Essex outpointed Ocean City (N.J.) 5-2 over the weekend; the Essex County Tournament looms ahead

3. Mamaroneck (N.Y.) 6-0

The Tigers will have an interesting encounter with Scarsdale (N.Y.) before the Saturday showdown with Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.)

4. San Diego Serra (Calif.) 13-0

Serra won its own invitational tournament with three more shutouts; the Conquistadors have conceded exactly one goal this season

5. Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.) 9-0

Not to be outdone, Lakeland has shut out every opponent thus far whilst scoring 63 times

6. Emmaus (Pa.) 10-0

Also not to be outdone, Emmaus has shut out nine opponents and scored 93 goals, conceding just one

7. Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.) 11-0

Outscored its opposition 83-3 headed into last night’s showdown with Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.)

8T. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 6-0-1

Jessica Maute and Kara Heck are leading the way on attack; the team is also using a pair of goalkeepers to try to keep opposing shot attempts at bay

8T. Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 5-0-1

The Royals have nine seniors on the roster, and plenty of attacking talent; Gabby Andretta and Ali McCarthy, as younger sisters are wont to do, are playing sensational hockey

10. Norfolk (Va.) Academy (Va.) 8-0

The Bulldogs host Richmond Trinity Episcopal (Va.) in what could be a bellweather game for the VISAA Division I tournament

11.  Amherst (Mass.) Regional 1-5

Rachel Kawall, Lindsey Campbell and Sora Green had the goals for the Hurricanes in the win over Franklin Tech

Who’s out: None.

And bear in mind: Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.) 6-1, Glastonbury (Conn.) 5-0, Delmar (Del.) 5-0, Christian Academy of Louisville (Ky.) 13-3-2, Louisville Assumption (Ky.) 13-2, Wrentham King Philip Regional (Mass.) 6-0, Belmont (Mass.) 4-0, Hummelstown Lower Dauphin (Pa.) 6-1, West Lawn Wilson (Pa.) 11-0, Oley (Pa.) Valley 10-1, Wilkes-Barre Holy Redeemer (Pa.) 5-0, Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 8-0, Chantilly Westfield (Va.) 10-0