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Archive for October 30, 2017

Oct. 30, 2017 — The best strategic move?

The month of October featured a pair of important tournaments on the men’s international calendar for the United States.

The States could have participated in the senior men’s Pan American Hockey Federation indoor qualifier for next year’s Indoor World Cup, but chose not to field a team.

Instead, the United States decided to field and fund a U-21 national team to play in Malaysia at the Sultan of Johor Cup. It was a team which, according to more than one source, went into the competition with a short roster.

I don’t know whether it was because the decision of USA Field Hockey was on short notice or because the players perhaps knew what they were going to be in for at the competition.

What happened was this:

Australia 19, USA 0
Great Britain 11, USA 0
India 22, USA 0
Malaysia 18, USA 0
Japan 14, USA 0
Japan 11, USA 0

This, remember, is men’s field hockey, a game where goals are supposed to be a bit less rare than in soccer, but a sport where a gulf in form or preparation is duly exploited and punished.

But there’s something about the way that the situation with the men’s U-21s was handled that has not gone over well with members of the U.S. men’s field hockey community. Every aspect of our nation’s participation in the Johor Cup — from player selection to the selection of this tournament to situational play during games — has been combed over and criticized with the same level of detail reserved for sports talk radio in major American cities.

If you want a look, it’s there on social media. And, for the most part, these people are right. Despite the best efforts of coaching and technical staff, it’s hard to train up players who do not have regular domestic competition for a tournament at this level.

In a sense, the tribulations of being a male field hockey player in the United States are beginning to hit the mainstream. But given the fact that there is still no varsity field hockey for boys’ only or men’s only teams in the U.S., that mainstream is still very, very far away.

And frankly, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened more times in recent years.