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Archive for September 22, 2018

Sept. 22, 2018 — The mental game

Last Saturday, the Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) field hockey team held a 5-1 lead heading into the last three minutes of play, then surrendered two quick goals that led to not only a late timeout, but certainly a change in the postgame team talk.

On Monday, Hershey (Pa.) held a 4-1 halftime lead before giving up three in the second half in a 6-4 victory, a development which also likely changed the tenor and tone of the postgame talk.

Field hockey, for all of the stick skills and physical fitness that is ever-present in today’s game, is, above all, a mental game. The best players play from the shoulders up, rather than the other way around.

Indeed, when it comes to the scoring list accompanying this space, I’ve noticed certain traits about the young women who have exceeded the 200-goal barrier in the last few years. Austyn Cuneo, Mackenzie Allessie, Meredith Sholder, and Haley Schleicher are all relentless, driven players for whom the time on the clock and the game situation are irrelevant.

That is, at least until their team is behind. Then, they redouble their efforts.

I remember watching one Emmaus (Pa.) game a few years ago when the Hornets were being frustrated by Stroudsburg (Pa.) for the first several minutes of the match. But sometime late in the first half, there was a redirect of a penalty corner which saw the ball fall to Sholder, who accelerated on her curving run into space.

I was on the endline of Memorial Field and said to a couple of people I was talking to, “This is a goal.” Seconds later, the ball hit the backboard.

I’m hoping that these four are leading a generation of player into the high-performance pool who will change the collective mental makeup of the U.S. national team and change its culture.

It’s a culture which, at one time, led to a team which opened a spanking-new hockey pitch in Virginia Beach playing South Africa to within a goal in the final five minutes, only to collapse in the final minutes, conceding a pair of late goals.

The U.S. head coach at the time was replaced 18 months later.

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