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Archive for November, 2018

Nov. 30, 2018 — The Findlay Prep of academic subjects?

Over the last 20 years or so, shoe companies, would-be sports agents, and AAU basketball coaches have stood accused of academic fraud by setting up sham schools in places from North Carolina to Nevada where the only students in the school happen to be the school’s basketball team.

We figured it was only a matter of time before this kind of conspiracy would occur in a non-academic setting, and this story dropped this morning in The New York Times (possible paywall).

While the focus by many will be on the physical abuse charges, or criticism over the use of stereotypes to gain favor in the acceptance process for minority and poor children in the deep South, I’d look a little closer at the bigger picture when it comes to the academic fraud.

You see, I’ve always asked one question when it comes to some of the draconian steps that schools and school districts have taken when it comes to determining eligibility for student-athletes. The question is, would the same kind of scrutiny (and thereby taxpayer dollars) be spent investigating star chemistry students, trombone players, or singers in the glee club?

The problem is, sadly, there are investigations going on into some of those, too. The District of Columbia quietly released a progress report on an investigation into the families of some 219 children at Duke Ellington School, a magnet school for the performing arts. However, the body running the investigation had to admit that more than 65 percent of them were actually eligible after spending spent untold amounts of money.

And so it goes.

Nov. 29, 2018 — The effects of foreign players in American collegiate field hockey

Today, Shippensburg’s field hockey team won its NCAA Division II national semifinal 4-0 over West Chester University on a magnificent four-goal effort by sophomore Jazmin Petrantonio, who is from Argentina.

In the second game, East Stroudsburg beat Pace 3-0 thanks in part to an assist from Celeste Veenstra, who is from Holland.

The last few years have been a collective high-water mark for foreign athletes in NCAA field hockey. And not only has it been their mere presence on rosters, but the importance of the players within their teams.

Connecticut, for example, had the finest player in the country last year, Charlotte Veitner from Germany. This year, UConn had a strong foreign presence with six of its top eight scorers coming from foreign lands.

Maryland, the national runners-up, had a three out of its top five scorers from outside the United States. North Carolina, the champions, may have had its top two scorers from the U.S. women’s national team (Erin Matson and Ashley Hoffman), but four out of their next six point-scorers were from outside the United States.

Indeed, when you look at the 18 rosters that made the Division I tournament after Selection Sunday, there were 120 foreign players.

The last couple of years, the all-American teams chosen by the National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association have leaned heavily on foreign athletes. When you look at the 160 players chosen for the all-regional Division I teams, 87 players are from outside the United States.

There has been a little bit of imitation on the part of other divisions, as more foreign athletes have infiltrated Division II and III rosters.

Question is, should the NCAA do something about it? Is it in the interest of the people who run collegiate sports in the United States to limit participation by foreign players?

The answer, I think, is no. But that includes a big “however” attached to it.

The “however” can be boiled down to the following: it’s possible to go to the well once too often in order to find the one talismanic player (such as a Charlotte Veitner, a Marina DiGiacomo, or a Paula Infante) who can affect a team’s fortunes.

In addition, foreign influences in college sports have risen and waned over the years. In basketball, there used to be a lot of players from Europe and Africa on Division I rosters, but with the rise of Eurobasket and the quintupling in size of the National Basketball Developmental League, a lot of those players have gone those routes to develop their skills.

In ice hockey, Canadian influence has risen and waned on both the men’s and women’s sides, and it is notable that one route to quickly build a women’s team, especially when it comes to sides like Niagara and Mercyhurst, is to stack a team with Canadians.

In soccer, foreign players used to be on top rosters, but the club system in Europe and in Latin America has taken a number of the best foreign talent and gotten them to play on professional teams as teenagers. Heck, look at Mallory Pugh, who should be a junior at UCLA right now, but is playing for the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.

And if you want a look at the waning of foreign influence in an NCAA sport, look at women’s lacrosse. Yes, you have a significant Canadian influence that is beginning to evince itself through the heroics of Selena Lasota and Danita Stroup. But have you seen members of the English and Australian junior national teams on Division I rosters recently? I haven’t. Maryland, which made it a habit of recruiting from foreign lands, did not have a single foreign player last spring.

And when you look at the rosters of the two teams — Boston College and James Madison — that competed in the last Division I final, there wasn’t a foreign player on those rosters, either.

Somewhere along the line, I think, there was a diminishment of returns when it came to foreign recruiting, that it is harder to get players to commit to the Division I lifestyle with strong club programs at home.

Or maybe coaches in some sports eventually realized that good coaching isn’t all about finding players who are already good, but instead is about molding what comes into the university setting into a good team.

Nov. 28, 2018 — The mistakes brought on by misunderstanding

One year ago, a parent of two Division I field hockey players started a treatment at a major American teaching hospital involving stem cells, the cells in our bodies from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated.

Today, the parent reports being in good health.

It was not so long ago that stem cells were the source of immense controversy in the medical and scientific communities, to the point where President George W. Bush banned federal funding for new lines of stem cell research in 2001, putting the U.S. behind many Asian countries, notably Japan, China, and Korea, in terms of research and development of stem cell treatment.

The ban was lifted by the Obama administration nine years ago.

This week, there has been a firestorm over a presentation made at a three-day conference on genome editing by Jiankui He, an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology. He claims to have edited the genetic code of two baby girls born to an HIV-positive father and an HIV-negative mother, so that the children would be immune to HIV.

The firestorm in the news media has been one-sided, and somewhat predictable. Science journalism is a lost art in the United States, with almost no newspapers in the United States maintaining a science desk or a science bureau. The number of registered science writers has dropped by about 10 percent from 2007 to 2018, many of whom have hung out their own shingle in order to promote the free flow of science information.

Indeed, the firestorm is being promulgated by the same talking heads who breathlessly talk about plane crashes and email servers without expertise, context, and perspective.

The negative publicity about He’s research, I posit, needs to be viewed from the perspective of the nationalism of scientific research. Two-thirds of Chinese, according to one on-line poll, support the need for gene-editing in order to treat or prevent diseases. And the Chinese government has been listening: state-sponsored genomic research totaled more than a quarter of a trillion dollars last year.

China has been trying to catch up to the United States in the field of genetic editing, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether this same kind of outrage would have been sparked in American media if this kind of research on actual embryos was being done at Stanford or Harvard.

It would appear, despite the head-shaking over in-vitro fertilization 40 years ago, or stem cells 15 years ago, or gene-editing today, that the technology is here, and it’s time to get used to it.

It might save lives.

 

Nov. 27, 2018 — Nature 1, field hockey 0

This evening, the United States got by Belgium in the second of a three-Test series in Lancaster, Pa., thanks to a late Kat Sharkey goal.

But the 900 or so spectators saw something that few probably have ever seen: an FIH-sanctioned match which was played both in the open air and in a climate-controlled dome.

The game started on the Spooky Nook outdoor pitch under cold and slightly blustery conditions. Condensation from either the air or from previous waterings of the turf led to slick patches on the turf, necessitating the move of the proceedings indoors.

Spooky Nook’s domed field had already made some history just this past weekend, as it was the site of the NCAA Division III Final Four.

Also making some history was the unheralded Danielle Gerga, who had an enormous impact on the contest. The forward from Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) and Old Dominion University had a goal in the first 30 seconds, rivaling the goal that Melissa Gonzalez scored at Rio 2016 against Japan in just 16 seconds.

Kelsey Bing, late of Stanford University, had a number of key saves in the final quarter to keep the Red Panthers off the board.

The series is tied at one game apiece, with the third match scheduled for Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. The game-time temperature, according to a cursory look at the hourly predictions from The Weather Channel, will be 36 degrees with a feels-like temperature of about 30.

Nov. 26, 2018 — The latest in a dark history

NOTE: If you’re reading this and you’re a minor, you may want to have an adult with you whilst reading the below:


This morning, Matthew Duckworth, the head field hockey coach at New Kent (Va.), was arrested after a grand jury indictment on five counts of use of communications systems to facilitate certain offenses involving children.

Duckworth is the latest in a series of field hockey figures over the last 11 years to face morals charges involving students. He apparently is charged with various offenses involving the same student, who is now, according to reports, 16 years of age. These offenses go back to, according to one media report, 2008, when he attempted to hug the student during a fire drill.

Duckworth had reportedly been removed from his coaching and teaching positions within the school district Sept. 25th. The team went 7-10 on the season with an interim head coach.

Nov. 25, 2018 — Burning off the chaff

Today, the first round of the NCAA Division II field hockey tournament took place at campus sites in Shippensburg, Pa. and Pleasantville, N.Y.

The results today put the host teams, Pace and Shippensburg, into the Final Four alongside the two teams which were selected last weekend to be there, East Stroudsburg and West Chester.

What I’ll remember about these two games, however, is how much better the winners were than the unlucky visitors. Shippensburg scored the first four goals in the first 50 minutes of their 4-1 win over Merrimack, and Pace ran out the first four goals in the first 40 minutes of a 6-1 win over St. Anselm.

Usually, if you’re running a championship tournament, you’re running that balance between rewarding the higher seeds and ensuring competitive games throughout. But, as we noted a couple of years ago when analyzing the trends in the PIAA field hockey tournament over the years, it is an inexact science. And this especially goes in a bracket which has only six qualifiers.

This week, we’ll see whether the tournament committee has done its best by its seedings when the games begin at Duquesne University.

Nov. 24, 2018 — A concerning trend, or is it?

This past week, the United States U-17 women’s national soccer team crashed out of the U-17 World Cup in South America.

For a nation which has won the senior women’s World Cup on three occasions, and which are the current cupholders, this should be a concerning development.

But at the U-17 level, this kind of performance is expected. Look at what the U-17 women’s national team has done the last several cycles:

2008: Silver medal
2010: Failed to qualify
2012: Group stage
2014: Failed to qualify
2016: Group stage
2018: Group stage

Yep, so it’s been a decade since the U-17 women’s national soccer team has played a knockout game at a Women’s World Cup. And on that 2008 side were only a few players who are recognizable names today, such as Morgan Brian, Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, and Kristie Mewis.

U.S. Soccer has reacted to this, but only in recent years. This is the second year of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, which has scooped up much of the best talent and placed them on teams which are together 11 months out of the year. But this year, the competing Elite Clubs National League has benefitted from a number of clubs defecting from the Development Academy.

Whether the benefits of having so many players in year-round competition will lead to success at the national level is anyone’s guess. The thing is, it’s hard to manifacture the kind of passion and desire that the likes of Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Carli Lloyd, and Michelle Akers have shown over the years. Most of these players were relatively late bloomers, even though Hamm and Lloyd had celebrated scholastic careers.

In other words, I think it’s a fool’s errand to think you can manufacture the next Hamm or Lloyd in a domestic youth league of any sort — DA, ENCL, or the NCAA. It takes players who are used to being in a professional environment, having to earn their place on the team on a daily basis.

In other words, I think there are going to be a lot more Mallory Pughs who skip college altogether to play for an NWSL team.

Nov. 23, 2018 — Friday Statwatch for games played through Nov. 18

Hi, all. It’s yet another dive into the world of field hockey statistics, where there is plenty to absorb from the past season.

We talked about the 100-100 club this past week, but we’d like to acknowledge the 30-30 players from this past year, which include the following:

G-A Name School
48-41 Riley Baughman Emmaus PA
36-35 Emma DeBerdine Millersville Penn Manor PA
40-36 Ellie Decker North Caldwell West Essex NJ
42-30 Kara Heck Voorhees Eastern NJ
43-35 Julianna Kratz Flourtown Mount St. Joseph Academy PA
37-33 Evelyn Murray Virginia Beach First Colonial VA

But the real interesting thing is how one team almost put three people in that list. Los Gatos (Calif.) currently has the longest unbeaten streak in scholastic field hockey, with 112 matches. The Cats had three seniors who were just shy of the 30-30 club: Olivia Fox (29 goals, 33 assists), Eva Vrijen (28-30), and Natalie Deck (24-32).

What you see below is our last weekly Statwatch, thanks in part to, amongst others, MaxPreps, 757Teamz.com, Advance Media, PennLive.com, The LNP Media Group, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, PhilaFieldHockey.com, and the Washington Post.

I encourage the use of the easy-to-use MaxPreps.com website to report statistics. It is easy for the average coach, athletic director, or student managers to register for the MaxPreps.com platform, and we encourage you to get your fellow teams as well as perhaps your conference, league, or your state governing body to enter field hockey information there, so that we can aim for as complete a statistical picture of the country as possible.

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, SEASON
124 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
59 Charlotte de Vries, Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.)
58 Sophia Gladieux, Oley (Pa.) Valley
58 Megan Salsinha, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)
55 Hope Rose, Harrisburg Central Dauphin (Pa.)

49 Sara Stone, San Diego Westview (Calif.)
48 Lauren Curran, Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.)
48 Peyton Halsey, Reading Exeter (Pa.)
48 Riley Baughman, Emmaus (Pa.)
47 Reagan Bonniwell, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
46 Elle Maransky, Flourtown Mount St. Joseph Academy (Pa.)
46 Hannah Miller, Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.)
45 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
44 Megan Connors, San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.)
44 Ryleigh Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)

44 Lily Santi, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.)
44 Abby Asuncion, Sterling Potomac Falls (Va.)

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, SEASON
45 Cami Crook, Somerset Berkley (Mass.)
41 Riley Baughman, Emmaus (Pa.)
40 Ali Goodwin, Gloucester (Va.)

36 Ellie Decker, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.)
35 Julianna Kratz, Flourtown Mount St. Joseph Academy (Pa.)
35 Emma DeBerdine, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
33 Olivia Fox, Los Gatos (Calif.)
33 Evelyn Murray, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
32 Natalie Deck, Los Gatos (Calif.)
31 Sarah Beers, Oley (Pa.) Valley
30 Kara Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
30 Eva Vrijen, Los Gatos (Calif.)
29 Zoe Snook, Louisville Assumption (Ky.)
28 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
28 Hannah Hartwell, Delsea (N.J.)
28 Annika Herbine, Emmaus (Pa.)
26 Isabella Bressler, Reading Berks Catholic (Pa.)
26 Abby Playle, San Jose Leigh (Calif.)
26 Josie Rossbach, Leesburg Heritage (Va.)
26 India Reed, Louisville duPont Manual (Ky.)
26 Madison Kline, Oley (Pa.) Valley

INDIVIDUAL GOALS, CAREER
351 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
191 Charlotte de Vries, Virginia Beach Cape Henry Academy (Va.) and Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.)*
180 Paityn Wirth, Millerstown Greenwood (Pa.)
179 Sammy Popper, Fort Washington Germantown Academy (Pa.)
173 Charlotte de Vries, Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.)**
156 Kara Heck, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)
141 Emma DeBerdine, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
140 Sophia Gladieux, Oley (Pa.) Valley
127 Gabby Bitts, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
126 Raegan Hickey, Greenfield (Mass.)
112 Lily Saunders, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
109 Reagan Bonniwell, Virginia Beach First Colonial (Va.)
106 Peyton Halsey, Reading Exeter (Pa.)
105 Allison Sabb, Ann Arbor (Mich.) Huron
100 Kenzi Thompson, West Chester (Pa.) East
100 Lauren Curran, Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.)
* — five-year varsity career
** — four-year varsity career

INDIVIDUAL ASSISTS, CAREER
136 Mackenzie Allessie, Mount Joy Donegal (Pa.)
103 Emma DeBerdine, Millersville Penn Manor (Pa.)
96 Cami Crook, Somerset-Berkley (Mass.)

90 Charlotte de Vries, Virginia Beach Cape Henry Academy (Va.) and Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.)*
* — five-year varsity career

GAMES UNDEFEATED
112 Los Gatos (Calif.)

CONSECUTIVE WINS
57 Brattleboro Bellows Falls Union (Vt.)
39 North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (Calif.)

Given the number of sources I have to cover each week, this list is not perfect. And here is where you come in. If you see something missing, feel free to send us an email at TopOfTheCircle.com.

Give us a name or a bit of documentation (a website will do) so that we can make the adjustment in time for the Final Statwatch in December.

Nov. 22, 2018 — Giving thanks

This afternoon, field hockey player Mikaela McNeil of Lagrangeville Arlington Central (N.Y.) will be spending Thanksgiving with a very special extended family. Stephen Haynes, who has done excellent work for Newsday in the past, has the story in The Poughkeepsie Journal.

Nov. 21, 2018 — Is men’s field hockey in the United States being consumed from the inside?

About two months ago, a letter from a member of the U.S. men’s junior national field hockey team was shared with members of USA Field Hockey’s brass and board of directors. It was posted on social media a week ago.

The letter says a lot about the lack of strategic management of how young men are trained up to play at a high level of the game in the United States, and the level of dysfunction of men’s field hockey in the U.S. is laid open for all to see. Here is that letter:

… I am a long-time member of the USA Men’s Junior National Field Hockey team. I am writing this letter to bring to light some issues within the program that I and a number of other players have agreed are too significant to ignore. There are several other members of the JNT that have assisted me in writing this letter, however, they have chosen to remain anonymous due to a rational fear of retaliation from the coaching staff. First I’d like to bring attention to USA Field Hockey’s current mission statement. The elements of the statement are as follows:

  • Grow the Game by promoting and continuing to develop the sport for future generations to enjoy.
  • Serve Members by helping them achieve their field hockey ambition and creating value for continued membership.
  • Succeed Internationally with competitive success and enhanced performance programming.
  • Be an Effective Sport Leader by allocating its resources efficiently to Grow the Game, Serve Members and Succeed Internationally.

Our grievances begin at the fundamental level of communication between coaching staff and players. Many players, including myself, have been subject to a ludicrous lack of communication between ourselves and our coaching staff. Training session after training session we have been promised exclusive “one on one” meetings with the coaching staff to receive a more specific breakdown of our strengths and weaknesses on the field.

After almost 2 full years of player paid training as this team prepares for the 2020 Pan American Games, we have received no player-specific information of any kind. In addition to this, players who go out of their way to reach out to Rutger [Hauer, the team’s head coach] only get as far as his voicemail. The only players who are communicated with are those who are transitioning to the Men’s National Team. From our point of view, it is questionable whether or not the coaching staff is helping us achieve our field hockey ambitions and assisting us in developing our skills to become better players and, by extension, a better team.

In addition to this, the team chemistry has declined substantially as a result of the behaviors of the coaching staff. On the field, players as young as 15 years old are subjected to obscenities shouted at them, and this does nothing to guide or develop young players who have no other motivation to play field hockey than for the love of the game.

These mean and belittling comments are in direct contravention of the USOC SafeSport guidelines (which USA Field Hockey adheres to). During games, the coaching staff will punish those who make mistakes by benching them for the remainder of the match, and we receive no feedback or in-game opportunities to correct our mistakes.

However, not all players are treated this way. There are a select few who are given more breathing room and are communicated with on a level wildly disproportionate to the rest of the team. This only serves to split the team up and breed distrust and resentment towards other players and the coaching staff.

Lastly, I’d like to address what we have witnessed as a team in comparison to other national programs. We have had the opportunity to experience the team atmosphere around other successful national team programs throughout our time on the USAJNT.

For example, during the Three Nations Tournament that took place in May 2018, we had the opportunity to play against Japan and Ireland’s Junior National Teams. On the FIH world rankings they are ranked #16 and #10 respectively. After speaking with the members of Team Ireland and witnessing their and Japan’s demeanors around training and games, it became clearer that there are things we lack as a junior national team that we believe the coaching staff is responsible for: things such as communication, development of players, and creating a positive atmosphere to play hockey in are all on the list.

In our last series against Chile in August 2018, we had just lost a hard fought match 2-1. After the final whistle the members of our team and Team Chile came together to shake hands as usual after competition. Our head coach Rutger Wiese was so infuriated by the loss of a friendly match, that we were yelled at to come off the field and we were not allowed to shake hands with the Chileans. This blatant disregard for respect and sportsmanship from an international coach is frankly unacceptable and reflects badly on USA Field Hockey as a whole.

As young men playing field hockey in the USA, we want nothing more than a program that helps us maximize our playing potential, and allows us to enjoy playing the game at a high level. We’re hoping this letter can bring in a coaching staff that is willing to teach and develop players in a sport we are all passionate about.

After the sign-off block, the letter ends there.

Boys and young men have enough to worry about when it comes to the obstacles placed in their patch. Young men playing on scholastic teams are vilified for succeeding in their sport, such as what happened when Dennis-Yarmouth (Mass.) won the MIAA Division 1 field hockey title last weekend with two male players on the roster. No scholarships are available for male players in North America, and players often have to go live in Europe in order to pursue their national-team dream.

The last thing they need is resistance from the very sports federation that is tasked with helping them.