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Archive for December 20, 2018

Dec. 20, 2018 — When numbers and money don’t make sense

In men’s field hockey, the roster of World Cup and Olympic winners have been the same seven-nation hegemony since 1971.

That is, until Rio 2016 and Bhubaneswar 2018.

After Argentina’s debut on top of the medal stand two years ago as the de facto host team, a new World Cup champion was crowned over the weekend. Belgium, a nation of 11 million, about the size of Ohio, beat Holland 3-2 in a penalty shootout after a goalless draw.

Seven years ago, Belgium’s men’s team was ranked 12th in the FIH World Rankings, which pretty much left them out of consideration for the Champions Trophy or a favorable seed for a major tournament.

But, according to ESPN.com, a “carefully planned out youth development program” through the Belgian Hockey Association, started bolstering the fortunes of the junior national team, which eventually got the senior national team going. Indeed, just two years ago, Belgium took second place to Argentina in the Olympic final.

This time around, in the knockout phase of the competition, the Reds were dominant, beating Pakistan 5-0 and England 6-0 on the way to the Grand Final.

The foe in that final were Belgium’s northern neighbors. With both teams playing lockdown defense in regulation, it took six rounds of the breakaway drill in order for the Red Lions to win, and thereby vault into the No. 1 slot in the FIH World Rankings.

Let’s focus you in on this again. Belgium is the size of Ohio, yet they were able to target their resources and players towards winning efforts at two consecutive world tournaments and become the best nation on earth in the sport on the men’s side.

I think it’s high time for those in charge of the sport in other nations, especially those with advantages in population, resources, and especially coaching know-how, to learn from the Belgium Hockey Association.

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