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Archive for November 21, 2019

Nov. 21, 2019 — Issue 1

Time was, the USA Field Hockey’s Board of Directors would meet four times a year, with an Annual General Meeting scheduled to coincide with either the NCAA Final Four or the National Festival.

There’s likely to be an Annual General Meeting scheduled in a few days, and there is a clear top item on the agenda.

Sometime last Saturday, a few as-yet unidentified members of the U.S. women’s and men’s national field hockey teams drafted a petition, demanding the Board of Directors to take on a full review of the governing body’s “decisions and actions that directly relate to high performance.”

The petition, as of 1:30 a.m. Eastern time on Thursday, has received more than 4,100 signatures.

To give you perspective, that’s more than the petitions to save Rhode Island, Philadelphia University, and Pacific University’s field hockey programs combined.

The petition lays out a number of grievances. While not of the lurid nature of lawsuits which are flying around USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Figure Skating Association, and even allegations today surrounding figures in the U.S. Equestrian Federation, what is in the petition are serious charges, most of which has not been able to independently corroborate.

Amongst these is what we discussed yesterday, the fact that the current outdoor pitch at Spooky Nook is not FIH-compliant. The petition, however, uses the word “condemned” when discussing the condition of the outdoor turf, which is at odds with FIH comments made yesterday to The LNP.

“FIH comments on Spooky Nook Sports did include a reference to the stability of camera positions, which was not good enough for the required broadcast production quality, but not to safety,” said Nicolas Maingot of FIH to the LNP.

Parenthetically, the NCAA is planning to use that very competition surface tomorrow and Sunday (weather permitting) to determine the Division III national champion, has learned.

Other charges detailed in the petition are as follows:

  • Inadequate nutrition (the petition cites “rotten food, under-cooked food, and low-quality food”
  • A lack of central meeting space for the men’s national field hockey team
  • A lack of a high-performance director
  • The lack of ancillary coaching such as a technical staff, video analysis, and medical staff (more specific for the men’s national program)
  • A need for equal medical insurance between the men’s and women’s national sides
  • Budgetary support to achieve high-performance plans for the men’s and women’s sides

The petition says that, because previous high-performance standards have not been met, the quality of player reaching the senior team is less than it used to be. Worse, players are not committing to more than one Olympic cycle because of an inadequate quality of life.

The petition’s demand, it says here, is not going far enough. There must be serious corrective action.

At this moment, on the cusp of the 100th anniversary of the United States’ first international Test, it’s time for wholesale changes in the national governing body’s governance, leadership, and infrastructure.

These changes cannot be made at the edges of the organization: it requires a holistic approach based on different metrics as well as new and better fundraising. There’s no reason, for example, for the U.S. women’s national team to sell toy bears and rubber bracelets in order to make enough money to go to an international tournament.

But all that begins with leadership. USA Field Hockey needs someone like a Bill Belichick, a Joe Gibbs, or a Roger Penske — a president or executive director who is masterful at surrounding themselves with the right people, focused on one goal: winning.

Which certainly isn’t happening now.