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Jan. 14, 2022 — Another sudden departure, but one equally as awkward

The world’s most high-profile women’s field hockey coaching job is now open.

Alyson Annan, the former Hockeyroo who coached The Netherlands to championships in the FIH Pro League, the Olympics, and the World Cup, has left her post this week shortly after reports of a negative environment within the team has hit the news media.

To be specific, there were reports that there was unrest within the Oranje at Tokyo 2021, and the Royal Dutch Hockey Association underwent a three-month inquest into Annan’s coaching style. A Nov. 1 meeting involving some 30 members of the Holland national team pool showed a great division between players who responded to Annan’s no-nonsense coaching style and those who saw her techniques as psycholigically damaging.

After several interviews with the players, the association appointed an external supervisor with the aim of improving the culture within the team, which has had as a direct consequence the dismissal of the coach.

The official reason given in the Dutch press is that Annan and the Dutch Hockey Association had different opinions as how to move forward after the association’s finding.

This, friends, is a team which is used to winning on the world stage. Not only does the Dutch hold all three current major FIH team titles, Holland has failed exactly once to medal in an FIH world-level event since their failure to qualify for the 1995 Champions Trophy. Under a succession of coaches such as Tom Van’t Hoek, Marc Lammers, Herman Cruis, Max Caldas, and Sjoerd Marijne, the Orange Wave exhibited superior skills and tactics which have flummoxed many a team.

It’s interesting that this departure is taking place at about the same time Annan’s home national team, Australia, has been facing a reckoning about psychological abuse that has led to the sacking of most of the entire field hockey governing apparatus for the national side.

Now, if the year 2021 is to be known in the world of sport for anything aside from the Coronavirus, it is going to be remembered for women athletes aiming to take back control of their sport, especially when it comes to how the players in team sports are coached. So many coaches in the last year have lost their jobs because of allegations of bullying, abuse, or failure to create a collective winning culture.

The reckoning, it seems, is continuing.

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