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Jan. 18, 2023 — Two other scholastic coaches taking home hardware

This site has taken very seriously its duty in awarding the United States Coach of the Year award. It is an award which is very well respected; at least three state legislatures have recognized recipients of this honor. Your Founder presented another at a town council meeting in Pennsylvania, and another after photo opportunities in the three small towns that comprise the school district.

But there are other national field hockey Coach of the Year awards that we like to make note of.

Late last week, the National Federation of State High School Associations gave out a passel of Coach of the Year awards in various sports. The award period was for the 2021-22 academic year.

Each of the top 10 sports in terms of participation for both boys and girls had a Coach of the Year award. In addition, a cheer award and two awards for schools outside the Top 10 for participation were made.

One of the awards was for field hockey, and the coach selected was Terry Simonetti-Frost, the veteran coach of Worthington Thomas Worthington (Ohio). TW had, during the award period, had taken the Cardinals to the state final, only to lose 2-1 in overtime to Columbus Bishop Watterson (Ohio). But in the fall of 2022, Simonetti-Frost took all of her guile and a talented team back to the state final. Just like the previous season, these two rivals, located And in a touch of poetic justice, Worthington went into overtime again against Bishop Watterson, a school located just 3 1/2 miles away.

In a reversal of fate, it took a freshman, Sophia Borghese, to score the game-winner for TW.

Simonetti-Frost joins Christine (DeBow) Mitchell, the head coach of Leonardtown (Md.) as winners of major national field hockey Coach of the Year awards. Mitchell’s award was given out by USA Field Hockey, and is a coaching award which spans the gamut of coaching levels, from youth to the national team.

“I was shocked, humbled and honored to be chosen,” Mitchell tells Southern Maryland News. “When I got the email from USA Field Hockey I really was very surprised. It’s not an award for me as much as it is for all the coaches and parents and players in the area who have supported me so much.”

Mitchell was up against Adele Williams of Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur; Jun Kentwell of the W.C. Eagles and the U.S. women’s indoor national team; Brett Clay of the Centercourt club program, and the recently-retired Karen Shelton of the University of North Carolina. That is a powerful series of candidates.

Much congratulations to both of these women who have changed lives through their love of field hockey.

Jan. 17, 2023 — The first matchday in a new era

This evening, is the opening day of the Paywall Era for the American soccer fan.

Oh, sure, there has been pay-per-view, cable, and some streaming of games and leagues throughout the soccer universe. But it is 2023 where a bulk of major American soccer competitions is being moved under a bushel. If you want to watch the bulk of U.S. men’s and women’s national soccer team matches, you need to be a subscriber to HBO Max. That deal starts this evening with the first of two women’s national team friendlies at New Zealand, the co-host nation for the Women’s World Cup.

This deal was made with the combined conglomerate of Warner Brothers and Discovery, both of whom have had their hands in soccer before. Warner Communications was the main sponsor and owner of the New York Cosmos in the mid- to late-70s, and Discovery was a part-owner of the Washington Freedom of the Women’s United Soccer Association.

Thing is, with such a conglomerate, there are going to be more than one than one outlet for U.S. Soccer content. Though the initial broadcast will be on HBO Max, there will also be games on TNT, a basic cable staple. The ratio of HBO games to TNT games, however, is yet to be determined.

Too, there is scheduled to be a merger between Discovery’s main streaming platform, Discovery Plus, with HBO Max, which could further disrupt things in the cable/streaming universe.

Now, the move of the U.S. Soccer media rights to Warner Brothers-Discovery is not the only move to a paywall. There was the movement of U.S. Soccer road games to the Paramount Plus paywall last year. And this year, Major League Soccer is putting almost all of its matches (except for one game a week) on Apple TV Plus.

Combined, this puts the three major legs of American soccer — MLS, U.S. home games, and U.S. road games — behind three separate paywalls, meaning that a family wanting to watch live domestic soccer will have to dole out $350.00 a year. Sure, there are going to be games on Fox (MLS Game of the Week and FIFA competitions), CBS (selected tournaments), and TNT (selected friendlies), but the bulk of games are under the pernicious paywall.

This kind of marketing does not exactly grow the game. Indeed, I wonder if there are going to be more lacrosse games on over-the-air television this year than American soccer games.

Jan. 16, 2023 — A prime example of service

Today, about a thousand families in Columbus, Ohio are being given new pairs of shoes thanks to a partnership between Samaritan’s Feet and Ohio State University senior Emma Goldean.

Goldean was the first female student-athlete to work with Samaritan’s Feet through a name-likeness-image agreement.

Given the fact that many NLI agreements have been used to build up small fortunes to benefit the athlete, this charity work that Goldean has been doing is remarkable. Giving back to underserved communities, such as people in poor areas of the rust belt, is something that is exceedingly rare for athletic teams except in rare instances of disaster.

The goal, according to one report, is to give away as many as 25,000 pairs of shoes, If you would like more information on this effort, feel free to click here.

Jan. 15, 2023 — A follow-up on the statistical picture of 2022

As we are wont to do, we comb publications for all-star teams this time of year for anything we may have missed during the fall field hockey season.

And, like last year, we uncovered a doozy of a stat. That is the fact that Watertown (Mass.) yielded exactly one goal during the 2022 season. The Raiders and head coach Eileen Donahue have made this a habit in recent years, as they have yielded no goals in 2014, one goal in 2015, and one goal during 2021’s fall season.

This is all remarkable stuff for a program which has spun a national-record unbeaten streak of 184 games, and whose 124-game win streak is currently being pursued by a very talented Delmar (Del.) outfit.

We’ll be adding this soon to The Rebel Project; there’s a lot of wrangling we’ll be doing in the meantime. We hope to be fully updated by spring in both the field hockey and the lacrosse worlds.

Jan. 14, 2023 — A side benefit of VAR?

The 2023 calendar year sees the technology of the video assistant referee (VAR) coming in to women’s collegiate lacrosse as well as the National Women’s Soccer League.

VAR systems vary, but game officials are going to want a number of camera angles, both on the pitch and in the critical scoring area, to determine everything from the status of the ball to crease violations to offside calls.

Last week, NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman put a number on the VAR system: six cameras. That would be the minimum number of cameras needed at each and every NWSL match in order to have a proper replay review system.

That number of cameras stands in stark contrast to some of the lacrosse and field hockey broadcasts we have been subjected to in the last few years, where it seems only one center-line camera is deemed necessary. Given the growth of the game of women’s lacrosse and the speed, I have a feeling that a number of colleges are going to have to upgrade their video apparatus in order to make VAR practicable for lacrosse.

I think it will be a particular concern for schools and conferences who don’t have field hockey — and therefore, no access to a video referral system. The Big South, Atlantic Sun, and Conference USA are amongst the conferences which will likely be playing catch-up in this regard.

But I think that there will be a push on the part of the Pac-12 (Cal-Berkeley, Cal-Davis, and Stanford have field hockey) to fully staff league matches with a VAR-capable system.

I’ll be interested to see which women’s lacrosse leagues show their commitment to the game by enabling, and funding, a video review system.

Jan. 13, 2023 — Big-time action at one of the get-togethers

Last evening, at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia, the entry draft for the National Women’s Soccer League took place.

As over-analyzed as some player drafts are (see: NFL), there is annually more action at an NWSL draft than anywhere else.

Why? Well, you’ll notice that, in past years, a lot of trades were made for players to escape toxic coaching situations in roughly half of the teams. If you read the Yates Report and the joint NWSL-NWSLPA report, you can see a number of top players getting traded before the draft and landing in places where you didn’t have the likes of Paul Riley or Christy Holly or Richie Burke.

But even after these notorious figures and others have been drummed out of the league, there were still about a dozen moves made involving present and future draft picks.

One involved Angel City FC, which swung a four-team deal to get and the No. 1 player in the draft class, high-school player Alyssa Thompson.

But I think the team that made the most of its opportunity was the team that lost the NWSL Cup, the Kansas City Current. The Current traded away forward Lynn Williams to Gotham FC, then feasted on draft choices the rest of the way, selecting Duke’s Michelle Cooper with the second pick.

One interesting trend that I saw: a breadth of choices from many sources rather than concentrating on the anointed powerhouse teams. The two national finalists, UCLA and UNC, accounted for exactly three of the 48 choices out of the player pool.

The teams in the league have addressed on-field needs, for certain. And with all of the problems off the pitch the last few years, that is a good thing.

Jan. 12, 2023 — The January get-togethers

Over the next two weeks, there are three major get-togethers involving sports and youth sports. The United Soccer Coaches’ Convention in Philadelphia, the U.S. Lacrosse Convention in Baltimore, and the National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association Convention in Lake Mary, Fla. allow major figures in the game, vendors, sponsors, and others to meet, mingle, and share ideas.

Many of these ideas revolve around the mental health of athletes, something which I feel is long overdue in youth sports. All three of these conventions have some sort of seminar or panel on this topic, and address them in various ways.

As youth sports transitions out of pandemic-era controls on the participants, coaches, spectators, and the sport itself, coaching and scholastic administration look like they are playing a game of catch-up. I’m seeing, in many spaces, a different relationship between coach and player from what I saw three decades ago.

I’ve seen first-hand a pool of potential walkons walk right back off again; the pool of 64 wound up being somewhere between six and eight to add to the varsity program which was coached by a Hall-of-Famer. But this wasn’t a group which was verbally brow-beaten, or made to work past physical exhaustion, or thrown into mid-July heat. As a coach once told me of hometown walk-ons, “Often, they’ll self-select themselves out of the team.”

I’ll always remember a couple of players who were on my list of published all-stars who went to a local college in order to try to make the team. One never made it to campus because of a family situation which kept her out of university, even though she was a multi-tooled player with great speed. Another player I remember had a horrific hip socket injury of the same kind that ended the football career of Bo Jackson.

I’ve gotten some pushback from some folks who suggest that putting the needs of the athlete first, rather than the team, means that the culture of sport has somehow gotten “soft.”

But I can’t help but think that the story of Kory Stringer, the professional football player who died of heatstroke in August 2001, was an enormous rallying cry when it came to how far a coach can push an athlete. Sure, the lore of coaching over the years is full of stories of hard and physical training camps which are meant to whittle down the potential varsity player pool.

Many folks who endure these camps and make the team, and find success on their chosen field of endeavor, look back over the years and wouldn’t change a thing.

Yeah, I get it: it’s only human nature to posit that a team culture based upon hard work will lead to success, even if the training is of such intensity that the mental or physical health of players is imperiled.

It’s a fine balance, one which only a precious few coaches have ever found.

Jan. 11, 2023 — The middle layer is forming

From time to time, I’ve likened national-team development to creating a Jello parfait. Making each layer requires plenty of care and time until the next layer is prepared.

Yesterday, a significant series of cues was sent out when it comes to the senior women’s national team, the outline of which was created last summer. Tracey Paul, the legendary former head coach of Escondido San Pasqual (Calif.) who is the U.S. U-21 national team coach, has selected a pool of players who will be competing for slots for this spring’s Pan American Cup team.

On this preliminary roster for the U-21 national team are all three high-schoolers in the senior women’s national team pool: Olivia Bent-Cole, Mia Abello, and Josie Hollamon. But also on the team are five players who competed last fall in the NCAA Division I national championship: UNC’s Ashley Sessa, Ryleigh Heck, and Katie Dixon, and Northwestern’s Annabel Skubisz and Lauren Wadas. Also on the team is U.S. indoor national team veteran Rayne Wright from the University of Maryland.

In addition, Maryland’s Hope Rose and Duke’s Alana McVeigh are part of a group of players coming off injury and will trial for the team next month.

A couple of interesting players are also in this player pool. A rising high school senior, Matalie Machiran from Ellicott City Mount Hebron (Md.), has made the U-21 trial team. Another player in the pool is Columbia University’s Mia Karine Myklebus, who is majoring in neuroscience. And joining Bent-Cole, Abello, and Hollamon in the corps of scholastic seniors is Charlotte “Charley” Bruder from Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.).

It should be a strong team coming out of camp, and it is one looking to improve on its bronze-medal performance at the 2021 Junior Pan Ams. The U-21s will have that tournament in Barbados in April, then will have to regroup for the Junior World Cup which is scheduled for December.

Jan. 10, 2023 — How to respond

Yesterday, the National Women’s Soccer League did something that you are unlikely to see in Major League Baseball, U.S. Soccer, and the NCAA, if you go by what these three bodies did in response to recent domestic violence allegations.

The league brought down the hammer, banning four former coaches — Rory Dames, Paul Riley, Christy Holly and Richie Burke — who were central figures in multiple investigations and findings regarding sexual abuse in America’s top domestic women’s soccer league.

The bans were for life. Not an indefinite ban, not one involving a time period, or any condition.

For life.

“The league will continue to prioritize implementing and enhancing the policies, programs and systems that put the health and safety of our players first,” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said in a news release. “Those actions are fundamental to the future of our league, especially as we build a league that strengthens our players’ ability to succeed and prosper on and off the pitch. As part of our commitment to accountability and deterrence, the league has determined that further corrective action with respect to certain organizations and individuals identified in the Joint Investigative Report is appropriate and necessary.”

Six other figures — Craig Harrington, Alyse LaHue, Farid Bensititi, James Clarkson, Vera Pauw, Amanda Cromwell, Sam Greene, and Aline Reise — received conditional suspensions. Each were mentioned in either the Yates Report or the joint NWSL-NWSLPA investigation reports.

The punishments are not only clear and swift, but they are outliers when it comes to dealing with sexual assaults and abuse within sports.

Let’s hope that future actions like this aren’t seen as such.

Jan. 9, 2023 — How not to respond

What do a top-line baseball pitcher, a soccer coach coming off a World Cup, and a college basketball coach have in common?

These folks have been involved in domestic violence situations which have come to a head in recent days. All three are no longer in their previous circumstances, but all have somewhat optimistic prospects for their futures.

Trevor Bauer, at one time, may have been the finest pitcher in baseball. He was the National League Cy Young Award-winner for the 2020 COVID season, which helped him garner a three-year, $102-million contract. But five months after the contract was signed, he was suspended by the Dodgers because of accusations of sexual assault and sodomy. The first accusation, which came in June 2021, led to other women coming forward telling their tales of abuse. Bauer has not thrown a pitch since July 2021, and was designated for assignment by the Dodgers three days ago. It’s expected he will be released and can be signed by another major league team.

Chris Beard, the head coach of the Texas men’s basketball team, was also at the top of his game, having taken Texas Tech to the 2019 NCAA Division I championship game, then signed a lucrative contract to coach the Longhorns. He was, however, fired by the university last week, barely a month after felony domestic violence charges were filed. He is accused of choking and biting his fiancee. As in the case with Bauer, it’s not known what his future plans could be, given the competitive nature of coaching and his track record;

Gregg Berhalter is the head coach of the U.S. men’s national soccer team. In the last few days, a telenovela-esque narrative has come into light where the father of U.S. teamer Gio Reyna allegedly had communications with investigators with U.S. Soccer over a domestic violence episode some three decades ago where Berhalter kicked his date, Rosalind Santana, after an argument.

As it turns out, Santana married Berhalter. Santana was a teammate of Danielle Ryan, who eventually married Claudio Reyna, the father of Gio Reyna, who played less than an hour in the U.S. team’s four matches at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Berhalter, as it turns out, is out of contract with the United States. And it’s likely that he will remain so for a period of time. But given what he was able to do with what had been a moribund side, he will likely be a candidate for a number of coaching positions around the world.

It’s amazing, given the activism regarding the treatment of women in the workplace, the media, and in the creative space, that Bauer, Beard, and Berhalter have not received nearly the kind of scrutiny that the likes of Harvey Weinstein and more than 200 other powerful men have since the start of the “Me Too” movement.

The regrettable thing is that many men have not learned their lesson. But there are others who have received punishments which may become the gold standard. More on that tomorrow.