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Archive for Field hockey

Jan. 25, 2019 — Hockey diplomacy, part deux?

Whenever the Republic of Korea (which most people in the Western world call “South Korea”) competes in field hockey, the usual name which is used in FIH competition is “Korea.”

Recently, however, the program representing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (which most Westerners call “North Korea”) has broken through into the top 40 of women’s indoor field hockey programs, holding 37th place — one placing ahead of China.

North Korea has not been much of a player on the world hockey front. Indeed, the last time the DPRK qualified for a major tournament, it was the 1990 Asian Cup.

But in a bit of Summer Olympics diplomacy, there is now an effort from FIH to combine the two Koreas into unified men’s and women’s sides to compete in the 2020 Olympics. This, after North and South competed together in the women’s ice hockey tournament at PyeongChang last year.

“The FIH has put together an action plan with the objective to get to the participation of a unified Korean hockey team for future FIH events, potentially for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” said the FIH statement.

This attempt at unification, however, is a tougher row to hoe than in women’s ice hockey. The different in class between these two programs is, frankly, the difference between chalk and cheese. South Korean teams have won three silver medals in their recent history, most recently, the men’s shootout loss to Holland at Sydney 2000.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s outdoor teams programs do not even register a blip on the outdoor radar. Neither gender holds a single outdoor ratings point.


Jan. 24, 2019 — The Pakistan debacle

As we mentioned yesterday in Unfiltered, the story about the Pakistan men’s field hockey team dropping out of the FIH Pro League is actually the second change that has occurred in the lineup of the league since it was introduced last year.

And it’s led to a very, very unhealthy perception in hockey circles that the FIH has gone a bridge too far in moving a major qualification from a single-site tournament to the round-robin, home-and-home series which is seen in FIFA and many other international sports.

Pakistan was put in a difficult position even before the competition started, as security concerns surrounding the team and its opponents led to the FIH making Pakistan play its home fixtures in, of all places, Scotland. This means near-constant travel for the squad, which costs money.

Now, according to some media reports in the wake of the withdrawal, it’s been alleged that, depending on which account you read, there’s a pool of funding of anywhere from $720,000 to $4,200,000 that the Pakistani government was sitting on, but, because Pakistan Hockey Federation president Khalid Khokar was chosen for the post by the previous Pakistani government, the current regime was not willing to part with the funds.

This is the kind of political pressure that is frowned upon by world governing bodies of the sport; there have been times when FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, has suspended entire nations such as Iraq, Guatemala, and Sierra Leone because of government interference in how soccer is run.

One of FIFA’s more recent suspensions? Yup, Pakistan.

It’s too bad the hockey powers that be in the country didn’t realize what they were in for; it’s now possible that the two-year suspension for withdrawal from the Pro League could also affect the team’s eligibility for the 2022 FIH World Cup.

But what this episode is also doing is putting a black mark on the Pro League so soon after its first game last weekend. The perception is going to be of an enterprise which may have been oversold and which may wind up draining the resources of the national governing bodies of field hockey in the participating countries.

I’m pretty sure Pakistan isn’t the only nation which will find it difficult to shuttle teams from nation to nation over the next seven months.

Jan. 23, 2019 — What eight years means to technology

I received the box, oddly enough, on a Sunday.

Inside was a small device, smaller than your normal smartphone, plus a handful of accessories and a mini-CD.

The device is simple in its fit and finish: three buttons, one mini-USB connector.

It’s a small digital screen which is designed to auto-play video and folders of pictures; a smaller version of those digital photo albums which were all the rage. These started hitting the market sometime around 2011.

I’ve seen these “digi-tags” applied at conventions in order to be able to get attention in the midst of a crowded floor. It is an arresting vision when colored and moving lights emanate from something attached to one’s clothing.

One interesting application of these occurred in June of 2011, when the broadcasters of the NBA Finals used these screens mounted on the microphones of the broadcasters to rotate images of their network, the NBA Finals logo, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

I found it pretty pricey, given the fact they were being used for only a few seconds at the inception of the broadcast.

But it was also in 2011 when the iPhone 4 first hit the market. And with that, three generations of iPhones were left behind.

Some people kept their older iPhones in order to turn them into either music players, but others turned them into rudimentary (and free) video presentation devices that could be worn much like the single-purpose video badge.

What had been a $500 item at full price had come down to my $25 purchase.

When I unboxed and plugged in the USB cable, what played was a series of presentations extolling the virtue of a used-car business. Great.

It took me a while to figure out that I had to upload a movie on it with a certain internal codex, one which I was able to change using a bit of freeware called Handbrake.

Today, there’s a three-minute video on the badge, which features about 40 different representations of this site’s logo. All of the design work had been done on an iPhone, though the final assembly was done through iMovie.

It’s quite impressive, and we’ll be sure to implement this microphone flag in future videos we do for this site.

Jan. 22, 2019 — A Hoosier is coming home

Kayla Bashore, who was center-midfielder for two Olympic field hockey teams and recipient of 175 caps with the United States, has been hired as the head coach of Indiana University.

Bashore’s skills and attack-mindedness made her one of the best players ever to come out of Indiana’s program, winning the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2005.

She’ll be asked to refloat an Indiana program which last had a .500 record in 2014.

Jan. 19, 2019 — The start of a risky road

This morning at 7 a.m., in Valencia, Spain, a whistle will blow and there will be a familiar whisking together of composite sticks against a plastic ball on a water-based artificial turf.

The 2019 FIH Pro League will start with current FIH men’s World Cup holders Belgium going against host Spain in the first game of a long, bifurcated road to the 2020 Olympics.

As things stand now, there are three avenues to qualification for the Olympics:

  1. Host nation
  2. Continental champion
  3. Win a two-game series as a qualifier from either the Hockey Pro League or the FIH Hockey Series

No. 3, for me, is a bit of a head-scratcher. For all of what the FIH Pro League is supposed to engender (television rights, sponsorships, home support to engender), the League only qualifies four teams into the final round of Olympic qualifications. Meanwhile, the Hockey Series, which are three eight-nations tournaments being held this summer, will qualify six total teams.

Now, there’s one wrinkle that’s already happened on the men’s and the women’s side: because Japan is the host nation and swept last fall’s Asia Cups, there is one more slot for each gender to contest for final qualifications. The qualifiers for those games will be the next-highest spot in world ranking.

In addition, there is another wrinkle. The last couple of Olympic cycles, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee has prevented both the men’s and women’s teams from playing in the Olympics, citing the low level of competition in the African Olympic qualification tournament.

It could very well be that mid-level women’s teams like the United States, China, Belgium, and South Korea could be in for tremendous fights in the final round of qualifying should they fail to win their continental qualifying tournaments.

And, it could very well be that a highly-ranked team not already qualified (New Zealand? China?) will get back-doored into the Olympics on world ranking.

So, bearing in mind that it may be possible to “back in” to an Olympic berth at several junctures in this process, let the games begin.

Jan. 16, 2019 — The unreachable goal?

Six weeks ago, we wrote this.

The last couple of days, this happened.

I don’t know the gory details about how many pledges that the fund for the University of Pacific field hockey team has received, or whether they have a well-heeled donor to perhaps push the number over the top.

But what I know is this: if this is the kind of thing that is to be repeated at 80 NCAA Division I field hockey programs and/or others who don’t have the full financial support of the athletics departments of their particular schools, I don’t see a way forward for the sport as is currently constructed.

Jan. 15, 2019 — The case for …

The last week or so, I’ve posted some paragraphs of some of the great scorers in the history of American scholastic field hockey. They are amongst the greatest the game has ever seen, but there are other players who didn’t put up the kinds of gaudy numbers as the people we’ve talked about the last several days.

You have to think of Katelyn Falgowski, who was a skilled midfielder at Wilmington St. Mark’s (Del.), and joined the senior national team at the age of 15, played in three Olympics, and received more than 250 caps.

Her contemporary Katie O’Donnell could have added to her total of 142 goals with Ambler Wissahickon (Pa.) had she not been called into the U.S. women’s national side at the age of 16. Her skills and technical ability on the frontline were in a universe of discourse limited to a very select few, even today.

And then, there’s Patti Shea, who didn’t win a single game in high school for Belmont (Mass.), but her abilities in the striking circle caught the eye of Pam Hixon, who not only coached her at the University of Massachusetts, but also with the U.S. women’s national team program in the mid-1990s. Shea was the idol and model for thousands of goalkeepers in that era.

You also have to include Erin Matson, who had nearly 90 goals in just two years of scholastic field hockey with Kennett Square Unionville (Pa.)before opting to train and play full-time with the U.S. women’s national team.

So, who’s the greatest scholastic field hockey player of all time? It’s hard for this site to say, but I think it would be easier for one of today’s players to adapt to thicker mulberry sticks and grass pitches than it would be for one of yesteryear’s players to jump on turf and play with a composite.

Too, today’s players have an edge in terms of sport-specific training, dieting, and tactics than ever before. And nobody back in the day had to face teams that would string together nearly a decade’s worth of state championships in a row, such as Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), a Watertown (Mass.), a Bethesda-Chevy Chase (Md.), or a Shrub Oak Lakeland (N.Y.).

In truth, my thought experiment has given me a Hobson’s choice between midfielders: Mackenzie Allessie and Katelyn Falgowski. Let’s see if the former is able to have the international career of the latter.