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News for 18 April 2018

All the news for Wednesday 18 April 2018

Flawed team selection and approach behind Indian hockey team's poor show at Gold Coast

Sundeep Misra

Indian hockey team failed to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games after defeat to England. AFP

Drawing parallels between Macbeth and Indian hockey will raise quite a few eyebrows, but bear with me. In a recent interview, Jo Nesbo, the Norwegian thriller writer and the latest author to turn Macbeth into contemporary fiction, said “Macbeth is essentially about the struggle for power that takes place in a gloomy, stormy, crime noir-like setting and in a dark paranoid human mind.”

Over the years, Indian hockey has been a constant struggle for power played out in dreary rooms with surreptitious whispers and lamps burning out like flames in a de-oxygenated chamber. A perennial game of musical chairs around team selection with frequent chopping and changing on the back of pure favouritism or a varying philosophy thanks to the rotation of coaches.

Whether it was the Indian Hockey Federation or the present day Hockey India, the narrative has largely remained the same. From the time of Ashwini Kumar when two captains led the team into the Olympics to the stint of KPS Gill when Dhanraj Pillay was passed over and captainship was given to Ramandeep Singh; from appointing Ric Charlesworth as consultant but not taking him to the Olympic Qualifiers in Chile, where India did not qualify, to the current Hockey India deciding that ‘young legs’ are necessary even if it means sacrificing wins in crucial tournaments. The only thing that moved with lightning speed at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast was the fall from grace — twice silver medalists relegated to 4th place — losing to teams way below India in the FIH Rankings.

Many would probably forget what happened in Gold Coast once the team assembles again. Just a few players tweeting about their ‘pain’ and ‘disappointment’ with the coaching staff that 'wanted to get down to basics but ensured it never happened'. But that narrative remains unchanged. Kicking out Roelant Oltmans wasn’t the issue; India have kicked out Ric Charlesworth and Terry Walsh too. But no questions were raised when Oltmans, an Olympic Gold and World Cup Gold winner was replaced by a man with no credentials to coach senior men’s hockey — at least of a national men’s side.

Even if the bona fides are left alone, talent comes disguised in many forms. Since the Asia Cup win, within days of Marijne’s appointment, the story that emerged was certain players were not up to standards. To be fair to Marinje, every coach has a right to understand the team and then tweak it accordingly. Teams were inter-changed constantly with the tournaments not given the due weightage they deserved. Players from the Hockey World League didn’t go to the 4-Nation and then suddenly an entire Sultan Azlan Shah Team arrived in Malaysia with no key players and no penalty corners converters. Amit Rohidas and Varun Kumar were present. India had 30 PCs in the Azlan Shah and converted 8; a close look would explain why we are not entering the semi-finals and finals of tournaments. Worse, every tournament became an experiment. The future was the New Kingdom.

Teams like Australia, England and Argentina sent their best teams to the Azlan Shah. India didn't. Reason — focus on the Commonwealth Games and clinch the gold; as if it was the mango tree in your back yard and you could pluck fruit even after an afternoon siesta. A look at the top three finishers at the CWG – Australia, New Zealand and England. The Gold and Bronze winner played the Azlan Shah and tried their best under pressure. India sat back in the camp and drew triangles on paper, did the drills, went to the gym and naturally like all teams dreamt of the Gold.

What is worrying is that India’s poor performance at the Azlan Shah was treated like par for the course. “The boys are learning,” was the refrain. Colin Batch, the Australian coach was asked why he brought his best boys to Malaysia. Answer: “It’s a prestigious tournament and what better way to prepare for the CWG than play and win here.” Australia beat England in the final and then, as the script usually rolls out won the Commonwealth Games too. England ended up with the bronze. India took their paper triangles and ended up 4th, slid down two places. But that shouldn’t be too worrying because we are preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. By that logic, Indi should only win the Asian Games and lose everything in between; price of embracing the future.

The narrative is okay, philosophy arguable; logic can be sensed between the words. But why do the goal posts change on the arrival of every new coach? Since 1980, India haven’t won a single Olympic Gold; leave alone a measly bronze that at the moment has the glitter of Gold for for the nation. But every coach who arrives, Indian or foreigner, comes armed with a story that says ‘preparing for the next 4 years.’ And then the next arrives. The last World Cup victory was in 1975. India haven’t even smelt a semi-final since then. But the experimentation, vacillation and worse flip-flop continues. In other words, the stable of Indian hockey has become the biggest lab for coaches to come and try and their futuristic experiments here. They all fail. Go back. India hockey keeps sliding back.

Before the Commonwealth Games, Sjoerd Marijne wrote a column for a sports website and for a financial daily explaining the reasons why he was adopting a ‘young legs’ approach. Was there a need to go public? Marijne wrote: “Having tried different combinations in three major tournaments and one tour over these past few months, I believe the 18 we have picked is the best we have to win the gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.”

And then later in the column was this line: “We are closer to top countries now and on a good day can upset any team, regardless of their ranking.”

Common sense and consequences now show that the 18 he picked were not good enough for the Commonwealth Games. And which big teams did India upset in the CWG? On the contrary, they lost to lower-racked England and New Zealand. Will India now see a write-up on why a team that was mentally and physically preparing for the CWG gold ended up 4th?

Former Indian captain and coach V Bhaskaran, who captained the team to Gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and later coached winning Indian teams at the Azlan Shah and who was coach of the 1st Indian junior team at the World Cup in 1997, said, “There is nobody asking questions of this bunch who is in charge. Can someone out there explain Rupinder Pal Singh’s hamstring injury? Yes, it can happen in a match. But in the matches before, he wasn’t stretching his left leg fully during PCs. Was he fully fit when he landed at Gold Coast?”

For a team to completely crumble, even in the match against Pakistan, whom earlier they have beaten by bigger margins, was a sorry state of affairs. Pakistan used a lone forward and got their goal; no defence marking was needed. Even when Rupinder pulled up while chasing a ball in his own defence, the commentator said, “This is the danger when you play a full back for long stretches in the match.” Was the inefficiency of the defence line the reason why Rupinder played for long?

To leave Surinder Kumar and take youngsters like Varun was folly. Surinder is a steady full back without being a PC converter. Now everybody doesn’t need to be a PC converter. In the last match against England, after pool matches and the semi-finals, India used an indirect and converted through Varun; in 39 PC’s at the CWG, one indirect. But Surinder soaks pressure. He may not be flamboyant. But he is effective. Have we forgotten how Varun fumbled on an aerial in the Asia Cup final against Malaysia and gave a PC in the last minutes when India were leading 2-1?

Bhaskaran points to an invisible midfield. “Midfield, where was the midfield? I only saw Manpreet running around. At times, it seemed he would fall down. What did Chinglensana do and where were the rest?”

The Indian midfield had Vivek Prasad, Chinglensana, Manpreet Singh and Sumit. The reason for keeping Sumit was pace and in patches he did perform. But the gaps and spaces created by Vivek and Chinglensana were filled by swarming English and Kiwi forwards. In one instance in the bronze-medal match, Vivek was surrounded by two English players, the ball taken away and the 17-year-old, no doubt precociously talented, couldn’t fall back and defend again. The coaching staff, both Marijne and John, went to great lengths to explain that Sardar cannot fall back. Well, the reason Vivek was picked that he could fall back.

Vivek hasn’t even played a full season in domestic hockey or even in the Indian Junior side. But after being fast tracked him into the senior side, the Kiwis ran rings around him in defensive zones. Over the years, different coaches have fast tracked younger players into the national sides who were unable to take the pressure. India already had the core when Marijne took over; probably one reason why India won the Asia Cup. And then youngsters Vivek and Dilpreet who have played the Johor Cup, an under-21 tournament, replaced Ramandeep Singh, a much improved forward with tons of experience. Talent also needs nurturing, every swimmer is not thrown towards the deep end of the pool; some swim and some drown.

“What they did to Sardar, kept playing him without support, is what they will do to Manpreet,” says Bhaskaran. “By the time he reaches the World Cup, he will be like a shadow of himself.” On Sardar, Bhaskaran, said, “I think the rationale is midfield needs legs and not experience. Barry Middleton (England) can play at 34 after 400 international matches. But Sardar is old. He is still wily. His passes are what made Akashdeep and the forwards the players they are. As a midfielder he will make mistakes while passing but if a safety-first approach is going to be adopted, then it's better to play chess and  draw. Modern hockey is about rolling substitution. One needs experienced minds who understand what it is to be a goal or two goals down.”

The defeat to New Zealand in the semi-finals is going to hurt for a long time. In the 4-Nation tournament in New Zealand, at the start of 2018, India played a double leg and beat the Kiwis twice. But when it came to a proper tournament, the Kiwis were better prepared.

Since the time that Pardeep Mor was not deemed good enough, the wing back position has been a problem position for in Indian hockey. Pardeep gave the thrust and at times, one could see Sumit doing that. But there is a big difference between the powerful hits of Mor and Sumit.

Calmness needs to return to the Indian midfield. At the moment, it’s Manpreet who can shield the ball, spring up in attack and fall back for a major portion of the match. But there is no secondary player in the midfield to create accurate long passes. Long passes also go past the full press of teams and help in stopping counter attacks. At Gold Coast, there was no cover in the middle zone; it was the freeway for teams to enter and create noise in the Indian striking circle.

As per the stats, India's PC conversion since the time Marijne took over at the Asia Cup has been an abysmal 27 percent. But in terms of PCs defended, the figure is a respectable 76 percent. So the silver lining is there. But questions need to be asked of Chris Ciriello, the Australian PC expert, now an analyst with the Indian team, star of the 2014 World Cup with a hat-trick.

England and New Zealand controlled the area just outside their striking circle. In so many ways, that is the key path, the main artery to the heart of the defence, the goal. India didn’t do that and the one match they did, they beat England 4-3, a match in which India came together in the 4th Quarter. Control that area and you have a hold on possession, counters and it forces opposition to rethink how to enter your citadel. When everyone points to circle penetrations it would help to see how those penetrations were handled by the opposition. Also to evaluate why teams with less circle penetrations managed to beat us.

For that a team doesn't need ‘young legs’ or ‘experienced limbs’, you just need to understand that in a world where hockey has become chess on a larger board, maybe, someone out there did out-manoeuvre India. Jo Nesbo in his new book offers a ‘hopeful’ Macbeth. Maybe, Sjoerd Marijne is still capable of offering Indian hockey ‘hope’ sustained on quality, experience and vigour of young hearts.


Indian hockey left exposed at CWG

Harpreet Kaur Lamba

Was it a selection blunder, failure to execute plans or lack of experience? The Indian men’s hockey team’s fourth-place finish at the Commonwealth Games has thrown up a lot of questions as the team returned empty-handed for the first time in eight years.

If one were to go purely by numbers and history, India were among the favourites at the Gold Coast Games.

Ranked world no. 6, India had picked up silvers at Glasgow 2014 and Delhi 2010, and dished out consistent results in the last two years. At Gold Coast, they were the second highest-ranked team behind world no. 1 Australia.

But then hockey is not played on paper and world rankings amount to nothing, as India found out the hard way within 10 days where they lost to lower-ranked England and New Zealand and were stretched by world no. 24 Wales, Pakistan and Malaysia.

India’s fourth-place finish exposed their frailties and lack of planning, at a time when they have constantly talked about breaking into the top five — places held by Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

India’s show was lackluster to say the least with the team playing to almost no plan or structure and appeared under intense pressure when opposition changed tactics.

Chief coach Sjoerd Marijne, who took over from Roelant Oltmans last year, says the poor show was a “result of individual level of the players not being good enough.”

“There are three things for me from this tournament,” said Marijne from Gold Coast when asked about what went wrong.

“One, we created a lot of opportunities but the conversion was not good. It affects.

“Secondly, the individual level of the players was not good enough and they struggled with themselves. Thirdly, there were too many soft goals and penalty corners against us.”

India travelled with a young team preferring speed and fitness over experience. The decision to leave out Sardar Singh in the midfield, defender Birendra Lakra and striker Ramandeep Singh showed what they missed out, as the team struggled throughout. Even world no. 13 Pakistan — whom they beat seven times since April 2016 and that too by big margins — pressed India hard and the young guns wilted under pressure settling for a 2-2 draw.

Player-driven approach?

Hockey and football are two sports where the role of a coach/manager assumes great importance. Australia were the invincibles under Ric Charlesworth, while the famed Marcus Weise led Germany to a golden double at the Olympics before joining football.

Marijne, just five months into the job, has laid a lot of emphasis on his player-driven approach — players are expected to chart their ways in training sessions and even match situations — but if anything, India appeared confused under pressure and clueless when in need of a Plan B.

Asked if the approach needed a re-look, Marijne replied in the negative.

“This tournament did not go the way we wanted it, but it doesn’t mean everything was bad and we have to change everything. I don’t agree in this point because here we didn’t struggle. The real reasons are the ones that I discussed before and yes, we need to work on those.”

Penalty-corner conversion was another huge area of concern, besides poor finishing. India earned 39 penalty corners in all, of which 10 were converted.

India recently hired the just-retired Chris Ciriello of Australia — a master drag-flicker of his times — but the move too seemed to have little effect on their performance.

Said Marijne, “Penalty corner conversions are the not the same anymore. It is not that you just have a free shot from the top of the circle (and you score).

“It is about four things. Injection, trap and drag and at last you have the defenders from the opponent. If the first three are not perfect and the last point is getting better from the opponents with running in, it gets difficult to score.”

The Asian Age

Next Stop: The Vitality Hockey Women's World Cup!

Medals CWG

With 93 goals in 27 games during the women’s hockey Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the appetite and excitement ahead of the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup in London has only been heightened!

New Zealand claimed their first ever title in an impressive 4-1 victory over their Trans-Tasman rivals Australia, they will now take confidence and bragging rights ahead of their next clash in pool D in London in July.

Shiloh Gloyn, Rose Keddell, Olivia Merry and Anita McLaren were all on target for New Zealand while Jodie Kenny grabbed Australia’s consolation goal.

New Zealand reached the Gold medal match by defeating England in a nail-biting shootout after a tense and closely fought semi-final. Stacey Michelsen has long been touted as one of the world’s best and she showed her class to step up and score the winning penalty to put her side into the final.

Michelsen was chosen to carry the flag at the closing ceremony for New Zealand and will certainly be one to watch in London. Australia’s Jodie Kenny will also be a player to keep an eye on after finishing as the tournament’s top scorer with five goals.

Two other sides that will be competing in London made contested for the Bronze medal, but hosts England put in a dominant display to beat India 6-0.

England captain Alex Danson and striker Sophie Bray both netted doubles to lead England to bronze while defenders Hollie Pearne-Webb and Laura Unsworth were also on target.

Earlier in the tournament India had defeated England 2-1 before England gained revenge to take bronze. These sides will meet again in their Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup opener on 21 July in what is sure to be an intriguing encounter.

Many of the England squad were taking part in their first Commonwealth Games and bringing back bronze will no doubt give the team a lift as they return home to host the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup.

England Hockey Board Media release

Hockey Ireland plans to field indoor international team for first time in 30 years

Hockey Ireland plans to field its first indoor international teams in 30 years, announcing they will look to reintroduce the code in time for the European Championships in January 2020.

It would be the first time to enter such an event since the Irish women played in the European Cup in 1990 in Elmshorn, Germany. If their application is duly accepted by the European Hockey Federation. Ireland would return in the lowest tier of competition with the men likely to go into the fourth tier while there are currently three levels of women’s tournaments.

At this stage, the key details about how it will be funded or what sort of programme will be put in place have not been fleshed out with Hockey Ireland’s brief statement saying: “Discussions are ongoing as to where this sits within Hockey Ireland’s high-performance structure”.

With funding tight for the senior squads at the best of times and the Irish Under-21 programmes making noises to put their hands out for support, it will be interesting to see how they overcome this hurdle.

Indoor, though, is widely seen as massively beneficial to the technical side of the game while Hockey Ireland chief executive Jerome Pels has previously told the Examiner the format could be a great entry point for new players in areas without astroturf pitches available.

In the past few years, there have been proposals for a self-funded national team to Hockey Ireland, selected off the back of the National Indoor Trophy, but it was not given the go-ahead.

Interest in indoor hockey in Ireland was at its peak in the 80s but dwindled in the 90s, leading to the national outlet being dropped while club performances saw Ireland drop down the divisions. But there has been something of a revival in recent years with Ulster and Leinster both introducing formal youth indoor competitions.

The arrival of the Pro Series Indoor event from South Africa this year is another huge addition to the calendar this summer, running franchise leagues throughout the island in four age groups, leading to an All-Star Showdown in June.

The Hook

Sentencing hockey players to airport lounges and motorway services is pulling roots of our sport

Surbiton v Leicester. Andy Crayford of Crayford Media

Todd Williams has done the maths and weekend travelling doesn’t make for pretty reading for some English National League clubs

In modern times, Blackheath was the first hockey club founded, in 1849, well before the first international match in 1895. The one thing in common for virtually every international player at the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games is that they will all have started their journey with a club. A journey that will also finish at a club; shared with team-mates, coaches, umpires, parents and volunteers.

The journey over the last month in world hockey has taken us down the pressure paths our international hockey players will be under when the FIH Pro League starts, via cricket’s ball tampering scandal and an opening gambit on the merits of world hockey chiefs’ ongoing attempts to modify the rules and format to maintain the sport’s Olympic status.

So you can imagine my surprise when, what I thought was a complete shift away from these international issues and on to national league hockey, it brought me right back face-to-face with the exact same topics.

Sent out almost anonymously in the busy Twitter feeds of Hockey Australia and England Hockey, updating on Gold Coast preparations, there has been important announcements on the future shape of the top domestic competitions in their respective countries.

For Hockey Australia, the push for fundamental changes to the Australian Hockey League is part of a broader strategy to develop and grow the game. According to Hockey Australia chief executive Matt Favier, hockey faces a “sporting landscape that is rapidly changing” and he has warned somewhat ominously that “we have no time to lose if we want to be a relevant and strong sport in 10-15 years”.

In a succinct four-point plan, Hockey Australia’s attention on growing recreational participation, improving the efficiency with which the game is delivered and enhancing the sport’s digital presence are unquestionably sensible and important ideas. On the other hand, the apparent need to “drive sport entertainment events” aimed at “the nation’s imagination” seems to sound like an all too familiar theme.

A “revitalised Australian Hockey League” is by all accounts, one which Hockey Australia is thinking about playing with modified scoring, playing conditions and even mixed teams or single games played by interchanging men’s and women’s teams. It will apparently feature alongside the FIH Pro League in providing a “fast game with strong fan appeal”. Like the Pro League, the intention is for it to be a home and away league model. A real game changer, says Favier and, sadly, I couldn’t agree more.

In comparison, England Hockey’s proposed restructure has apparently been after lengthy consultation and sits within a three-pronged aim of:

    creating a structure that encourages clubs to continue to develop
    strive for success at the highest level of European competition
    support our international success objectives

Of these aims, it seems sensible to assume that a format that England Hockey has designed would suit the international programme they oversee. On the other hand, I’m struggling to see how this new proposal will help clubs develop and, in turn, how that will lead to success in Europe.

As it happens, I coached a team last season that was lucky enough to be promoted from a regional Premier Division into next season’s West Conference. Without getting ahead of ourselves, the form we showed against other teams we played from that division in our Cup run indicates that we’d have a pretty good chance of being in the top six that will then go into either the new North or South Division One.

Unfortunately, though, that is where the trouble begins. By using all the same teams from this year’s leagues, there seems to be no other possibility that my midlands-based team would be in Division One North.

It will be a Cup final just getting to match opponents from 2019/2020. Cannock - cup winners (c) Ady Kerry

So, for all that effort to get promoted over two seasons, the players would then be “rewarded” by having to travel an average of two hours and 15 minutes to its away games.

To put this into context:

    That’s five hours on the road for 70 minutes of hockey
    The ‘local derby’ would be one hour 15 minutes away
    But a doddle in comparison to the longest, nine-hour round trip.

National league hockey was already hard enough but for a talented young sixth former, or a University student, or a parent, spending that amount of time and cost travelling to a game of hockey on a Sunday is difficult to justify. In fact, looking at it the other way, it’s hard to see who it does suit.

Previously, only the Premier League teams had to shoulder the burden of that sort of travel, but that seemed justified for the top competition to be genuinely national. Now, instead of 10 Premier Division teams travelling the motorways of the country every Saturday and Sunday, that number will now ramp up to 30.

Which brings me to the topic of Europe. Again, speaking from my own experience of coaching in the EHL, there are only two ways English teams can hope to achieve success. The first is by recruiting – and by recruiting, I mean buying – a team with as many GB players in it as possible.

This will then give you the number of players who will be training four and five times a week you need to compete with the Dutch, Belgians and Germans club team players who do the same.

The second is by being able to prepare your team, with a more realistic number of international players, in the same way. That is more difficult than you think. Even if the players you have wanted to train four or five times a week, where would they do it?

In Holland, clubs have five or more pitches, one of which is usually devoted to their first team. In England, clubs are already using their one or two pitches to absolute capacity and it is completely impractical to expect fee-paying club members to stand aside while the 1st XI takes over in pursuit of their European ambition. Then, of course, you need to have a coach who can be at all those sessions. That’s easy if you are paying a full-time salary, again like those other countries mentioned, but not so practical in England where they almost certainly have other commitments.

Suffice to say that no league restructure is going to miraculously bridge this gap. The only thing that will do is if clubs can develop to a size and scale that can offer something near the support and resources that those on the continent do.

But then isn’t this the point that both Australia and England are missing?

Of course, there is no easy fix but in the context of the ominous sounds from Hockey Australia, it surely makes sense for any strategy to focus, at least in part, on strengthening and expanding the game and supporter base at its roots.

Instead we seem more intent on bending the branches further and trying to attract TV, sponsors and fans. Without realising it, we are pulling those roots out. Pro League and nine-team mixed hockey might be a game changer – hockey’s de rigeur phrase – but sentencing all of our top players to lengthy terms in airport lounges and motorway services? Is it really worth it?

Read more on Todd Williams every week in The Hockey Paper

The Hockey Paper

Loic van Doren to move to Hoofdklasse with Den Bosch

©: World Sport Pics

Loic van Doren will move to Den Bosch next season from KHC Dragons in one of three eye-catching signings for the Dutch Hoofdklasse side this week.

He will replace Maurits Visser who has already been confirmed as the new goalkeeper at Bloemendaal for next season, returning to the club to replace Jaap Stockmann who is retiring.

The Belgian number two goalkeeper follows Jelle Galema who signed for Den Bosch from Oranje-Rood on Monday while Sebastien Dockier will return to the club after a year with Beerschot.

For Dragons, it is the third international who has confirmed they will depart the club during the summer. World Player of the Year Arthur van Doren will go to HC Bloemendaal while Victor Wegnez goes to Racing Club de Bruxelles after a year with Dragons.

With Louis Rombouts moving to Madrid full-time and Jeremy Celis retiring, a few new signings are anticipated at Dragons. The first is Louis Willems who moves from Leuven while Florent van Aubel and Felix Denayer have extended their contracts.

Euro Hockey League media release

USWNT Goalkeeper Briggs Named to Home County Hall of Fame

READING, Pa. - USA Field Hockey would like to congratulate U.S. Women's National Team goalkeeper, Jackie Briggs, who will be honored Sunday, April 22 as one of the newest members of the Berks County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. The Berks County chapter, which covers Briggs' hometown of Robesonia, Pa., will be inducting 10 new members, bringing the total to 388 since its inaugural class in 1976.

The Berks County Chapter will hold its 43rd annual banquet at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Reading, Pa., beginning at 5 p.m. ET, and is open to the public.

Briggs earned All-State honors as a goalkeeper at Conrad Weiser High School before helping the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill win two NCAA titles. She joined the USWNT in 2010.  Originally left off the 2011 Pan American Games roster, Briggs received a phone call a mere day prior to the start of the Olympic qualification tournament with a voice on the other end telling her to pack her bags and hop on the next flight to Guadalajara, Mexico. Briggs helped Team USA defeat Argentina to win the program's first Pan American gold medal and earn a berth in the London 2012 Olympic. Briggs was a member of the gold medal Champions Challenge squad and a part of the USA squad that stunned the world with a fourth place finish at the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup. Most recently she was part of the team that earned gold at the 2017 FIH Hockey World League Semifinals in Johannesburg, South Africa, where her performance in goal during two shootouts earned her the honor of Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament.

As the team prepares for their biggest challenge in 2018, the Vitality Hockey Women's World Cup in London, England, Briggs sat down with USA Field Hockey to chat about her recent Hall of Fame nod.

USA Field Hockey: How does it feel to be named to the local chapter of the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame, essentially your hometown?

Jackie Briggs: It is a great honor to be named to the Berks County chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of fame. There are a lot of great athletes from this area and I am honored to be nominated alongside them. Thank you to everyone that believed in and supported me along my journey.

USA: What was the best thing about playing field hockey growing up?

JB: The best thing about playing field hockey when I was younger are the people I met and the friends I've made. I was surrounded by great athletes and great people who have taught me a lot and shared in the amazing memories that we made together. The beauty of playing a team sport is learning how to work well with the people around you and I wouldn't be where I am today without all the strong women I've been surrounded by over the years. Even today on the national team, I have the most fierce, strong, beautiful, powerful women by my side and they continue to inspire me to be the best person I can.

USA: What is your favorite moment from youth/college and as an athlete for the USWNT:

JB: I have many favorite moments throughout my career, but when I was younger I remember my first game against Oley Valley Middle School, a notoriously talented team. They called a stroke for Oley, and I didn't even know what a stroke was. The referee told me to stand on the goal line and try to save the ball when the attacker shot it. So I did just that, and saved it! We lost 3-0 but I still remember wondering why nobody taught me what a stroke was before that day!?

A favorite moment of my national team career would have to be winning the World League Semifinals last year in South Africa. We were young and inexperienced, but we stepped up and fought hard to come back in game after game, going to shootouts in the last two games to win. It was an extremely unforgettable moment where I prouder of my team than I ever have been in the past. I was so fortunate to be able to represent my country and bring home a gold medal with my team.

Another memorable moment in my career is during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro when I was interviewed by Julie Foudy after a game. I really looked up to the 1999 World Cup championship women's soccer team when I was a kid, something that really sparked my desire to compete at the highest level is sports. Having her interview me really brought my career full circle. It was a moment I will never forget! Hopefully I've been able to inspire the next generation of young athletes in our country!

USFHA media release

Pakistan hockey squad named for Asian qualifiers

LAHORE: The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) on Tuesday announced a nine-member team along with four standbys for the Asian hockey qualifiers for Youth Olympics to be held in Bangkok, Thailand from April 25 to 29. The top two teams from the 11 sides competing at these qualifiers will represent Asia at the Youth Olympics, scheduled in Buenos Aires, Argentina from October 6-18, 2018. The hockey event of the Youth Olympics is played in 5-a-side format.


Awais Arshad (goal keeper), Waqas Ahmed (captain), Ali Raza, Mohibullah (vice captain), Murtaza Yaqoob, Junaid Rasool, Mohsin Khan, Zulqarnain, Hammad Anjum. Standbys: Mohammad Abduallah, Abdur Rehman, Awais Amin and Abrar Ahmed.

The Daily Times

States Gear Up For U15 Australian Championships In Wollongong

Ben Somerford

The 2018 Under-15 Boys and Girls Australian Championships will get underway in Wollongong, New South Wales on Wednesday.

All states and territories will be represented in both gender divisions with 12 teams, including two teams from Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland, to compete across 84 matches from April 18-27.

The matches will be played at the Illawarra Hockey Centre in Unanderra, thanks to the support of the NSW State Government, Destination NSW, Hockey NSW and Hockey Australia.

This year, NSW State Boys and Victoria Blue Girls will be looking to defend their 2017 titles.

For details on how to follow the Championships head to http://www.hockey.org.au/u15

Follow @HockeyAustralia on Twitter for regular match updates throughout the Championships.

For information on all the fixtures and the program guide head to http://www.hockey.org.au/Portals/2/2018/U15%20update.pdf

Hockey Australia media release

Akhimullah hungry for more goals as SSTMI continue challenge in MJHL

By Aftar Singh

KUALA LUMPUR: Striker Mohd Akhimullah Anuar Esook is the leading scorer in the Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL) with 14 goals.

But the 18-year-old player from Terengganu, who has the ability to score from penalty corners as well from field goals, is not satisfied with his performance.

He helped Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI)-Thunderbolt win the Division One league title with one match in hand.

Defending overall champions SSTMI-Thunderbolt will wrap up the 10-team league fixtures against Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) Tigers today at the MBPJ Stadium in Petaling Jaya.

SSTMI-Thunderbolt have been unstoppable in the Under-19 league and they have maximum points from eight matches, scoring a whopping 49 goals and conceded only four.

Last year’s league champions MBPJ are struggling in the league as they only have 10 points from three wins, one draw and three defeats.

Akhimullah said he missed a few scoring chan-ces in the league matches and needs to be sharper in the remaining matches.

“Last year, I scored 17 goals to be the top scorer in the league but this time I want to score more than 20 goals to win the top scorer award,” said Akhimullah, who is in the Project 2020 squad.

“To achieve that, I need to score in tomorrow’s league match and also in the knockout stage.

“We (SSTMI) have been playing well in the league and we need to continue our winning ways in the league to secure a 100% record by staying unbeaten.

“Although we have won the league title with one match in hand, we are not going to take any team for granted as every team will be going all out to end our unbeaten run,” said Akhimullah.

Meanwhile, five teams – MBPJ, Anderson-Thunderbolt, SMK Datuk Bentara Luar-UniKL-PHJ, Pahang Hockey Academy (AHP)-SSJ-Thunderbolt and Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS)-Thunderbolt – are fighting for the runners-up position in the league.

The Star of Malaysia

Fatima triumph at schools hockey challenge

Fatima had a clear run to the regional final, where they met Danville Park Girls’ High School after winning their group and remaining unbeaten.

Our Lady of Fatima’s forward Megan Coreejes takes a determined shot at goals in the Durban North Regional of the SPAR KZN School Girls’ Hockey Challenge which was hosted by Crawford North Coast on April 15. Fatima met Danville Park Girls’ High in the finals where they took the honours winning 2-0.

OUR Lady of Fatima earned themselves their third title when they were crowned Durban North Regional winners at the SPAR KZN School Girls’ Hockey Challenge on Sunday at Crawford North Coast.

Fatima had a clear run to the regional final, where they met Danville Park Girls’ High School after winning their group and remaining unbeaten.

Fatima met Northlands Girls’ High in the first semi-final where Fatima went up 3 nil. Goal scorers in that game were star players Lofstedt, and Megan Coreejes with Naomi Maujean also getting her name on the score sheet.

Danville met Crawford La Lucia in the second semi-final, at full time both teams were unable to make a break through. Both teams were quietly impressive throughout the day but were at loggerheads in their semi.

Both Durban North schools met in the final with Fatima taking the honours winning 2-0.

Receiving his second Most Promising Umpire award, Enzo Magubane from Amanzimtoti was recognised for his efforts with the whistle. He was representing Ashton International College this time round, having been selected previously blowing at the Durban South Regional

Our Lady of Fatima is the sixth team to secure their berth at the Grand Finals that takes place at St Mary’s DSG in Kloof.

Northglen News

Hockey training

by J Anderson

A hockey training program must meet the demands of a very physically challenging, multi-sprint sport.

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