USA Field Hockey
Executive Director's Report - Week of May 31
Typically I write these reports on the Thursday and Friday preceding the following Tuesday release date. The reason I mention that process is that I traveled to the Moorpark, California based Cal Cup this past weekend. I was in California beginning last Friday through Monday. As a result, I do not refer to Cal Cup in this report, but will refer to it next week as a lot was happening there. Over 2,000 athletes plus a cast of hundreds of followers were on hand, and hundreds of teams competed in various age divisions. We also participated in a USA Field Hockey Town Hall Meeting. Well over fifty questions were submitted ahead of the meeting so we had the opportunity to research the concerns prior to the gathering. More on the Cal Cup experience next week.
This upcoming weekend the USA Field Hockey Board of Directors will meet in Colorado Springs. This will be the second meeting I have been involved with the group. One of the highlights of the meeting will include a review of concerns that have been raised during the five Town Hall meetings that have taken place to date plus a review of responses to the survey taken by nearly 300 members of the organization. The purpose for this endeavor is to reach out to the membership to gather data that will be used as the USA Field Hockey long-term strategic plan is developed by the Board of Directors and USA Field Hockey staff. The data gathered at the meetings will have a great deal to do with the direction the strategic plan takes. The questions in the survey and the Town Hall meetings normally stimulate other comments that relate to the questions. On the other hand, answers to the questions may bring up entirely new topics. Yesterday I received a letter from Joe Gote, a USA Field Hockey member living in Holland. He had interesting reflections that speak to the culture of the Dutch and how they cherish hockey. Here is what Joe had to say (by the way, I did ask Joe his permission to share this with you and he agreed):
Hello from the Netherlands. I know that you are seeking thoughts and ideas through your town hall meetings. Here is some of my input from far away.
I have been following the trials and tribulations of American field hockey for several years. As an American living in the Netherlands (for the last 14 years), I have a great appreciation of the sport. It is one of the few sports which everyone can participate, young and old, male and female, the strong and the weak. In the Netherlands, hockey is a part of the culture. It starts at a young age and continues into the late stages of life. Here, it is more than a sport. It is a game for life for absolutely anyone who is interested. The hockey clubs are a center of social contacts and entertainment (sporting and otherwise). This is the "hockey culture" that American field hockey needs to strive to achieve. Hockey is something different because it transcends all boundaries including gender, age, and nationality. For US field hockey to consistently compete at the highest international levels (and to thrive in the US with competition with other sports like Lacrosse), it needs to become intertwined with America's family culture -- then it becomes "something different." In my view, the real key to success is building strong clubs with good youth programs (that can be linked to the high school programs) that offer participation to everyone and do not only focus on the best. Most importantly, senior programs need to be created. This last factor is perhaps the most overlooked. Active seniors contribute their time and money. They build the clubs, run the social programs, and train the youths. These activities institutionalize the game in society. International success will follow naturally. There has to be a long-term vision. I know that you are trying to define this vision. In my view, this is not possible unless you make a fact-finding trip to the Netherlands and truly understand why and how a real hockey culture thrives (for instance, visit the website, http://www.hockey.nl/, for an online version of a hockey magazine that is updated every day with articles.)
I am a hockey player - old, slow, and fairly unskilled, but enjoying the opportunity to play. I started in my late 40's and I am now 54. We have 4 daughters (14, 12, 9, and 8) who have dual nationality (American and Dutch). They go to Dutch school and are voracious hockey players. My wife (who is Dutch) played competitive hockey in her youth in the Netherlands. We live a short walk (10 minutes) from the "temple" of field hockey, Wagener Stadium (the national hockey stadium for the Netherlands) and a similar distance from 3 of the largest hockey clubs in the Netherlands (Pinoke, Hurley, and the Netherlands). The hockey club that we are a family member is Pinoke (http://www.pinoke.nl/). Pinoke has more 3000 members, more than 90 youth teams (starting at age 6) and more than 55 senior teams. Pinoke's top men and women teams play in the "Hoofdklasse" which is the top competitive league in the Netherlands. (On Pinoke's top men and women teams, there are 4 Chinese national players, 2 Australian national players, 1 former Dutch national player, and, 1 South African national player.) Pinoke is building a new clubhouse which will open this year with terraces, dining, bars, fitness room, locker rooms, etc. Pinoke has 4 artificial turf fields (1 water field, 1 semi-water field, 2 sand fields -- all of the fields have lights). These facilities are used everyday almost year around. The hockey season in the Netherlands is, practically, all year. Pinoke is not an exceptional hockey club in the Netherlands. There are over 310 established clubs ranging from small to large. The KNHB (Koninklijke Nederlandse Hockey Bond) has more than 210,000 members.
The hockey atmosphere is great. For instance, last weekend, I watched the final four (men and women) play-off in the European Hockey League Championships at Wagener Stadium. Three days of great hockey to determine the best club men and women teams in Europe. (The EHL has a great hockey website, http://www.ehlhockey.tv/, in English, with video clips of highlights from the season.) There were thousands in attendance. On Monday, which was a holiday in the Netherlands, I watched my oldest daughter compete in the finals of the Interregional Challenge Cup (http://www.icctoernooi.nl/) at Wagener Stadium and Hurley to determine the best youth teams in the Netherlands. Last August 22-30, we watched the EuroHockey Nations Championships at Wagener Stadium. Tomorrow night, I play "Trim Hockey" with my team of "seniors."
My point is that hockey in the Netherlands is a cultural lifestyle. My children are on a hockey field practically every day. As Americans interested in the future of hockey, we share a common interest. We need to strive to bring more of this hockey culture to the US. In my view, you have to experience this lifestyle in order to understand it. As such, I would like to invite you to visit us in the Netherlands. We have access to the Pinoke club officers who would welcome the opportunity to fully explain to you how the clubs work here. (Budget constraints should not hold you back from coming. We have a large house with a guest room which has its own bathroom.) If you really want to understand a real "hockey culture," please accept my invitation. (Keep in mind that a stronger hockey culture in the US could be very beneficial to Dutch hockey and the KNHB should be very receptive to assisting in this objective.)
In the meantime, I am happy to share some additional thoughts with you on the telephone or in person. I will be bringing my two oldest daughters to Karen Shelton's Hockey Camp at the University of North Carolina, July 6-9th. If you can make it to Chapel Hill -- great -- if not, we can try to meet somewhere else in the US, or, at least, have a telephone dialogue. (P.S. I am a not lunatic - just passionate about the game and want to see it thrive in the US as it does in the Netherlands.)
I look forward to hearing from you.
I thanked Joe for the time he spent in writing the piece you just read. Plus, we are going to maintain contact and likely visit when he comes to the States. He paints an exciting picture of the Netherlands. A key point of his piece is the importance of clubs. As you will see as the weeks go by in this report, we agree with him and much of our approach, as presented to the Board, will orient around clubs. Good on you, Joe.
Simon Hoskins, USA Field Hockey Marketing Director, and Christine Battcock, USA Field Hockey Manager of Junior High Performance announce that Katelyn Nerbonne has been selected to serve in an intern capacity. Katelyn is graduate of Colgate University where she captained the field hockey team, is a past player of Seacoast United, and former Futures athlete. She will be working on all Junior High Performance events over the summer and will support our sponsor-partner relationships. She will be moving to Colorado Springs from New Hampshire by June 8th. We are thrilled she will be serving in her new capacity as a USA Field Hockey intern.
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: "In case you did not watch, the two final contestants on "American Idol" were Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze. Or as they'll be known in six months, "who?"
Late Show with David Letterman: "It's the fifth anniversary of YouTube. It completely revolutionized procrastination."
Have a great hockey week!
USA Field Hockey