Michelle Kasold- "Final Pre-Season Preparation"

Sept. 30, 2010, 6:24 p.m. (ET)

Final pre-season preparation

This week has been pretty busy once again. I am trying to make the most of the time I have here in the Netherlands because I know it will go by a lot faster than I think!!

Saturday morning I spent the day in Den Haag with a teammate doing a little shopping. I have been really wanting to go shopping and get into the Dutch and European fashion! I got a few things, including a rain coat for all the rainy days! What I really wanted to find was a nice leather jacket. Everyone here seems to have one and wears it all the time! I found a few I liked, but wasn't sold on anything, so I'll have to keep my eye out for that one.

Saturday afternoon I found myself at the club for the presentations of the first teams of HGC (men's and women's). Every year once the team has been announced, they publicly present the team at the club for all the members to see. The coach gets up on stage, calls us up, and sometimes tells a little story about the team. It's nice to have so much support from the club and it's members. Also, they present the blauwboek (Blue Book) which is like a yearbook for the previous year. It has the pictures and rosters of the teams at HGC as well as a few articles and things about HGC, it's sponsors, and players. It was a pretty fun event.

Saturday evening, I had a great dinner at my teammate Inge's house. Her mother is taking a cooking class, so she invited a few of us over to try out the dishes. It was delicious!! Always nice to get a home cooked meal and for my teammate to open up her home to us!

After all the excitement of Saturday, Sunday was game day. We had our final practice match before the season starts against Pinoke, which is located in Amsterdam. Following a long weeks worth of practice working on tactics: mostly our movement when outletting and our press, we were ready to put it into a game situation. The first half looked really good and I was impressed to see how well we had learned and adjusted that week. Unfortunately, the scoreboard didn't reflect our level of play. It was still just 1-1 at half. I'm not quite sure what happened in the second half, as we became a bit frantic and had a lot of unforced turnovers. We ended up losing the game 3-1.

Although this is not the way we wanted to leave off leading up to our first game of the season, this week's practices have been very positive. We have shown that we are capable of playing well, individually and collectively. As long as we can maintain our focus for a full 70 minutes, we should not only be able to compete with every team in the league, but should do quite well. We know that the games count now, and you can tell that everyone has stepped it up a notch at practice. I have a good feeling about this weekend, even though we play one of the top sides in Laren.

Check back next week for an update!



Hockey training with the kids

The oldest child in the family I help out with is 8 years old. His name is Declan and he also plays hockey at HGC. It is a much different culture here in regards to hockey when Declan, like many of the other children, have already been playing hockey for 2 or 3 years. I didn’t even know what the sport was until I was 11! I was asked to help out with the team though because they don’t really have a coach and have had parents trying to run practice. I’ve coached a lot over the years from Futures to summer camps and more. So far, this experience though has been quite different from the coach I'm used though.

First of all, the kids are quite a bit younger than I am accustomed to working with, but at the same time more skilled than I expected. It can be hard to get the attention of a group of 8 year olds! It is even harder when you speak a different language that most of them don’t understand. So a lot of practice I have to demonstrate and show the kids what I am trying to explain. (Often Declan helps me because he knows English and can translate, or there is a parent there helping to translate which helps a lot). Although the children seem to like me, it can be quite hard at times to get them to do what I am asking or trying to explain. Even simple things can be extremely hard to explain, so patience and persistence are very important. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, non-verbal communication can be very useful, and that goes for teaching hockey as well. But working with the kids is also helping me learn more hockey terms! I realize just how many words I really don’t know yet!

I have a funny story to go along with that which happened this week. So while I was helping train some of the kids, I had pulled one of the boys aside and was working with him individually. He was having trouble doing a reverse stick pull because he wasn’t moving his hands correctly. Since he understood nearly no English, I was showing him and moving his hands for him. This strategy was not working so well, but I didn’t know what else to do because I didn’t know how to explain it in Dutch. Just then, my coach from Dames 1, Peter, walked up to the field to say hi. He laughed for a second as he watched me struggle to explain. He helped describe what I was showing in Dutch to the boy and immediately he understood what to do. A little bit embarrassed and frustrated, I thanked my coach and told him I had to get back to coaching. He agreed but replied that he would give me a long list of Dutch hockey words to learn because I needed it! Haha, indeed I do!!

Even though I’ve coached a million times, this is a completely new experience where I really have to get down to the basics and break down the skills. The kids are a lot of fun though and I am quickly picking up a lot of new hockey words which will help me on field at my practices as well! Once again, I just laugh at the language barrier and find new ways to communicate until I can learn more Dutch!