USA Field Hockey Weekly Report-Week of March 14, 2011

March 15, 2011, 12:12 p.m. (ET)


Week of March 14, 2011
USA Field Hockey Weekly Report-Week of March 14, 2011
The 17th is St. Patrick’s Day. Careful out there! 
USA Field Hockey is so political in its selection processes…at least, that is what I frequently  hear. If we have been, we are now trying to change in many areas, and here is an example of just one. It is Futures, a prime Olympic Development program within USA Field Hockey. Our Olympic Development staff of Paula Conway, Caitie Tornes and Laura Darling have been working hard to eliminate real and perceived biases in selection. Paula recently wrote to a dad regarding the Futures’ selection processes and the following is extracted from Paula’s letter:

I have been involved with USA Field Hockey since 1991 as a player, coach, selector, college coach and administrator. There have always been accusations that the selections process is political.  This year, the Futures Program has been making changes to ensure fair selections for all athletes.

First, we have hired Regional Selector Coordinators (RSCs) to be the head selectors at all of the Regional Futures Tournaments.  The RSCs were selected by Olympic Development staff members Tracey Fuchs, Christine Battcock and myself.  We are spending extra money to bring the selectors from out of region to decrease personal club and high school affiliations. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have always been the states with the most complaints because of the number of athletes and the high level of play.  The RSC in New Jersey is Level III Coach and former National Team Player Carla Tagliente. Diane Madl, Level III coach and Olympian, will be the RSC in Pennsylvania.  Neither of them live in a 50 mile radius of the state, so there is no possible way they can have a business tie to the selections due to NCAA rules.

As you know, most of our Level III and top Level II coaches are college coaches so it is difficult to eliminate the perception that the college coaches are selecting their recruits.  However, we mandate that the Regional Coaching Directors provide feedback and input to the RSC in the selection process to eliminate just one person making the decision.  In Region 5, we might have as many as 15 selectors working; we try and pull people from different parts of the region for this purpose. There is now a 20 page RFT Manual that we put together that outlines the details that the RSC and RCD must follow through the selection process.  There are also assessment forms to measure the athletes ability in the selection process.

Second, the Futures team is changing the format for the Futures tournament in 2011. All of the teams in all of the age groups will be mixed regionally.  In the past, the teams have been created by region.  After assessing and observing the tournament for many years, we have realized that some regional teams are always at the top and are often crushing teams by as many as 10 goals.  It has been observed that the college coaches pick certain teams to watch to recruit and many of the other teams are not viewed.  Additionally, the historical strength of the strong teams MAY add to the biases in the selection process.  I don't think the teams or team names have been changed for years - if ever.   After speaking with Terry Walsh, USA Field Hockey Technical Director, we felt by mixing the teams, ALL athletes from ALL regions would get more of a chance in the selection process.  In the past and even if  you are a fantastic player, you may not have been selected from another region if your team is continually being crushed.  Also, by mixing the teams, we will take out any of the club affiliation because there will only be three members from each region on a team.  In the past, a strong club would make up a significant part of the regional team and often times the club coach would be the NFC coach because they are a strong coach in the region.  

Although we know we are going to receive some backlash from mixing the teams, we know it is the right decision for the program and for ALL of our Futures’ athletes.

We know that any field hockey selection process at any level is imperfect, but we are working hard to create an equal selection process for all.

This is the first opportunity to announce the mixing process and there will be more formal announcements forthcoming. All in all, it will produce a fairer standard with more athletes being given the opportunity to be observed.

The Ring of Fire has struck again with the latest calamity in Japan. It just breaks our heart to see the deaths and damage created by the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The earth’s highly volatile Ring of Fire has now struck in Chile (last year), New Zealand (earlier this year) and now Japan. Hopefully, that is the end of it for a while. The tragedy struck home in New Zealand as a member of the Black Sticks was fatally injured in the Christchurch earthquake. While we think our problems within field hockey, within Olympic sport, and generally in the USA are huge, they pale in comparison to what the Japanese people are now experiencing; and the Kiwis and Chileans before that.

The Women's National Team will host Japan in April and we are happy to report that the hockey community in Japan seems to be safe.  Please join USA Field Hockey in welcoming Japan to Chula Vista next month with open arms.  Sport can be a powerful distraction from tragedy and we hope the upcoming series can provide a brief respite for the Japanese delegation traveling to California.

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: “It’s daylight-saving time, when we lose an hour of our lives. It’s like nature’s version of Facebook."

Have a great week!

Steve Locke

Executive Director

USA Field Hockey