|USA Field Hockey finished second in a Four Nations Series in Rosario, Argentina, February 16-20,2011. (USA Field Hockey)
When a 9.0-magnitude earthquake off the east coast of Japan began a series of events that created devastation across the country earlier this month, Kate Reisinger’s thoughts quickly turned to Japan’s national women’s field hockey team.
Over recent years, the U.S. and Japan women’s national teams have developed what coaches, administrators and athletes call a “friendly rivalry.” Reisinger, USA Field Hockey National Teams Director, immediately began to communicate with their Japanese counterparts after the quake.
“My first reaction was for our hockey people,” Reisinger said. “I think, since we’re such a small (international sports) community, the first thing I did was send an email over to the Japan Hockey Association, our contacts there, to make sure they were OK.”
Japan’s field hockey athletes and officials were out of harm’s way. They were in New Zealand at a tournament, and the only difficulty they had was returning to Japan because travel was so disrupted in their home country.
Still, on April 23, USA Field Hockey will present the Japan national team with a relief fund check prior to the first game of a five-game series between the two teams at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
“Just to be able to help them out in any way possible, I think, it’s a great thing that USA Field Hockey is doing,” said U.S. team captain Lauren Crandall, a seven-year national team athlete who trains in Chula Vista.
Reisinger, one of the organizers for USA Field Hockey’s involvement in the relief fund, hopes that more than $10,000 will be donated to the American Red Cross Japan Disaster Relief Fund on behalf of field hockey. The original goal was $5,000 when it was announced March 15, but funds poured in so fast that the financial goal was doubled. As of this week, Reisinger said, more than $8,900 had already been donated through the USA Field Hockey website (usafieldhockey.com) with a full month to go. Of that money, $2,000 will come from USA Field Hockey.
“Because the field hockey community is so strong in the USA, we knew we could count on what we call the field hockey family to contribute,’’ Reisinger said. “We hope that while it’s going to be a small amount in the big scheme of things, we hope that our gesture can provide some sort of relief to them.’’
To donate to the relief fund through USA Field Hockey, contributors can click on the link at www.usafieldhockey.com, or go directly to www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/japanfieldhockey/japan-disaster-relief. The donations are tax-deductible.
“If you’re able to donate and help out, every little bit helps,” Crandall said.
Added Reisinger: “While it’s being led by USA Field Hockey, we hope that anybody will donate.”
Japan will play Team USA on April 23, 24, 26, 27 and 28 in Chula Vista. Admittance to all of the matches is free, with all start times at 2 p.m. local time. Spectators at the field hockey matches in Chula Vista in April will also be able to donate to the relief fund, Reisinger said.
|The USA Women's National Team at the Four Nations Tournament. (USA Field Hockey)
The series reunites the teams that also played in 2007 in College Park, Md., and 2008 in Osaka, Japan.
“It’s actually my favorite tour,’’ said Crandall, referring to the trip to Osaka, “just because the generosity and the respect that they showed us. They hosted us in a hostel, so we were a little bit immersed in their culture.
“I have great respect for the collectiveness culture of Japan,’’ added Crandall, 26, a defender and former Wake Forest star who has 104 international caps. “It’s a very humbled culture. It’s about saving face for the individual, (and) kind of working more toward the group and overlooking the individual a little bit. For me, that’s kind of what team sports is all about, doing what’s best for the group and sacrificing for the group.”
Although language is often a barrier between the two teams (a few Japanese athletes speak English and Crandall was not aware of any U.S. player who spoke Japanese), a bond has developed from their frequent meetings.
“When we think of the Japanese team, we just think of smiles and happiness,” Reisinger said. “We get along with their team extremely well. They’re just such a sweet group of athletes.”
The USA vs. Japan series, which had been scheduled before the earthquake hit, was allowed to go on once the Japanese athletes, coaches and officials had learned that their immediate family members were safe, Reisinger said.
“I think that this just shows that sports is such a powerful tool in so many ways,” Reisinger said. “It provides relief and distraction, in a way, to something so devastating.”
The earthquake and resultant tsunami waves were so widespread that Crandall actually learned of them at 6:30 a.m., Pacific Time, March 12, when her father, who lives on the East Coast, sent an email message to Lauren that said simply: “Horrible earthquake in Japan. Tsunami coming your way. Get to higher ground.”
Lauren Crandall lives on Coronado Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean located just west of San Diego and connected to the mainland by a bridge. She was safe, and turned on live television reports to see what had happened. And like Reisinger, her thoughts, too, turned to the Japanese field hockey players.
“I honestly can’t even imagine how they felt, watching images and hearing about it,” Crandall said.
On April 23 at the Olympic Training Center, those emotions are liable to bubble up again as Team USA presents a relief fund check via the Japan national team.
“I think initiatives like this to raise money to help a country in need, especially one that we see very often and that we’re quite competitive with, is another way that we can represent our country in the best way,” Crandall said.
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.