Executive Director Weekly Report

Dec. 04, 2012, 2:51 p.m. (ET)

USA Field Hockey Weekly Report-Week of December 3, 2012

A very sad occurrence took place at our West Palm Beach based Hockey Festival over a week ago Prior to Festival, Steve Withington and his daughter Brooke Withington, a goalkeeper for the Gateway Club/St. Louis, traveled together from St. Louis to Festival after a short trip to the Florida Keys to visit his mother. The family came without Brooke’s mom as it was an expensive trip to make as a family. Unfortunately, Mr. Withington’s situation was that he had lost his job and home some weeks before and finances had become an issue. On the first day of Festival, Mr. Withington collapsed near the expo area while his daughter was in goal on a nearby field. He was on his way to watch her play in the first game of the event. While every effort was made to revive him, he tragically passed away enroute to a local hospital. Kelly Yates, Gateway Club’s founder, was on hand for Brooke the entire time and arranged for her transport back to St. Louis.

Now reality is coming to the fore. The Withington family is facing some tough times as we head into winter after the tragic loss of their father and husband. USA Field Hockey will be making a donation to the family, but more is needed. If you would like to help a hockey family in need, please contact Kelly as she organizes the effort. Kelly’s address for this effort is:

The Terri Withington Family
c/o Kelly Yates
2406 Forest Leaf Parkway
St. Louis, Missouri 63040

At the Annual General Meeting in Florida I announced that I would be putting together a Task Force to examine adult play – specifically post-collegiate play. I am a big fan of Task Forces which are a collaborative way that we as a sport can together tease out solutions to our challenges. Over the past two years with task forces, we have covered issues facing Clubs, Youth Development, Futures, Boys, and High Performance.

This topic is of major importance. The huge drop off our sport experiences as athletes leave college, is of great concern. There are very few opportunities to carrying on playing the sport and many athletes leave hockey forever after college. There is no quick fix to this challenge. However, we are committed to addressing this area and putting some thinking power together to see how best we can positively impact post collegiate playing opportunities.

There are two strands to this task force; one is to look at how an annual elite domestic competition may be structured so affording our top athletes the competitive platform our international peers benefit from. The other is to examine how we can reverse this decline in participation as athletes leave college so that many more stay in our sport recreationally and continue to enjoy hockey and all the great values and experiences it provides later life.

It is no small task, but in hearing many perspectives in many conversations over the past two years, I am confident that there is more than enough passion for us to start making significant inroads into this area for the betterment of our sport. Now I put it out to you, if you would like to be considered to be part of the Post-Collegiate Play Task Force, I invite you to email me together with a paragraph or two on why you think you can make a positive contribution at slocke@usafieldhockey.com. I will put together the Task Force later this month and announce the group and their specific brief in the new year. The members will be expected to be on several evening conference calls as well as doing a little research. The Task Force ultimately will be asked to create a set of recommendations which can guide both our short and long term efforts in this important area.

Executive Summary of High Performance Assessment Quite some time ago in a weekly report I referred to the High Performance Assessment that was being completed by a third party in the person of Dr. Peter Davis, Ph.D. Dr. Davis is a renowned physiologist with much global experience in high level sport. He has completed  similar assessments for many countries including England, Qatar, Canada, several African countries, and New Zealand. In particular, Dr. Davis completed a comprehensive review of the New Zealand program for field hockey after the Beijing Olympic Games, and their performance substantially improved for women during the London Olympic Games.

The following is a truncated executive summary (truncated as there was much sensitive material in the report). Even though it is truncated, it does give you a flavor of directions we will be following as we select a new high performance staff on the women’s side and work toward success at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Report for US Field Hockey Association regarding London 2012 Olympic Games Review and (Women’s) High Performance Program Review

Executive Summary

The objective of the review process was to:

  • review the performance outcome of the Women’s National Team at the London 2012 Olympic Games,
  • review the structure and function of the (Women’s) High Performance Program, and
  • review the ability of key High Performance staff to delivery appropriate results (as per contract performance accountabilities

The process involved both direct phone/Skype interviews and on-line surveys with various USA Filed Hockey stakeholders. Participants in direct interviews and online surveys included current and former players, coaching staff, Olympic SS/SM staff, USA Field Hockey staff and others as described in the body of the report.

This was a confidential 3rd party review conducted by an external reviewer (the author of this Report, Dr Peter G Davis, Sport Performance Management, Colorado USA) and no individual data or comments were shared with USA Field Hockey staff or Board members, or the USOC. It is the impression of the author (who conducted the phone/Skype interviews) that all those who did choose to participate in the direct interviews did so very willingly and openly.

Forty (40) individuals were invited to participate in direct phone/Skype interviews and thirty (30) individuals chose to be interviewed. Details of the nature of stakeholders interviewed are provided in the body of the report.

In addition to the direct phone interviews there were 3 separate surveys used to explore multiple areas of interest as follows

Athletes rating of Coaches and Support Staff,

Athletes perceptions of the Olympic Games period and High Performance Program,

Coaches and Support Staff perceptions of the Women’s High Performance Program

Survey questions examined elements of the program for the preceding 4 years, the previous 12 months of the London 2012 Olympic preparation period, the Olympic Games period and the program going forward into the next Olympic Quad.

Given the need to make certain decisions regarding coaches’ contracts immediately following the Olympic Games specific attention was given to the performance accountabilities of the Women’s Coaching staff and Technical Director. Positive and negative feedback from stakeholder responses in the surveys and direct interviews are provided in the report from which the USA Field Hockey Executive Director was able to make decisions regarding the tenure of the Coaches and Technical Director.

In addition to specific comments on the above mentioned positions, specific recommendations are made in the body of the report for future directions for the Women’s National Team and High Performance Program. The recommendations outlined are as follows:

  • Address issue of poorly integrated SS/SM services
  • Sport Sciences and Sports Medicine services are provided as necessary but they are not integrated
  • Performance of the team would be enhanced with a more integrated, and Field Hockey specific, training program and direct and “proactive performance management” involvement in planning and monitoring of the YTP (Yearly Training Plan)
  • Address issue of location and structure of WNT training – in other words geographic location, Full Time, Part time, Centralized-De-centralized and so on
    • This needs to be determined in the very near future.
  • Accelerate discussion and planning for a National Training Center and a policy and long term plan for Residency (i.e. Full Time-Part Time, Residency-non Residency etc.)
  • Address structure and operations of Coaching staff
  • Coaching staff needs to be determined as soon as possible and a long term succession plan and competition/camp assignment designed accordingly. This should include identifying a group of US coaches (potentially a National Coaching Squad) that would have performance accountabilities, evaluations and appropriate professional development)
  • Review and update elite athlete pathway to include high school, NCAA, domestic competition, placement in international leagues, PT or FT residency at a National Field Hockey Training Center and international competition/representation
  • Review and revise elite development pathway as soon as possible unless it is already in place and appropriate for long term advancement of the WNT
  • Consider changes to competition schedule to include more multiple tournament games to better prepare players to play consecutive high level games
  • Consider ways to develop a challenging elite level domestic competition in the USA

The total High Performance Assessment is providing a pathway through the issues identified as we move toward Rio. It is an exciting time for USA Field Hockey as we are now going through our transition.

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: “A new study found that eating healthier food can improve your memory. Unfortunately, the first thing you remember is how much better unhealthy food tastes.” 

Have a great week!

Steve Locke
Executive Director 
USA Field Hockey