Mens High Performance Weekend Shows Promise for Future
*Photos courtesy of Doug Hetzler.
Last weekend, the Moorpark turf heated up with hockey as the Men’s High Performance squads gathered for the first competition weekend of the year. The Ventura County Red Devils (VCRD) played host to the NorCal Sharks and Chula Vista High Performance and Development squads. The turnout of athletes, families and fans was encouraging for the continued growth of boys and men’s development in the U.S.
“The regional growth and responsibility is having a very positive effect on the state of the game across the country,” said Head U.S. Men’s National Coach Chris Clements. “We are finding more areas where boys are playing and are increasing the connection between them, our developmental or performance sites and competitions such as National Indoor Tournament and Cal Cup. This is critical in populating the pipeline for recreational and national team opportunities for boys and men. We are thankful for the support of the Men's Foundation aiding in providing assistance to the Chula Vista, Ventura, NorCal, Colorado and East Coast."
Below are some thoughts from each of the regions coaches on the past weekend.
The NorCal Sharks players and staff would like to thank the VCRD community for hosting us this past weekend. We look forward to showcasing our new training facility located at Stanford University when the VCRD group returns to NorCal in April 2014.
The Sharks staff has ramped up the training schedule in 2014 to include four times the amount of training sessions and competitions from last year. This has allowed our high performance region to better prepare for the competitive weekends versus VCRD and build towards the National Championships held during the California Cup (May 2014). For the first weekend of competition, we had two focal points for the team: 1. Team structure in a 3/4 press and 2. Work and improve the connectivity of our midfield to manipulate our opponents’ defensive choices. We are satisfied with the improvement of those two aspects over the four game series. We are encouraged about the future of the NorCal and San Diego areas where over 20 under-14 players were exposed to competitive matches over the weekend.
The Ventura County Red Devils thought the home series went great. We have a fantastic group of parents who provide logistic support as well as tournament preparations, not to mention a strong coaching staff with lots of domestic and international experience.
We played eight matches in a two day period with two age groups, exposing 30 players to the best competition possible in California. We also have been training five goal keepers, all of which saw action over the weekend.
The local culture is beginning to understand what it takes to participate in a high performance environment. From the preparations to the actual physical look of the team, it's a lot of work. For the players, this weekend was more about the fitness and mental pieces that take place in these types of situations.
In a weekend of eight matches we won seven and drew one. I am most happy with the combinations of play that were organized and implemented from training. The younger group in particular grew on day two and played some really good combination pieces both offensively and defensively. I thought shot selection was also a high point.
We will continue to work at match fitness and speed development. Penalty corner offense and defense needs to be refined, as does the mobile passing and receiving. Far too many times we are trying to get to areas in one pass rather than two or three easy combinations.
We will again have matches against East Coast HP in two weeks’ time and we'll look to build on the basic concepts of passing and receiving under pressure and in smaller areas, coupled with the amount of information that we can continually get away from the ball and on field coaching off the ball.
The exposure our boys gained from this event will pay dividends heading into our spring training. Weekends like this help our entire group, both players and families, become a tighter unit. The fact is, the majority of our players are still quite new to the sport of field hockey. However, with an average age of only 10, many still have a very realistic chance of becoming elite athletes. The talent is rightly there, but that is only one of the necessary ingredients.
This past weekend has helped instill a competitive drive amongst our club. A healthy rivalry between the High Performance regions is pushing these kids to train harder and reach higher. They also had the opportunity to watch and learn from the older divisions of the tournament, who provided incredible examples for the youngsters. With each match, our ball possession became more valued, our defensive marking more diligent and our spacing more effective. The impact is real and we are psyched to continue the momentum heading toward the California Cup.
Upcoming High Performance weekends
March 28-30 – East Coast vs VCRD at Moorpark
April 25-27 – VCRD vs NorCal at Stanford
For more info on boys opportunities with visit usafieldhockey.com.