Q&A with U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach Craig Parnham
Parnham's take on achieving gold and glory and what's next
Coming off of the U.S. Women's National Squad's exciting 2014 Champions Challenge victory last week, we caught up with Head Coach Craig Parnham to get his insight on the tournament, the squad and what it means for the future of Team USA.
USA Field Hockey: What forms of preparation did the athletes take on and off the pitch to feel prepared and confident going into Champions Challenge?
CP: The athletes are full-time centralized at The Home of Hockey in Lancaster, Pa. In other words, they train together day in, day out. Their daily and weekly routines have been in place for sometime now. It is closer to a full-time job than a typical training schedule. Of course, it features all you would expect, from the on-pitch technical and tactical work to the off-pitch skills, such as sports psychology, nutrition, strength and conditioning and all of the medical support. Confidence comes from knowing you have prepared throughly, and the players have been very diligent over the past months.
USA Field Hockey: What role did the move to Spooky Nook Sports/Home of Hockey play in that preparation?
CP: Spooky Nook provides a terrific venue to train at. We are very fortunate to have our own dedicated area; a customized gym and medical area located adjacent to the two water based pitches makes for a highly integrated approach to our routine.
USA Field Hockey: How did players respond physically and mentally during the week?
CP: The players responded well. We have a number of different ways we can test or monitor the work and importantly the physical load they are enduring. This is vital so that we know when to push and when to rest the group. Mentally, tournaments can be challenging as the players can have long periods of downtime between games and need to strike the balance of occupying their minds and match preparation with mentally escaping and relaxing. However, they are very good at watching video and reviewing their performances and looking ahead to our opponents.
USA Field Hockey: What challenges did the team have to overcome in Scotland?
CP: Nothing too stressful, the event was very well run, the fire alarm just before the start of the final was interesting, it was a first for many of us.
USA Field Hockey: What were the key moments on and off the field?
CP: Key moments off the field tend to come in meetings. This is where much of the learning can take place, we have a very good creative, problem solving group who all contribute well in team meetings.
USA Field Hockey: What were your feelings during the Final and upon winning?
CP: It was of course pleasing to reach the final and great for the team to finish the tournament with a win – the players are working hard in training and its nice for them to see the benefits. It doesn’t always work like that, anything can happen in a tournament situation in one off match.
USA Field Hockey: What does this Champions Challenge win mean?
CP: Winning the Champions Challenge is important as it qualifies us for the Champions Trophy in 2016, which includes the top 6 ranked teams in the world. This is a milestone moment for the program. It is key that we play against the best in the world as our ambition is to compete and win at the highest level. This means we have to be in the habit of competing at that level and the Champions Trophy offers us this opportunity.
USA Field Hockey: What role did the pipeline of Futures and Junior High Performance play? As well as the club, high school and NCAA coaches?
CP: The next aspiring hockey players in the USA will come through the pipeline. It is critical to the nation’s success that we continue to engage with and have the support of all the dedicated coaches, parents, officials throughout a player’s early development, right from young kids playing in school through to those at college. The time and commitment from all of the coaches and mentors is invaluable. We have to continually value the link from grassroots through to international level and recognize all those involved in the journey.
USA Field Hockey: When can younger athletes next meet the Champion Women’s National Team players?
CP: Part of being a member of the Women’s National Team is to give back to the hockey community. All of the players in the squad will be taking part in the Olympic Youth Camps that are taking place around the country during the week of July 28th. This is a great opportunity for young players to meet and be coached by our top players.