9 Days until World Cup with U.S. Head Coach Craig Parnham
9 Days until World Cup with U.S. Head Coach Craig Parnham
With 76 matches, 24 teams and 15 countries represented at the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup, this is the climax event of the world hockey calendar. From May 31 to June 15, field hockey fans will have their eyes locked on Holland.
After bringing home gold and glory already this month from the 2014 Champions Challenge in Scotland, the USA heads to Holland with confidence and determination. The red, white and blue will be led by U.S. Women’s National Coach Craig Parnham. Parnham was appointed to the role of Head Coach in January 2013. He was part of the team that led Great Britain to two Olympic Games and multiple podium finishes on the international stage between 2007-2012.
As the countdown reaches a mere 9 days until the World Cup. Head Coach Parnham gave us an inside look at the squad’s final preparations as they head into the globe’s zenith of field hockey events.
USA Field Hockey: How important was it to win the Champions Challenge in terms of momentum going into the World Cup?
CP: The importance of winning Champions Challenge is that it qualifies us for Champions Trophy in 2016. We take a great deal of confidence from the results in Scotland. The bigger picture is that we are on a journey, to aspire to compete with the top teams in world and the World Cup and Champions Trophy give us that opportunity. The win is important for momentum as equally as Champions Trophy is significant for program here in the U.S.
USA Field Hockey: What are the team’s emotions heading into the World Cup? Is there a sense of readiness from preparation?
CP: Our squad of 29 has been working very hard over the past months. Speaking on their behalf, the emotions of the group are that of excitement and anticipation. We have all been looking forward to World Cup and it was great to qualify last summer. It will be a fantastic event with the men and women competing together in one of greatest hockey nations in world. It will be a great experience for our players. We will be fine tuning in the final phases and the players will be more than ready to hit the ground running against England when we start on the 1st of June.
USA Field Hockey: A majority of the athletes on the World Cup roster are from the East Coast region. How has training closer to home assisted to prepare the athletes?
CP: The relocation to Pennsylvania has definitely helped the program. Many players have close family links near the training facility, giving them the opportunity to see friends and family more than usual. Historically, the area has a long hockey history here and it’s nice for the local hockey community to interact with and see the players. Hopefully they will be tuning in and watching the World Cup.
USA Field Hockey: Team USA’s athleticism truly shines through on the pitch. What was your and Sports Performance Director, Dave Hamilton’s strategy to keep the girls’ strength and speed so incredibly high?
CP: There’s no real secret to this, a lot of it’s about hard work and we’ve worked hard with our physical preparation. We have a great group of players who are really committed to the program. We believe we have a strong program in place and a group of athletes willing to put in the hard work. We have amassed a staff that brings great expertise in their fields and a more scientific approach which has seen some strong improvements with what we can do on the field. Time and access to players, diligent support staff and a group of players willing to work hard have made the process possible.
USA Field Hockey: How has the implementation of assistant coach Janneke Schopman created a more robust squad? How will she continue to aid the team at World Cup?
CP: When we appointed Janneke, I knew we were incredibly lucky to have her involved. She brings a massive wealth of experience as an athlete playing and wining at the highest level. Her experience will only help this group. She is a fierce competitor, who is exacting in her coaching, she continually drives standards every day. Her greatest strength is that she sees the perspectives of both playing and coaching. She is an incredible asset to group and will continue to help during World Cup. She has transitioned to the group very smoothly, working across a number of areas to help progress the program.
USA Field Hockey: What would you consider to be a successful World Cup?
CP: For me, a successful World Cup is looking at USA Field Hockey as the bigger picture. Engaging with the hockey community in the U.S. is a really important part of World Cup. We want young boys and girls watching the TV and the computer as it’s streamed through to be inspired to get out and try hockey. This is a huge and exiting time for us. As we continue to grow as a nation and a governing body. World Cup is a huge opportunity to interact and expose our players to the community. We want to get more numbers and inspire a few to try the sport.
From a team standpoint, playing to our ability on the field and maximizing our potential every time we step onto the pitch is what I would consider a success. World Cups and other big tournaments always feature some intriguing results and there are always some unknowns. We want to focus on the process rather than only the outcome.
USA Field Hockey: What are key three areas we have grown in on the pitch from last summer’s tournaments that fans should keep an eye out for while watching the event?
CP: As a team, the squad had great physical preparations and is physically ready for World Cup. They bring a lot of speed and a very good front-foot aggressive mentality. The squad has a great belief in each other as teammates and what we’re trying to do, and I commend the players on that. Working with a new staff requires everyone to be committed to being open-minded, trying new things, playing a different way or at least trying something new.
USA Field Hockey: As of today only 10 days remain until the tournament. When will the team be leaving for Holland and what does the team do in the final days leading up to the event’s commencement?
CP: We depart on Saturday the 24th, so we have a week to get across and adjust to time zone. It typically takes about an hour a day to catch up on the time zone. We have a training program in place to include a couple practice matches, one against Holland 27th and Australia on the 28th. Final preparations will include meetings to ensure we all understand what our roles are and what our opposition is doing.
USA Field Hockey: The growth of the team has been tremendous in the last year or so. Team leadership seems to have played a vital role in accomplishing a new culture and status. Who are some of the athletes that have displayed this leadership and have contributed to a new team mindset?
CP: We’ve been developing and working as a team to develop leaders and to teach every player to think like leaders. We are continually trying to learn about ourselves and each other. Everyone is getting an opportunity to understand themselves and look at themselves and in that way, better understand one another. The squad has a great spirit here. When I talk about the team, I talk about the full 29 player roster, not just 18 named to a tournament. Here, team means the full 29 players and all the staff who are involved in the team. We are working to continually develop a culture of responsibility and leadership. Players are on the pitch on their own and need to be able to manage themselves. It is all of our responsibilities to do that.
USA Field Hockey: As World Cup is anticipated by the FIH to be the most watched field hockey event in history thus far, a lot of young State-side athletes and their families will be watching. What words do you wish to send to those who aren’t able to make it to the stands of Holland but are still showing their support?
CP: Shout loud! We love the support we get when we’re away. We get a lot of supportive texts and emails. It’s really important to the group to know people are taking an interest and watching. We have a great support network of fans, friends and family. Just shout loud and keep cheering and sending the positive messages!