Alyssa Parker won her first cap for the U.S. Women’s National Team in 2016 when she traveled with the senior squad to the Hawkes Bay tournament in New Zealand. Since then, she has traveled the world for the sport, including Olympic Qualifiers and two seasons of FIH Hockey Pro League.
Like all teams, USA has been hit hard by the restrictions enforced upon the world by the pandemic and there is palpable relief in the midfielder’s voice as she explains why it feel so good to be back playing international hockey again.
“It’s been a long year of no travel at all. But we are here in Belgium and it is all going very smoothly at the moment.
“It is so exciting to be back playing again,” says the midfielder, adding that the team was “fizzing” with energy on the pitch.
The past few weeks of preparation have been intense for the squad. Anthony Farry took over as Head Coach in 2020 but, through pandemic restrictions, has had little actual time with the squad.
“Normally we would have a much more consistent amount of time to prepare,” says Parker. “But it levels the playing field because every team has gone through similar. One thing we were all able to work on was our fitness, so when we came back, we were starting from a good fitness base, so we could focus on the hockey part.”
With the team restricted to inter-squad training matches for much of the lock-down period, Parker says the new Head Coach really showed some new ways of working to keep things fresh and the players motivated.
“Anthony has come to the squad with some really great drills. I would like to coach one day, so I write down all the drills when I get home. They are such exciting and fun practice ideas.”
The USA squad in Belgium is missing many of its most experienced players, such as Kat Sharkey, Alyssa Manley and Ali Froede. For the players who are in Belgium however, this is a great opportunity to show what they can do on the international stage.
“Going into these matches, we are trying to solidify some core values," says Parker. "We know it won’t be perfect, we know we won’t always mesh with each other, there won’t always be great connections. But we are all trying to fit into new roles, some new leadership roles. It won’t be perfect but so long as we all work hard for each other, we will do all right.
“In a way, you will still see 100 percent ‘go, go, go’ from the team. But Head Coach Farry has taught us that we don’t always have to go forward and always go fast. That opens us to a new variety and new style of play.”
For Parker, aside from two victories in Belgium, the other desired outcome is to see improvement over the eight quarters of action. “During the past seven weeks we have been working on our structure, so if we see that getting better in each quarter, then that will be good. Another big thing will be transitioning between going forwards and then getting back to be defensive. If we do that well, we will be pleased with ourselves.”
USA face Belgium in the FIH Hockey Pro League on May 15 and 16 in Antwerp. Currently USA are ninth in the league, with Belgium two places ahead in seventh position.
Watch the full interview here.
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