That was fun…and eye opening! We have just returned from Sarasota and USA Field Hockey’s first ever National Hockey Showcase tournament with our U16 and U19 teams and are having a chance to reflect. Always these experiences are a success and this year was no exception. We are proud of all of our athletes and are beyond honoured to have such supportive and devoted (and fun!) parents in our ranks.
The National Hockey Showcase replaces the Presidents’ Day Showcase and takes place each February in Florida. As an Academy we play in this tournament for a number of different purposes. First and foremost this is a development opportunity for our athletes. Still uncertain of opportunities available to them, and where to set their sights, this highly competitive tournament gives our athletes a chance to play in a much more competitive environment than available locally; helps them learn how to execute under pressure; and gives them a better idea of what they should be striving for in terms of their own development in order to reach their own field hockey goals. Our teams are always comprised of athletes with a combination of different goals and different pathways: some are looking to see what it is all about and have no clear goals or vision yet of what their field hockey future might look like; some just want to play in a competitive tournament to improve their game play to help prepare for being selected for a university team in Canada or to have a chance to further refine their game play prior to summer field hockey in Ontario; some joined the programme in order to benefit from Academy style training and playing to complement whatever they are doing with their regular club; some are considering a future playing NCAA field hockey and are in the process of showcasing themselves for NCAA coaches. What we all have in common though (all athletes and coaches) …is passion…for field hockey; for competition; and for personal growth through sport.
This year’s tournament consisted of 103 teams – 45 U16 teams and 58 U19 teams. A total of 88 college coaches were in attendance, scouting for potential players for their rosters for 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. The search starts early as coaches want to follow players for a number of years before moving forward with recruiting discussions. If you want to know more about how NCAA recruiting works, please contact us.
Our U16s were very young and very new to the sport and came to us in October as eager and athletic, but inexperienced, field hockey players. Lots of training in basic skill
techniques and basic game tactics through November, December, and January helped ready this team for Florida. The real learning with this age group comes, as it always does, in the tournament itself. The chance to play under pressure and in highly competitive matches is invaluable in helping these athletes recalibrate their goals and realize what they need to do to develop their skills and game. This group came a long way since October and stepped up and did some amazing things on the field. Our coaches were definitely proud. Always we must remember our experience level relative to the other teams in this age division and judge ourselves by our development as individual players and our growth as a team. From game to game, our learning and growth was evident. We learned how to compete; how to pick ourselves up; the thrill of a beautiful goal; the excitement of a BIG tournament; the team dynamics and team bonding; the rhythm of being an athlete participating in this type of event (lights out; team breakfast; warm up; cool down; hydration; team meetings; free time; etc); the unconditional support of parents; the worry of a team mate being taken to emergency…These are the types of experiences that help us grow and show us who we are and who we want to be. This group had a terrific time and we look forward to working with them again as some move into the U19 group and some become leaders in the U16 group next year.
Our U19s had their work cut out for them. This ended up being a relatively young U19 team with a bit of a gap in leadership experience, so the learning on this team consisted of stepping up and filling big shoes and dealing with the resulting pressure. This team had
moments of greatness…and moments of learning. The talented athletes on this team did what was required to hang on to 3rd spot in their pool and learned to rely on themselves and trust that their coaching and training had well prepared them to compete to win at this tournament. From game to game, their belief in themselves and their ability to compete while missing some of their more experienced teammates, allowed them to finish well and come away from the tournament feeling proud of themselves and realizing that their only limits are ones they put on themselves.
Our teams are selected through open tryouts in October and are geared for high school athletes. Our selections are based more on athleticism, work ethic, coachablility, and a desire to learn, rather than purely on field hockey skills. We know that by the time of our tryouts, many of our U16 hopefuls have only held a stick in their hand for a couple of months. Our goal is to select athletes who want to take advantage of this opportunity and are prepared to commit to working at it as we train as a team from October to February. If you are interested in knowing more, please get in touch with us and we can chat.
As coaches and staff, we will never tire of the feeling of taking these inexperienced, untrained, somewhat scared, yet totally enthusiastic athletes through a few months of training and then competing in a tournament of this caliber and seeing the impact such a programme has on the lives of these amazing young people. Thank you athletes and thank you parents, for allowing us to be part of your field hockey journey.