All the news for Tuesday 23 August 2016
My Last Word: Indian players failing us last four Decades
Tell me a single match in which Indian men’s hockey team snatched a win from the claws of defeat in any mega tournaments (Olympics or World Cup), just like Germans did routinely in Rio, Australians in Athens, so many others on endless occasions?
Tell me one occasion in which the players excelled coach’s expectation and brought tears in him, as German team reflected on Valentine Altenburg?
They only caused tear of sorrow.
Try to recollect one World Cup or Olympics where Indian men justified their pre-event form in the last four decades.
They always lacked balls when mattered.
They have endless number of reasons for failure, being masters at that, never had a single valid factor that can show them in good light.
Goal difference in 1984, failure to force a draw in the last pool match in Seoul, perfidious factional feud in 1992, leader’s and key players’ indiscipline and disregard for game plan in 1996, pissing off against Poland in 2000…..the sequence never ends.
Indian hockey players, always a pampered lot, proved anything but best at needle junctures.
They always lose from winning position. In the process, they consumed n-number of coaches not to speak of enhancing their career.
They go to Olympics, create a storm in one or two matches before fading into oblivion.
Indian sports scenario being what it is, catch eye-balls for a week before failing the tax payers’ largees they endlessly suck. And then when things heat up and when steely nerves are required, they chicken out.
Public by and large have decided Indian hockey will not return to glorious past, the Chalta hai attitude returns to public mind, go by emotion and declare loyalty to hockey by ‘standing by our heroes’ whatever the result.
Media never questions players and their lack of balls. So also the public. But they will pelt stones at cricketer’s house on serious failures!
I have seen this recurring nonsense last four decades, which is not a small time at all.
Poland in 2000, Canada in Rio, the nonsense is a non-stop phenomenon. Never winning Champions Trophy bronze in half a dozen chances, is another telling example to this pathological losing syndrome that afflicts our Indian hockey.
Are not Indian hockey players answerable? Are they beyond accountability?
It seems. Because the press turns blind eye.
When India finished last at London in the last Olympics, I demanded apology from Hockey India, inviting lot of enemies and enmity in one stroke.
There was a reason.
Some best talents were not given fair treatment, ignored for having played a rival league (WSH). My anger was thus justified.
What about this time?
India was the first team to qualify for Rio, and then they had everything at their feet. Tours and tours, camps and camps, comforts and comforts followed, even chairs and tables in their Games village!
One can on hindsight say a dropped player was a better choice, Mandeep Singh over some X or Y, or not considering Gurbaj Singh as if his presence in the last Olympics gave us the Gold! His dropping though lies within the confines of controversy.
Then of course changing a coach in Paul van Ass. I don’t know his sacking was right or wrong, but what I definitely know is the case of Belgium.
Belgium had three coaches after last Olympics, still they go to historic Olympic finals, and score in the last seconds (against us at The Hague World Cup), and shock the hitherto impregnable Dutch in the Rio semis.
We Indians fool ourselves, in our hurry to satisfy and justify our personal perception and judgement of things bordering hypocrisy, belatedly talking about selection, coaches and all superfluous things.
Indian hockey players, mirroring our social milieu, easily get satisfied on small achievement.
I saw in London last month how Indian juniors lost 1-2 in the second test match after winning the first encounter 7-1 at Bisham Abbey!
Was coach wrong? Has England then improved so much overnight?
Its in our players’ mind. You are never serious after a small success. That’s how Poland turns, in your view, easy meat, so also now Canada. And then you pay for it, we writhe in pain for our lifetime.
Indian team finished eighth in Rio, a position lower than every other Olympic on non-natural grass (Athens, Seoul, Los Angles, Montreal) except Barcelona and London.
Statistically, this is the worst ranking outside Bar-Lon.
This ranking was not due to you lost in the Quarters. But because you could not defeat Canada.
A goalie, a PC converter and half a dozen Indian migrants, who would not have got selected for India if they continued to live here, made monkey out of you. You will defeat Canada nine of out of ten times in normal course, but not where it mattered -- in Rio. The reason is simple.
A few hours before the Canada match you came to know you had qualified for the quarterfinal. That’s it. You are satisfied. You messed up Canada match. With a casual attitude, you brought anger in coach, who knew what will happen next. And of course we too.
Same happened. You invited trouble. Aao bail mujje maar stuff. The rest is history. Belgium did what is expected of them.
Indian men’s team go to World Cup or Olympics to play seven matches (though Rio had one less for non-semi-finalists). They do well as if the event has only four matches. Even in those matches, of late, concede goals in the last moments. This despite the fact that the current Indians are scientifically proven fit on par with the world' s best, experienced equally if not more than most other Rio teams.
A tournament is six or seven matches, a match is sixty or seventy minutes. Have Indian players ever understood this simple basic?
They are millionaires in cash minnows on mind.
In Sydney, still the best Olympic outing after Munich, we played just four good matches out of seven.
In Rio, despite being World No.5, was good again for only first four matches.
This is the question of character, question of having killer instinct, meeting the minimum aspirations of our million followers. These virtues are not taught in any boardroom.
Never scramble for excuses. Don’t quote, ‘Oh See Australia’.
Australian case is an exception since 1956.
For us Indians, it’s a thumb rule since 1976. (Don’t point out we won gold in 1980 to prove your expertise).
Pakistan finished 11th at Wisdon Word Cup and rose to second position in the next.
Germany had been pushed to Olympic Qualifying rounds once. It hurt their pride so much so that what they did next turned out to be a book case. Did their form fade? No gentleman, no. As a case of rare revenge, they went on to next two Olympics gold, now third medal (bronze) in trot.
India on the other hand just gained two positions after Wisdon, and then three positions now after London Olympic number.
Why are we snail while others race?
Rio marks continuation players failing India. Failing their falling fan base, a member from London group that witnessed them said: “They run like headless chickens”.
There will be many manufactured scapegoats, but those cannot mask inherent flaw in our hockey players.
When goalkeeper is taken out, giving full chance to go at goal, Germany struck two goals in one minute, and other teams too did. Indian coach gave full ten minutes to attack, yellow shirt with Raghunath. What did Indian team do? Did they get any PCs? Did they score? They were backpassing as if the match has just commenced. There is no urgency, sorry to say, and I have to say, there is no last punch from you dear players. You don’t mind frustrating us.
Can you recall anytime an Indian player retiring on account of teams’ failure? I heard so only once in my four decades of following hockey (1989, Sujit Kumar).
Those players who make us fail are those who want to stick to the team even firmer.
Players expressing sorry in social media, getting hundreds and thousands ‘likes’ and comment in their favour, cannot mask their cowardice on the turf.
Emotional support to players should exit.
Public should demand answers from them.
Media will never do it for you. Hockey fan has to shoulder this responsibility for themselves.
Now, its public who should force our players to give results.
Lest, the same saga will go on and on.
A Japan, for instance, may do a China (in Doha AG) or a Poland, in Tokyo and still our players will have same sympathy on social front.
An answerable Indian team is what we need.
Indian team not only fooled us at Rio, themselves too.
They are now millionaires, blew the chance to become billionaires.
If Indian hockey is economic backbone of international hockey, which even expects an Indian to head it, the players put all of us on reverse gears.
Never boast being the only team to defeat ultimate winners Argentina. Its impact is otherwise. A team that you defeat comes out and wins the Gold. What a shame on India.
Do any of the flop heroes know how many tours Argentina undertake in their preparations, or how many turf that country has?
They don’t even have wherewithals to pay for two coaches recently, single coach handled both men and women’s national teams.
Indian players, always a pampered lot, escape scrutiny every time, never delivered on their part.
NOTE: My portrayal of Canada has been brought to my notice. Its wrong on my part to do so. Yes, I want to remove or alter the portion, but the problem is hundreds have already read, and the article spread. Its electronic age. Therefore, I tender my sincere regrets.
Pakistan National hockey camp for Asian Champions Trophy begins
LAHORE: Forty probables have been invited to attend a national training camp for selecting a strong squad for the 4th Asian Champions Trophy to be held in Kuantan, Malaysia from October 20 to 30.
The camp started at Johar Town Stadium here on Monday. Coach Khawaja Junaid Ahmad yesterday reckoned that Pakistan, in their bid to complete hat-trick of the Asian Champions Trophy title, would face tough resistance from India, South Korea and Malaysia. Pakistan won the second and third editions of the continental championship in 2012 and 2013. In 2011, India had clinched the inaugural event.
"India have improved considerably and now they are No.1 in Asia. Plus they will be returning for the Asian Champions Trophy after playing some tough games in the Rio Olympics," Junaid added.
"South Korea and Malaysia will also be formidable opponents. Malaysia, in particular, will be hard to beat, particularly on their home turf. Given all this, the Asian Champions Trophy will be a huge challenge for the present team management and players in their bid to complete a hat-trick," Junaid maintained.
The probables reported to Junaid, who said that training at the camp would be held in three sessions daily.
"In the morning session, focus will be on improving physical fitness; video analysis will be carried out in the second session in the afternoon while the third session in the evening has been kept for field practice," the coach said.
Among the probables announced, the coach said, 12 would be attending a national camp for the first time.
"The idea behind including these new players in the camp is to prepare young blood for the team in future. We picked these players from the recently-held nine and five-a-side tournaments. We will be giving them proper chances to show their talent at the camp before curtailing the probables' list to 25 for the second phase of the camp," he said.
The Kuantan Asian Champions Trophy will be the first major test of Junaid's coaching credentials after Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh was removed from the post last year by the incumbent PHF following Pakistan's failure to qualify for the Rio Olympics the country's very first absence from the Olympic hockey event.
Earlier, under Shahnaz's coaching Pakistan had played the final of the Champions Trophy in India to bag silver medal. Junaid, however, has set qualification for the 2018 World Cup as his main target, for which qualifying rounds will be staged next year. However, by retaining the Asian Champions Trophy in Kuantan, Pakistan could earn a praiseworthy feat of winning the title for the third consecutive time.
Probables named for the camp:
Goalkeepers: Amjad Ali, Mazhar Abbas (NBP), Imran Butt, Ali Haider (PIA), Yasir, Waleed Akhtar (Bannu), Hafiz Umair Ali (SNGPL).
Defenders: Asad Aziz, Sultan Amir (Navy), Mohammad Aleem Bilal (WAPDA), Mohammad Irfan (PIA), Nawaz Ishfaq, Syed Kashif Shah (SSGC), Shah Faisal Shah (SNGPL), Abid Bhatti (NBP).
Halves: Qazi Asfand, Tasawar Abbas, Fareed Ahmed (Wapda), Rashid Mahmood (Navy), Faisal Qadir, Tousig Arshad, Mohammad Rizwan Jr, Kashif Javed (NBP), Taimoor Malik (PIA), Tanzeem-ul-Hassan (Railways).
Forwards: Mohammad Irfan Jr (WAPDA), Fayyaz Yaqoob (Sargodha), Karim Khan (PTV), Mohammad Umar Bhutta, Ijaz Ahmed, Mohammad Salman Hussain, Rana Mohammad Umair, Saran bin Qamar (WAPDA), Ali Shan, Rizwan Ali (SSGC), Mohammad Rizwan Sr (Army), Mohammad Arslan Qadir (NBP), Awais-ur-Rehman, Mohammad Zubair (PIA), Abdul Haseem Khan (Karachi).
The Daily Times
Pakistan junior hockey team off to Europe
LAHORE: Pakistan Under-21 hockey team left for the tour of Spain and Netherlands here Monday in their second leg of the European tour.
"In Spain, Pakistan face hosts' national junior side in a three test series," a spokesman for the Pakistan Hockey Federation said.
While in Netherlands, they will play matches against some of the top teams from the Hoofdklasse (Netherlands Premier Division). The Netherlands' league is the most competitive domestic hockey competition in the world with top sides fielding international stars from different countries.
The European tour is a part of preparation for the Junior World Cup to be held in Lucknow, India later this year. Three players - Samiuallah, Fahadullah and Mohsin Sabir will join the national team in a few days after completing their engagements with their respective teams in the ongoing inter services tournament.
Players: Muhammad Dilber, Azfar Yaqoob, Muhammad Atiq, Bilal Qadir, Ali Raza, Atif Mushtaq, Abu Bakar Mahmood, Ammad Shakeel Butt, Junaid Kamal, Shan Irshad, Rana Suhail Riaz, Talal Khalid, Hassan Anwar, Faizan, Mubashar Ali and Muhammad Usman.
Team officials: Khalid Mukhtar Farani (team manager), Tahir Zaman (head coach) Zeeshan Ashraf (coach), Muhammad Irfan (assistant coach), Zahid Ali (video analyst) and Ghazanfar Ali (nutritionist).
The Daily Times
By Jugjet Singh
The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) paid special tribute to former internationals Tan Sri P. Alagendra and the late Vivian May Soars by announcing the inaugural men’s Knockout and women’s Challenge Cup after the two icons.
The men’s knockout tournament that comprises six Premier League and eight Division One teams will be named Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup. The tournament starts on August 23, 2016 and offers a winning purse of RM70,000 to the champion and RM30,000 to the runner-up.
Vivian May Soars Challenge Cup will be held after the completion of the women’s league on 17 September, 2016 and will involve the top four teams.
MHC President, Datuk Sri Subahan Kamal, said the Executive Board unanimously supported the decision to name the two tournaments as a tribute to both icons for their immense contribution to Malaysian hockey.
“Tan Sri Alagendra has for so long been the pillar of strength in the development of hockey in our country both as a player and administrator. The same can be said of the late Vivian May as she was actively involved as player, coach and administrator from the 1940s,” Dato’ Sri Subahan said at the MHC Annual General Meeting (AGM) and TNB Malaysian Hockey League Knockout Draw.
“We hope that our younger generations of players emulate the hard work and success of past national players who have brought glory to our country. Honestly, we were not even born when they played for the nation and there is a rich history in their contribution,” said Dato Seri’ Subahan. “It is aptly right that MHC honours both Tan Sri Alagendra and the late Vivian Soars by naming these tournaments in honour of them.”
A former Selangor Police Chief Officer, Tan Sri Alagendra was Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) vice-president (1958-1980), Deputy President (1980-2005) and a member of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Technical Committee (1975-1985). He was also chairman of the 1998 KL Commonwealth Games hockey competition and deputy chairman of the organising committee of the 10th Men’s Hockey World Cup in KL in 2002.
For his contributions as the Asian Hockey Federation secretary-general (1990-2014), he was accorded honorary life president status. In 2000, he was awarded the Order of Merit by FIH at their Congress in Paris.
As a player, Tan Sri Alagendra represented the country at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, coached the team to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and was the assistant manager at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and 1972 Montreal Games. He capped his Olympic duty as Malaysia’s chef de mission to the 2000 Sydney Games.
The late Vivian, who passed away in 2009 due to heart complications, was a lady with such grace; dignity and strength to pursue what she believed were the right of women. She was actively involved as a player beginning in the late 40s by playing for Selangor and also represented many prominent clubs such as the Selangor Club.
In the early 1960s, she became a member of the Malaysian Women’s Hockey Association, representing the Selangor Hockey Association as a delegate. In 1971, Vivian was the Chief Coach of our national team playing in among the earliest foreign test-series in New Zealand.
In September 1975 Malaysia participated in the IFWHA 1st Women’s World Cup Tournament in Edinburgh, Scotland. She was also the head coach of the team that visited Denmark on the way to Edinburgh where the team played three matches with State and Club sides, winning all the matches.
In the 1980s Vivian moved to Malacca as a teacher and within a short period of time, created a new dimension of hockey in Malacca. She became the President of Malacca Women’s Hockey, which created a direct link to the Federal body before coming back to play an integral role in the Federal Hockey Association to organise two concurrent World tournaments - the World Cup and the Continental Cup in 1983.
In 1984, Vivian became a Vice President in the Malaysian Women’s Hockey Association. She was also a manager of the national team for several competitions such as the FALFA Cup.
In the early years of women’s hockey in Asia, Vivian played an important role in representing Malaysian women. Malaysia was represented by two delegates, Vivian Soars (Vice President) and Mrs. Dororthy Sibert Bailey (Hon. Secretary) at the Asian Women’s Hockey Federation Council Meeting at Madras, India in January, 1975.
Draw for Men’s Knockout Tournament – 23 August (Tuesday): Sapura HC v Nur Insafi (Stadium Tun Razak, 6pm); TNB v UiTM-KPT (6pm, KLHA Stadium); UniKL v Maybank (8pm, Stadium KLHA); MBI v ATM Airod (Stadium Sultan Azlan Shah, 6pm); BJSS v SSTMI (Stadium KPM, 6pm); Politeknik Malaysia v TNB Thunderbolt (6pm, Stadium Taman Daya, Johor Baru, 6pm).
Jugjet's World of Field Hockey
Knock-out Alagendera Cup
By Jugjet Singh
THE knock-out Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup will be held Tuesday, with Premier Division sides Universiti Kuala Lumpur and Maybank involved a do-or-die battle at the Kuala Lumpur HA Stadium.
Double champions Terengganu Hockey Team and Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) will await the outcome of Tuesday's matches before joining the other six in the quarter-finals, where another fresh draw would be held.
The Round of 16, however, is expected to see Premier Division sides Sapura and Tenaga breeze past their Division One opponents.
UniKL coach Arul Selvaraj said his team will give equal weightage to the newly introduced Alagendra Cup.
Fresh from the 1-0 win over Tenaga Nasional in the Premier Division, UniKL will be hoping for the same result against Maybank.
"We are taking both the league and knockout seriously and there is no question on that," said Arul.
"It will be a tough match as Maybank are a good side and have an all-round strength.
" We need to be both tactically and physically ready for this match as playing another match barely 48 hours after the last match can be taxing.
"I will field the same side as I did against TNB as really there is no necessity to invoke any changes,"
UniKL were a class act against Tenaga, with Baljit Singh and Mohamad Tousiq leading the way with outstanding displays.
And the younger players gained in confidence as the match progressed, resulting in the win.
"We may lack experience but the players make it up with fighting qualities and in a knock-out match it's important to make chances count as there is no second chance."
TUESDAY: Sapura v Nur Insafi (Tun Razak, 6pm), Tenaga v UiTM-KPT (KLHA, 6pm), Ipoh City Council v ATM Airod (Azlan Shah, 6pm), BJSS V SSTMI (Ministry of Education, 6pm), Politeknik v TNB Thunderbolts (Taman Daya, 5pm), Maybank v UniKL (KLHA, 8pm).
Jugjet's World of Field Hockey
Advice from first hockey Olympian.
By Jugjet Singh
Receiving the Jalur Gemilang from the King as Chef de Mission for Sydney 2000 Olympics.
TAN SRI P. Alagendra was among the first Malaysian Hockey Olympians to compete in the 1956 Melbourne Games and he still remembers it like it was yesterday.
"How old do you think I am,? the former Selangor Chief Police Officer questioned before this scribe could even shoot a question.
"No 87, and I was 27 and at the prime of my life when Malaya sent their first hockey team for the Olympics," said the still sharp Alagendra.
He went on to hold numerous positions in the then Malaysian Hockey Confederation and Asian Hockey Federation, but as a player he cherished his Olympic moments.
Alagendra represented the country at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, coached the team to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and was the assistant manager at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and 1972 Montreal Games.
He capped his Olympic career as Malaysia’s Chef-de-Mission to the 2000 Sydney Games.
"Everything was different back then. The ball, hockey stick, playing field and rules were as different as the moon and earth," lamented Alagendra.
Looking forward, Alagendra feels to be and Olympian is the ultimate height an athlete can climb.
"There is nothing higher than the world cup and Olympics for athletes to cherish, and personally, I believe Olympics is the pinnacle of sports.
"For, it was here that I learned many things which changed my life for the better as a human and administrator of the sport for decades to come.
"Firstly, after mingling with the best athletes from around the globe it hit me that self discipline is what one needs to break new barriers.
"Coaches and officials can train and motivate during official training, but what an athlete does when he is on his own is what matters most in the end.
"One must be disciplined enough to carry on the routines taught even during off season time, and even when one has many other important things to do.
"Self training will see the athlete become a house-hold name."
And his advise to hockey who last saw action in Sydney 2000?
"It has been 16 years since hockey last made the Olympics, and everybody must work together to make sure in that we qualify for Tokyo 2020. Again, coaches can only impart so much, the hockey players who want to compete in Tokyo four years from now must have the self drive, discipline and motivation to realise their dreams."
Jugjet's World of Field Hockey
Mike: Llive your dream
By Jugjet Singh
MANINDERJIT Singh (left) had a dream of playing in the hockey World Cup and Olympics, and he never regretted giving half his life to the sport.
The two-time Olympian played for the country in 1996 Atlanta and was among the last hockey players to see action four years later in Sydney.
Malaysian hockey failed to qualify for the Olympics since, but Maninderjit has a formula.
"Dream, athletes must dream of playing in the Olympics and World Cups before they can finally claim glory. That was what I did as a youth struggling to play hockey in Klang.
"I dreamed of representing the country in the Olympics, and with a detailed plan and training hard on my own after official training is over, I achieved my target of playing in two Olympics," said Maninderjit.
And it was worth the blood and sweat he spilled on the artificial pith over the years.
"When I reached Atlanta in 1996, I was in tears of joy and the Games Village was awesome as we could mingle freely with the NBA Stars (The Dream team) and sprinters Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene (Sydney 2000).
"They were icons, and still are. I admired their discipline at the Village, and it stuck with me for the rest of my life," said Maninderjit who last played in the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup.
A disciplined man himself, Maninderjit never likes to give up in any match -- even a friendly.
"Play every match like its a final, never take friendlies lightly. If you want to compete as an athlete in the Olympics and World Cup, every time you take to the field, give your very best. Because once over, the moment will never return but remain as good or bad memories," said the Olympian.
Malaysia finished 11th both times in Atlanta and Sydney, but it made Maninderjit into a complete athlete.
Jugjet's World of Field Hockey
Mirnawan: Don't cheat yourself
By Jugjet Singh
THREE-TIME Olympian Mirnawan Nawawi bathed in sweat and blood before achieving the highest glory as skipper and Flag Bearer for the nation.
And yesterday, when this interview was being held, he again gave blood for the nation.
This time it was during a Blood Donation drive.
"I have tears on my limbs, tears and broken teeth to show over the years of representing the country in hockey... but all of it has turned into sweet memories today," said Mirnawan.
Starting with the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, he went on to play in the 1996 Atlanta and Sydney 2000. His last show was at the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup, where he broke a few front teeth.
"Arriving at the Olympics as an athlete is the grandest feeling one can ever achieve and the memories will never go away.
"That's how special it is," said Mirnawan.
This coming from an athlete who has played in three Asian Games, one Champions Trophy and two World Cups.
"My best memory was being the Flag Bearer in Sydney 2000 where I lef the Malaysian contingent into the Olympic Stadium. I still get goosebumps just thinking about that!
But it was never easy for the Malacca-born athlete, and his advise is to be sincere to oneself and not cheat on training.
"The most important factor to achieve a ticket to the Olympics and World Cup is to be truthful in training. Don't cheat the coaches by doing one less push-up, or one less lap around the stadium when they are not looking.
"Run and train harder then the others, and even when one is on break from national camp, keep the same training momentum and don't cheat.
"Cos in the end, all the cheating and skimming will take you nowhere near the Olympic stadium."
Now a TV sports commentator, Mirnawan remembers how running the extra mile made him among the reared forwards in the world.
"All the extra training on my own made me nimble and light footed, and I could almost 'fly' with the ball. Don't cheat, and chase the impossible dream until you land it on your laps."
Mirnawan is still active as manager of the national juniors as well as with his attachment with Universiti Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club.
And his next mission: "To see Malaysia qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. That would be my fourth appearance as an official."
Jugjet's World of Field Hockey
Marist, Ventures victories
MARIST White and Ventures were crowned the champions of the men's and women's Valerie Daveta-Manueli Memorial Hockey Tournament in Fiji during the weekend
At the end of the three days, Geotech Marist White (men) and Ventures came out as winners.
The Marist White team ousted defending champions Stingers men in the semi-finals and to meet Ventures men in the final.
The men's final had to be determined through the eight (8) second penalty shootout after the teams were tied 2-all at full time.
Ventures Women retained the trophy for 10 consecutive years after beating Marist Women 1 - 0.
Results: Final men: Geotech Marist White 3 - Ventures Men 1 (Penalty Shootout). Final women: Ventures Women 1 - Marist Women 0. Top goalscorers: Leevahn Dutta (Ventures Men) and Myra Tora (Ventures Women). Best defender: Men: Reginald Eastgate. Women: Vika Nakaora (MoBees) and Pasemaca T (Marist Women). Young player awards: Men: Joji Ravatu. Women: Laura Bukalidi (MoBees). Most valuable players: Men: Leevan Dutta (Ventures Men) and Rick Bentley (Marist White).
The Fiji Times
Learning From a Hockey Legend: Vonnie Gros
By Kathleen Harte Simone
Founder & Editor, Philafieldhockey.com
Image by David Morgan
Throughout Vonnie Gros' illustrious field hockey career, from college All-American to the only coach to lead the USA Olympic Field Hockey Team to a medal, one thing has remained a constant: take it one game at a time, one moment at a time.
Gros can’t help but beam when reflecting on her own Olympic Games experience when she secured a bronze medal in 1984 in Los Angeles. “It was mind boggling. I can’t describe it any other way.”
Team USA secured the bronze in an unusual fashion, not in a regulation game but rather, in a 10-stroke (five players, two shots each) shootout versus Australia. It was the game just before the shootout where, from the stands, Gros and her team anxiously watched Australia battle Holland. The Aussies won, putting them and Team USA in a tie for third and forcing a shootout to serve as the ultimate tiebreaker, determining who would take home the hardware. “Beth Anders, USA’s lead scorer, was superstitious and wouldn’t bring her equipment; she had to head to the bus to get it,” Gros said with a laugh. Team USA secured the bronze medal after seven strokes; goalkeeper Gwen Cheeseman-Alexander recorded 5 saves. “She was brilliant. They all were. The one thing we knew was that we couldn’t let one shootout decide our fate. We had to take control. Strokes were a big part of our practice plan. We were ready for that moment.”
Up until that point, the field hockey world was dominated by the likes of Holland, Germany, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand; USA Field Hockey was not on the radar for many of these powerhouses. But, Gros commented, the team’s reputation was as scrappy players. “And I liked that. We weren’t going to let any team out-condition or out-endurance us. We were fighters.” Gros also asserted that one of her goals in taking the reins of Team USA was to “upgrade the level of passing” but being careful not to squash the team’s aggressive style. “I didn’t want them to overthink their passing; that would slow them down and we would lose our edge.”
Gros noted her coaching approach during the 1984 Olympic Games came from years of playing and coaching, and being on the ultimate world stage was no different. “I don’t think I had to motivate the team. They’ve been training for years and they wanted it with the passion. What I needed to do was to recognize their level of tension, calm them down and walk them through the game. I didn’t want them to be emotional too early; they needed to control their play. With each team they faced, there would be challenges, but they needed to remember their tactics and to take it one play at a time.”
“I was a yeller but I was also a pat-on-the-back kind of coach. I would say things like ‘I know you can do better’ and they knew it,” shared Gros. “That Olympic team worked hard, really hard, but we had lighter moments in practice, like ending with a foolish game. Everything we did reinforced that you have to be relaxed, focused and competitive.”
Gros' accomplishments extend well beyond her Olympic Games victory. She served as a mentor for her players, many of whom went on to coach at the college and high school level. “To me, that’s a tribute. It means a lot when they say some of the values I instilled in them have transferred to their coaching careers and in life.”
In addition, Gros has also toured more than any other person connected with USA Field Hockey – eight times as a player and five times as a coach. She coached the 1980 Olympic Games team, which did not compete in Moscow due to U.S. boycott. Her U.S. World Cup team placed third in 1979 and sixth in 1983. As a stellar defender, Gros’ first international cap was earned on the heels of graduating from Ursinus College, where she was a decorated lacrosse and All-American field hockey player.
USA Field Hockey aside, Gros’ coaching career was of gold medal caliber. Before she coached Team USA, she led West Chester University’s program for 13 years, compiling a 100-7-16 record, and propelled the Golden Rams to two National Championship titles in 1975 and 1976, when she was named the Coach of the Year. From 1972-76, the Rams dropped only one game under Gros’ leadership. WCU’s field turf, installed in 2015, is appropriately named the Vonnie Gros Field (pictured in photos). Gros later returned to her alma mater to lead Ursinus’ program for nine successful seasons, retiring in 1998.
Gros was also the brainchild for USA Field Hockey’s Futures program, launched in 1990, and she was named the USA Field Hockey’sDevelopmental Coach in 1996. Speaking about Futures, Gros noted: “I knew then that we needed to start sooner with grassroots to elevate to a higher standard of play at a younger age, like they’d been doing in Holland and Australia.”
The honors and awards Gros has garnered are many, including being named to the Hall of Fame at numerous institutions including: National Field Hockey Coaches Association, West Chester University, Ursinus College, Philadelphia, Chester County, Montgomery County and USA Field Hockey Hall of Fame along with the players from the 1984 Team USA Olympic Games team. But she’s modest and not hung up with these awards; coaching and playing field hockey are what brought Gros joy.
USFHA media release