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News for 23 June 2020

All the news for Tuesday 23 June 2020

Hockey community invited to get creative for Olympic Day

It’s been more than 120 years since Baron Pierre de Coubertin formed the International Olympic Committee in 1894 and, over the next 12 decades, the world has seen its fair share of challenges.

The Covid-19 global pandemic that brought most of the world to a stuttering halt and pushed the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 back by 12 months has taken its place as one of the momentous challenges to be overcome in recent times.

True to type, the hockey community has risen to the challenge, using innovation, creativity, wisdom, imagination and humane instincts to inspire, help and support the wider hockey family. From the doctors, nurses and frontline workers fighting Covid-19 to the coaches running webinars to the athletes posing skills challenges. The world of hockey has kept moving on.

And so it is with Olympic Day. Celebrated on 23 June every year, this event celebrates the Olympic movement and its values. Usually, for the hockey community, this would involve lots of hockey-focused activities, tournaments and matches as well as exhibitions, educational experiences and musical events. This year many of the celebrations will, by necessity, be different. But it is still a hugely important day that deserves to be celebrated across the world.

Hockey fans, players, clubs and National Associations can all get involved in Olympic Day celebrations by supporting the IOC campaign and taking part in activities centred around one or more of the following themes: #StayStrong, #StayHealthy and #StayActive.

These three themes reflect mental and emotional wellbeing, for example, reducing stress and developing resilience; maintaining good levels of health through Covid-19 by following healthy lifestyles, such as good nutrition; and maintaining physical fitness, for example, through home exercise and training.

Examples of how these themes can be highlighted include athletes, coaches and officials posting videos of themselves cooking at home, exercising or doing hockey skill challenges.

For the national associations who have already returned to some form of hockey activity, then it might be possible to create videos showing the hockey community back on the pitch. There might even be an opportunity to run a hockey festival, following official health guidelines.

Just one example of the possibilities is a challenge set by the Oceania Hockey Federation. The OHF is asking individuals, groups and organisations, such as schools and clubs, to combine film-making creativity with hockey. A range of prizes is up for grabs for the best short videos sent in reflecting the IOC’s campaign themes. The winners will receive equipment including sticks, bibs, shin-guards and balls.

Although this year’s Olympic Day is held under very different circumstances, FIH will also be awarding prizes for the most creative and celebratory activities from around the world.

There are three categories of awards, reflecting the three themes: #StayStrong, #StayHealthy and #StayActive. Each prize is worth 1,000CHF of FIH Online Development Programmes, which reflects the IOC philosophy of Move, Learn and Discover. It also aligns with the FIH global development programme, Hockey4Life, which seeks to ensure sustainable development at all levels.

Any individual or group planning to celebrate Olympic Day can enter their activity for a chance to win one of these prizes. Activities should be held between 19-24 June and any individual, group or club that is planning an activity should contact their National Association ahead of the event, so they can share ideas with the wider hockey community.

Remember to share all project ideas and videos across social media channels using the hashtags: #StayStrong, #StayHealthy and #StayActive, as well as #PlayHockeyStayHealthy and #OlympicDay. And tag FIH on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

FIH site

Indian hockey team returns home after COVID-19 lockdown

Both the men’s and women’s teams were stuck at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru since March 25.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Indian women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal on Monday said meeting her family was the only thing she craved when the players were confined to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre in Bengaluru for over two months because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Both the men’s and women’s national teams were stuck there since March 25 when the government announced the nationwide shutdown.

However, last week the players were granted permission to return to their respective homes on a month-long break.

Rani who returned to Shahbad in Haryana could not hide her happiness on meeting her family.

“I know a lot of people had been craving to travel or to eat outside, but the only thing I had been craving during lockdown was meeting my family,” the 25-year-old said.

“I am so happy that I am finally here and can spend some days with them. My focus will be on maintaining my fitness even at home, and making sure I spend my time with my loved ones,” she added.

Even though the players are used to spending close to 300 days in a year away from their families, this particular period was different for each one of them as the world battled a pandemic.

Having returned home over the weekend, the players have been able to reconnect with their loved ones and spend some quality time at their homes.

Men’s team captain Manpreet Singh seemed delighted at the opportunity of not just meeting his mother and brother, but also his two pet dogs.

“It was such a great feeling to have returned home to my mother, brother and my two dogs, Sam and Rio,” he said.

“Even though I was in constant touch over video calls, I was really looking forward to being back home, and all I can say is that it felt so good to be back home - it just gave me goosebumps,” added Manpreet who returned to his native Jalandhar.

Men’s team forward Mandeep Singh said he is fortunate to have got the opportunity but wants to maintain his routine to ensure top performances once he is back to playing competitive hockey in the future.

“When I stepped inside the house, the energy I felt was just out of this world. I returned after such a long time so it was nice to meet my family and to spend time with them,” Mandeep said.

“However, I speak on behalf of all the players when I say that one thing we will not forget is to maintain our fitness and routine during this break. We know it is imperative to remain in top shape, and we will be focused on that, and I am sure we will be helped by our families and friends as well,” he added.

Women’s midfielder Neha Goyal also expressed excitement at coming back to meet her mother in Sonipat.

“During the early part of lockdown, my sister had come down to stay with my mother but once the restrictions eased a bit she had to return to her in-laws. When I came back and presented my mother my ‘Hockey India Ajit Pal Singh Award for Midfielder of the Year 2019’ trophy, the happiness on her face was what I had missed seeing for the past three months,” the 23-year-old said.

“I am really happy to be back with her and am looking forward to helping her in daily chores as well,” she added.


Resistance band workouts to English classes, coach Graham Reid explains India hockey team's lockdown routine

Ujwal Singh

India men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh using resistance bands to exercise during lockdown. Image: Hockey India

India men's hockey team made a stunning start to the year with their debut at the FIH Pro League, beating the Netherlands in both matches of the two-leg tie. India thrashed the European team by a 5-2 margin in the first match before winning the second one in a shoot-out. They then went on to stun the world champions Belgium before losing the second match of the tie. Then came another shoot-out win over Australia. What stood out for India in those matches against world number one, two, and three teams was how the Indian athletes matched the fitness levels of their overseas counterparts.

With their perfectly chiseled bodies and workhorse-level stamina, the current unit comprising of players like Manpreet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Akashdeep Singh have emerged as part of one of the fittest Indian hockey teams of all time. It has been a result of hard work done under the guidance of scientific advisor Robin Arkell for years.

Current coach Graham Reid, who joined the team in April last year, has added more fuel to the mission. During the tour of Belgium in October last year, the team made a trip to Arnhem to hold a joint training session with the Netherlands team. The session was used to compare GPS numbers of both teams, giving Indian players the benchmark desired to compete at the top with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics being the ultimate target.

Manpreet Singh and Co were restricted to SAI centre in Bengaluru for over two months due to COVID-19-forced lockdown . Image: Hockey India

Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown that followed, however, brought an expected halt to players' scheduled skills and fitness training as the athletes were restricted to their room at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru. Both men's and women's core probables for the Olympics were at the Bengaluru camp when the lockdown was enforced on 25 March. And it was only on 19 June that 'homesick' players were given a month's break after lockdown norms have been relaxed.

During their stay at the campus, high-intensity training was suspended in view of the lockdown, and players' movement in the SAI campus was also restricted. The focus, hence, shifted to individual fitness programmes to keep players in the best shape as on-field activity and gym training were out of question. Help of technology and apps were taken to hold team meetings as well as individual sessions to keep players on their toes.

In an e-mail interaction with Firstpost, coach Reid explained how the players worked on their physical and mental fitness while being at SAI centre during the lockdown.

Excerpts from the interview

What was the fitness regime like for players, when not playing in a tournament, before the lockdown?

It depends on the situation. If there's no upcoming tournament for a long time, the players are mostly focussing on running and exercises in the gym. There's a good mixture of hockey training and fitness drills. If the players are preparing for a competition, then the players work on their fitness by carrying out hockey drills on the pitch.

While fitness regimes could vary position/player-wise, what was the most common schedule like during lockdown?

There were periods during the lockdown where individualised fitness schedules were devised and there were periods when the entire group did similar exercises. The players are generally divided into groups on a week on week basis. A particular group carries out a particular fitness schedule on what's being identified as the best regime for them. The fitness regime for each player generally depends on the history of a particular player. Depending on the injuries incurred by a certain player, a fitness regime is devised accordingly. The most common fitness regime during the lockdown mostly included push-ups, crunches, individual runs, body movement exercises, and strength training.

Was there any innovation or experimentation done with fitness training considering the limitations of lockdown?

Our team's scientific advisor Robin Arkell was very inventive with fitness drills during the lockdown. We changed certain exercises in a way so that they can be carried out in a safe environment. The players had to get used to exercising without using gym equipment. They carried out running with the bands in their rooms. They ran on the road around the campus as well.

What were the main focus areas and why? What was the biggest challenge from a fitness perspective during the lockdown?

We didn't have any main focus area for the players as far as fitness is concerned. We focussed on maintaining the players' fitness and strength as high as possible so that they didn't lose too much. We sat down with each player and worked out a physical plan and a tactical plan. Not being able to practice hockey and utilise the gym was the biggest challenge during the lockdown.

What work was done to keep mental fitness at its peak during the lockdown?

The one thing we wanted to make sure was that the players are kept occupied. The players have carried out English classes and shared stories from their life on video during the lockdown. We have created a small library with different levels of books for the players. We made sure that the players are speaking to their families. I am very proud of the way the players have remained positive during this period.

A lockdown where players are confined to rooms and have very little on-field activity is never an ideal scenario, but is there any positive from this period from a fitness point of view?

It's very difficult for elite athletes to keep going day after day. Once there is a 12-month extension on a target, the players get an opportunity to recuperate. This period has given the players a chance to reload. Once the players are back on the pitch, then they will have to continue practicing for a long period of time. So this period is a recuperation period for the players.

What is most crucial for players to keep in mind as they prepare to reach peak fitness level?

The most crucial thing to keep in mind would be patience for players. Hockey is a vigorous sport on your body and so we just have to make sure that we work the players back into their peak fitness level slowly. They will have to take small steps towards their peak fitness level. We will be preparing schedules accordingly.

Was GPS data of players maintained during lockdown? What comprises the data and what are the variations?

Every time the players do their running, they have to wear a GPS system and a heart rate monitor. We can monitor the work rate that they are doing. We track through the GPS system and the heart rate monitor and ensure that they are training at the appropriate level. The GPS system tracks distance, speed, acceleration among other data. We track how much high-speed running is done, how much mid-level running is done, and so on. Depending on the data, we devise different fitness schedules for different players.

Competitive hockey is still far away, but how long do you think it will take players to reach match fitness?

The standard is that when a player is away from the game for a certain length of time, the player takes around the same length of time to get back into his form. It's going to be a long process and the last thing we want is the process being slowed down due to injuries. There's no hurry and we have time. Once a tournament is confirmed then we can prepare accordingly.


Japanese men's hockey captain "cannot wait" for Tokyo 2020

By Ali Iveson

Japanese men's hockey captain Manabu Yamashita says he "cannot wait" for next year's Olympic Games.

Yamashita made his comments after Japan's 52-year wait for the men's team to again feature at the Olympics was extended by 12 months following the postponement of Tokyo 2020 until 2021.

Japan's men made their last Olympic appearance in 1968, but qualified as hosts this time around.

"I am very excited and I cannot wait for the Olympic Games to take place in my country," Yamashita said, speaking to the International Hockey Federation's YouTube channel.

"I feel extremely lucky.

"I will be very proud to be representing my country and singing the national anthem on the pitch."

Japan produced a big upset two years ago to win gold in men's hockey at the 2018 Asian Games - while the country's women's team also left Indonesia with a gold medal.

The men edged past Malaysia in the final via a shootout, having beaten Pakistan in the semi-finals and finished behind India in their group.

It was the team's first Asian Games medal since 1970 and arguably the greatest achievement in its history, with only Olympic silver in 1932 able to rival it.

Japan were surprise Asian Games winners in 2018 ©Getty Images

That is the only time Japan have won a medal in five previous Olympic appearances.

India will again be in Japan's group at Tokyo 2020 - joined by Spain, New Zealand, Argentina and Australia.

Currently 15th in the world rankings, Japan are set to be the lowest-ranked team at the tournament.

The coronavirus pandemic - the reason for the Games' postponement - has also had an impact on the team's preparations, but Yamashita says they have stayed in contact throughout these testing times.

"We had weekly meetings where we discussed strategy," explained the 31-year-old.

"But we also had several online fun sessions where we did a lot of dancing and drawing.

"We had ad-hoc meetings and did some activities for kids."

Inside the Games

Athlete Spotlight: Alyssa Parker

Each athlete that wears the red, white and blue has a unique story to how their careers came to fruition. From the junior level to the senior squad, USA Field Hockey is putting national team athletes under the spotlight to share their journeys.

To be in a position to represent Team USA is a lifelong dream come true. Making it to the international stage takes time, patience, determination and grit. Along the way athletes develop words of wisdom to pass along to the next generation who share a similar dream. For U.S. Women’s National Team athlete Alyssa Parker, that advice is short and simple: wear sunscreen!

In all seriousness, Parker was active in soccer before giving field hockey a try. She had plenty of influence to pick up a stick in the fifth grade as her mother played in high school and started a youth program in their hometown of Woodbine, Md. Her older sister was part of that program, and as the younger sibling, she decided to try the game for herself.

And at first, she hated it.

“I thought it was too slow and I still loved soccer at the time,” said Parker. “I continued to play field hockey alongside soccer and I grew to appreciate the skill and technical aspect of it. It was much more of a challenge to me and I’ve always liked a challenge, so eventually field hockey won over soccer.”

With both being fall sports, Parker had to choose just one in high school and remained unsure as tryouts rapidly approached. Soccer ultimately lost the battle thanks to the coaching styles of Ginger Kincaid, as well as her older sister as a member of the varsity squad. Parker went on to be teammates with her senior sibling, and while field hockey helped fill up the fall, she also played basketball and lacrosse to earn 12 letters at Glenelg High School, was named The Washington Post’s All-Met Player of the Year twice, All-Howard county four times and Howard County Player of the Year her sophomore, junior and senior seasons – amounting to one of the state’s highest decorated athletes to date. She was also captain for three years, helped lead the team to back-to-back state titles in 2010 and 2011, and was the second player in Maryland history to register 100 goals and assists.

While competing at Glenelg, Parker kept her skills sharp by playing with the Washington Wolves club team.

“Amy Wood and Joann Engestrom were my coaches and I think they did a fantastic job teaching a run-and-gun athlete such as myself the important of finesse, while still letting me play to my strengths,” said Parker. “I also think they did a phenomenal job keeping field hockey fun which was so important to me back then and still is today.”

With college right around the corner, Parker knew in her heart of hearts that the University of Maryland would be her home away from home.

“I’m from Maryland and both my parents are Terrapins, but what sold me on Maryland was the family environment of the team,” said Parker. “Missy Meharg and Dina Rizzo recruited me and I felt right at home the moment I visited. The current players were so welcoming and not to mention, Maryland was No. 1 at the time and who wouldn’t want to play for the best?”

Parker was also a recognizable name within the Olympic Development Pathway having played for the U-19 USWNT. In 2013, after aging out of that squad, she was one of the last athletes to be cut from the U-21 USWNT. That same year, USA played in the Junior World Cup in Mönchengladbach, Germany. She used the moment to push further the following year.

“I was devastated,” commented Parker. “So, I trained hard (cheesy, but true) and tried out again the following summer, made it and played in 2014-15. I even got to tour Europe with the team in 2015. Then in 2016, I tried out for the U.S. Women’s National Team during a trial in January and I found out I had made it. I’ve been training full-time ever since.”

Parker made her USWNT debut at the Hawke’s Bay Cup in Christchurch, New Zealand in a friendly match against the host nation. She recalls catching nerves as she stepped onto the pitch in front of the home crowd, but reminded herself: keep it simple, and all would be fine. USA went on to win that game 6-2.

Since then, Parker has become a recognizable face in the midfield for the red, white and blue. In her downtime she likes to give back to the field hockey community through coaching at summer camps as much as she can. She also volunteers at her mother’s program.

“I like to grow the game and spread my love of field hockey to the younger generation of athletes," said Parker. "Showing that you can take field hockey seriously, while still keeping it fun!"

USFHA media release

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