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News for 12 September 2020

All the news for Saturday 12 September 2020

Thomas looking to maintain top spot

Can there be any better position as a hockey player than captain of the team that is currently riding high at the top of the world rankings? That is where Thomas Briels currently stands as he prepares to lead the Belgium Red Lions into their first FIH Hockey Pro League match against Germany in Dusseldorf on 22 and 23 September.

The 33-year-old forward has 343 caps to his name and is already a triple Olympian, making his international senior debut in 2007. As such, he has been synonylmous with Belgium men's rise up the rankings. In Beijing 2008 he was part of the team that finished ninth; in London 2012, Belgium were placed fifth and in Rio 2016 Briels was part of the silver-medal-winning team. With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games now scheduled for next year, there is little wonder that Briels is itching to be back on the pitch and facing the challenges set by the Red Lion's competitors.

Do you feel as if you are physically and mentally prepared for the FIH Hockey Pro League season to begin again?

Thomas Briels: Yes I think so. We trained really hard in the month of July with the national team and then we had a little break to prepare with our clubs. Now we are starting to prepare for our first game against Germany so the guys are looking fit, fresh and ready to start again.

Has the past few months and the Covid-19 situation changed your perspective on being a national team player in any way?

Thomas Briels: It was pretty difficult because you always have a goal, whether it is to play at an Olympic Games or to play for the national team in high level competitions. It was pretty difficult to stay motivated but now we can start again with the Pro League and with the clubs again so we are looking forward to the following year.

How do you feel at the prospect of playing international sport again?

Thomas Briels: Very excited. We hope it will be with some supporters but just really cool to play again for points and to play games again. It is also really important for us to prepare for the Olympic Games, so yes, we want to play on the high stage as much as possible and the team is really looking forward to playing again.

How do you and your teammates feel about playing hockey under strict health/hygiene guidelines and the challenges that will pose?

Thomas Briels: It’s a challenge, but I think it is a challenge for everyone. We try to follow the guidelines as well as possible and, of course, it will be strange because you train together and spend a lot of time together but now we need to be separated and things like that. But I think we are following the guidelines very strictly and to now we don’t have any Corona [cases] within the team. Hopefully we can keep doing our best and I hope everyone stays healthy.

What are you hoping of the next few months of FIH Hockey Pro League action?

Thomas Briels: Exciting games with a lot of tension and games of the highest level. I hope we can play as well as we were playing when we stopped. We ended the FIH Hockey Pro League season in first position and we hope to keep that top spot for as long as possible.


Official FIH Pro League Site

Shane’s lions are ready to roar again

With his team sitting at number one in the world rankings and with a 2018 World Cup and 2019 European Hockey Championship gold medal already to his name, the Head Coach of the Belgium men’s national hockey team can be forgiven for the simmering excitement he is feeling ahead of the return to FIH Hockey Pro League action.

Shane McLeod took over as Head Coach to the Red Lions in 2015 and his pathway has been an upward trajectory ever since. Belgium finished in second place to Australia in the inaugural FIH Pro League and will be looking to go one better this season. The previous encounter with Germany in the FIH Pro League, saw the Red Lions roar to an 8-0 win, and McLeod will want to see a similar dominant performance from his team in the opening matches of the resumed season.

How excited, motivated and ready do you feel the players are for a return to FIH Hockey Pro League action?

Shane McLeod: I’m not sure who is more excited, the players or the coaching staff themselves. It’s a special group to work with and we get a lot of pleasure out of watching them play good hockey and be challenged by other nations playing good hockey. Everyone that is involved with the group is looking forward to seeing how they have come out of the Corona period. Also, it is the early stages towards Tokyo and it is a chance to get an early look at where the teams are sitting. I’m not sure there’s many teams are going to be ready for the competition in the next month or so, but everyone needs to get started and everyone is pretty excited about doing that.

Are you able to draw any positives from the break from action of the past seven months?

Shane McLeod: The answer is that there are always positives in all situations, you just have to try and find them. One of the positives for us is that it gave us an opportunity to give some of our players, who had been working pretty hard in the international scene for a number of years, to lessen their load a little bit. They could take care of injuries to make sure we kept ahead of the programme and so on. That is one advantage. We were also able to do a lot of technical stuff, when we could have training sessions, their technical levels were very high. I would even dare say, for a lot of the players, they made some gains during their time because we were able to focus quite individually on each of the athletes. So, there were positives. The big negative was not playing together so we have had to rebuild our game a little bit but it has given us an opportunity to add more things to their game so our overall game gets better.

What will you be looking for from your players if they are to win this opening game of the season?

Shane McLeod: I think one of the groups within our squad that has made the most progress over the past couple of years has been the young guys. They have come into quite an established group and they are the ones who are helping move the quality of how we play. So this is Victor Wegnez, Antoine Kina, Agustin Meurmans,  Arthur de Sloover and the Van Dorens (Arthur and Loic). Those guys, we are going to try to give them experience in the first part of the Pro League and give them back for investing in our team and I will be really interested to see where they get to by the time Tokyo [2020 Olympic Games] arrives.

Can you sum up the importance of the next few months when it comes to preparing for the EuroHockey Championships and the Olympic Games?

Shane McLeod: The next few months are going to be really valuable and that is why it is important that we try and make every endeavour to play the games. We obviously have to stay safe and abide by the rules but it would be nice to have some sort of normality over the next few months to take some of the pressure off the last run into the Olympic Games. We want to be at a stage with the Olympics getting close where we can put the final touches on things, not be in a rebuild stage. We can only do that if the next few months are a success.


Official FIH Pro League Site

Athlete Spotlight: Casey Umstead

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.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

When it comes to training and game day, Casey Umstead keeps this quote by the ice hockey legend in the back of her mind to stay focused and motivated on the pitch. Over the past two years she has become a recognizable and reliable force on the backline for the U.S. Women’s National Team.

Like many of her fellow USWNT teammates, Umstead first picked up a stick through an older inspiration: her brother’s then girlfriend and now sister-in-law. It all began when Umstead was in the 7th grade and has not looked back since.

“Since she is 7 years older than me, I would go watch her play her high school games,” said Umstead. “She even got the chance to play in the Pennsylvania State Championship finals, which was a great inspiration to me. The high school coach back then must have seen something in me and invited me to play some indoor hockey with older girls. One of the older girls was my cousin. She is three years older than me and was also an inspiration. I was able to play one year with her in high school until she went on to play at Temple University where I was able to play against her in the Big East for two years.”

Umstead’s time at Upper Perkiomen High School, as she puts it, wasn’t quite the average experience. In addition to playing field hockey, she played four years of softball. Before moving on to study biology at the University of Connecticut (UConn), she earned all-state honors three times and All-American honors as a senior in 2013. That same year she served as team captain, led the team with 51 goals and 17 assists and was named Player of the Season by the Pottstown Mercury.

When she wasn’t competing in school sanctioned events, Umstead was knee-deep in her studies or playing club field hockey for X-Calibur, where her skills and leadership mirrored that of the high school pitch.

“X-Calibur gave me an amazing opportunity to create new friendships as well as showcase my skills to college coaches,” added Umstead. “X-Calibur is a club that encourages creativity in players and allows them to try things freely. Being able to develop skills during club has helped me immensely.”

She ultimately chose to attend UConn due to the coaching staff led by field hockey icon Nancy Stevens, as well as the school’s well-respected biology program and overall academics. From 2014 to 2017 she helped the Huskies to four consecutive Big East Championships, four final fours, as well as two NCAA Division I National Championships her freshman and senior seasons. Her full collegiate accolades include All-Big East First Team (x2) and Second Team, All-Big East Tournament Team (x3), and All-Mideast Region Second and First Team (x2). As a junior Umstead also earned Third Team All-American, and as a senior was First Team All-American, NCAA Tournament Team and the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. In total, she was also part of UConn’s most successful class in program history with an accumulated 87-6 record.

"Nancy Stevens, Paul Caddy and Cheri Schultz are great coaches but even better people,” continued Umstead. “It was so sad to hear that Nancy has retired because she was a great leader and role model for many young women. The program will surely miss her and the energy that she brought to the UConn program. I know the program is in great hands with Caddy as the new head coach. I honestly couldn’t think of a better person to continue the UConn field hockey legacy.”

While being challenged in the classroom and on the field at UConn, the Green Lane, Pa. native remained busy in the U.S. Women’s Olympic Development Pathway. Umstead participated in Futures as far back as 2008 and later on represented the red, white and blue in every age group as she climbed the ranks to the USWNT in the summer of 2018. Her first international cap came in a test series against Belgium that November as USA began final training preparations for the inaugural FIH Hockey Pro League season.

“The speed of the game was significantly faster than in college, so that took some adjustment,” said Umstead reflecting on her first match as a USWNT member. “FIH Hockey Pro League has given me great joy in being able to represent my country, and the travel has been a wonderful experience. Competing against the world’s best like The Netherlands is also an unbelievable experience. To be the best, you have to play the best, and learn from the best.”

Umstead also added that the learning curve is steep and has its ups and downs. There were times growing up that her name was not called to a specific roster, missed a tryout or did not make a cut. It’s all part of the process of progressing one’s game, and the benefits of being an athlete far outweigh the negative when time, effort and determination are applied.

For her, this sport has opened numerous doors to friendships, life experiences and education that would otherwise be nonexistent.

“Playing field hockey for the United States has given me many great opportunities,” continued Umstead. “First, the friendships that I have created on this team will be life-long. Everyone is so down to earth and genuinely care about each other. Secondly, without field hockey I would not have been able to travel the world. I was able to go to places such as China, Peru, India, New Zealand, Argentina and many European countries. I would have never been able to see these places without field hockey. Lastly, I have been able to obtain my master’s degree from Keller Graduate School of Management from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. I am graduating in December with a MBA with a concentration in health services.”

Though she remains busy during the ongoing pause of international play, Umstead has always felt giving back to the community is of the upmost importance whenever possible. She previously volunteer coached at Donegal High School in Mount Joy, Pa. and likes to do the same at Upper Perkiomen when she can. Umstead has also been proud to help with Back to School Shop in Stamford, Conn., which helps provide economically disadvantaged children in elementary school with clothing and school supplies while helping build their confidence and enthusiasm for a successful school year.

USFHA media release

Pakistan's  Junior hockey team needs international exposure: coach

ISLAMABAD: Junior hockey team’s head coach Olympian Danish Kaleem Friday stressed that the squad members were in dire need of international exposure, saying that seven to eight international competitions would make the outfit competitive and ready for the Junior Asia Cup starting from January 21, 2021 in Dhaka (Bangladesh).

Talking to ‘The News’, Danish said that lengthy training camps were needed to eliminate the Covid-19 impacts on the players.

“Players have no physical activities for the last seven months. We have been trying to guide them through video and online demonstrations but when it comes to physical fitness, consistency is a must. Now we want probables to get ready and fit for the upcoming big event.”

To keep junior team fit and ready, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has decided to organise physical training camp from September 22 at the PTF School in Abbottabad.

“All depends on the availability of the venue, however the request for organising the camp from September 20 has already been forwarded.”

“The probables need match practice against the best of teams. Following the camps, we would be needing seven to eight international matches against the leading hockey teams or clubs to make our players ready for the Asia Cup. But at the same time Asian teams will be reluctant to expose themselves ahead of the event that would also serve as a qualifying round for the Junior World Cup,” Danish said.

Four Asian teams are likely to qualify for the World Cup. “Since India are the hosts of the event, we may see five teams from Asia making it to the mega event.”

The head coach said that he was not only eyeing World Cup qualification but his plans were to win the Asian event. “As the event is going to start after four months so each single day is important for us.”

He added that the selectors were already judging the technique and fitness of around 35 probables.

“These probables include some of the juniors who have represented Pakistan in Olympic qualifying matches against Holland. We have got some talented players but we actually need players having extreme physical fitness. For the purpose, the PHF has already decided to hire a well-reputed physical trainer.”

The News International

Hanif against hockey following cricket structure

LAHORE: Former Olympian Hanif Khan has opposed the idea of the closure of departments in hockey, saying the players do not get money from the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) while cricketers get a lot from Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

“Departments in hockey cannot be closed because it is not a professional game. Cricket is totally professional as if a player plays from a club, he earns,” Hanif said.

“From where will the hockey player earn? PHF can’t give that much money to departments,” he added.

The 61-year-old hailed the meetings of PHF top officials with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“Meetings between the Prime Minister and the Army Chief with the President and Secretary PHF are pleasing. There is a feeling that the national game will go towards improvement,” he said.

The News International

Quarantine queries by worried teams

By Jugjet Singh

NOW that the new dates for the men's Junior Asia Cup have been released, the nine participating teams are worried about the quarantine procedures if Covid-19 is still a menace by January.

As Bangladesh host the Junior World Cup qualifier at the Maulana Bhashani Stadium, Dhaka on Jan 21-30, travelling restrictions will be a big concern.

The other nine teams are Malaysia, China, Taiwan, India, Japan, South Korea, Oman, Uzbekistan and Pakistan.

Currently, most countries practise a 14-day quarantine for visitors upon arrival, and it is another 14 days for them upon return to their home countries.
ckey) India hammers Japan 5-1 in Asia Cup

"We had a team management meeting and quarantine was discussed at great length.

"If Covid-19 is not brought under control by the end of January and the 14-day procedure still exists, it will be difficult for all the teams to travel and play.

"It is hoped that the AHF (Asian Hockey Confederation) have a special arrangement in place with Bangladesh regarding quarantine and Covid-19 testing for the teams to make the tournament a reality," said national juniors assistant coach Megat Azrafiq.

The top three teams in Dhaka will automatically join hosts India in next year's Junior World Cup.

The International Hockey Federation and AHF have come to a special arrangement to allow players who are under-21 years of age at the end of this year to play in the Junior Asia Cup.

"This means eight of our players, who will be 22 years old in January, will still be eligible to play in Dhaka, and so we will have the best available to make a push for a semi-final appearance," said Megat.

The eight trainees who will turn 22 in January are Aidil Shah (goalkeeper), Azrai Aizad (forward), Shello Silverious (midfield), Nur Asyraf Ishak (defender), Izham Azhar (midfielder), Shafiq Hassan (defender), Nursyahmi Zukifli (midfielder) and Adam Aiman (defender).

However, if the Junior Asia Cup is postponed again, it must be held by the end of March to allow "overaged" players to represent their countries.

If not, the special Covid-19 ruling will be revoked.

New Straits Times

'Always check your own insurance at your hockey club’

Great Britain and Surbiton midfielder Emily Defroand has stressed the importance of amateur players checking their own insurance with clubs.

The Hockey Paper has heard stories of players unsure of whether the club holds insurance for players or whether players have take responsibility themselves.

Defroand lost two teeth two winters ago when Alex Danson’s stick accidentally connected with her team-mate during a training session.

Defroand’s two front teeth were knocked straight out and the England midfielder subsequently underwent root canal surgery.

She says she was covered by her Opro gum shields, while there was some insurance put into place through the centralised contracts.

“I was wearing a gum shield and I still lost two teeth and split my lip wide open,” she said.

“The doctor said I could have been a real state. So it is very important to have cover when you are playing a physical sport like hockey.

“There are serious injuries to be sustained and you have to be careful as your health is so important.”

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