On November 1 st and 2 nd, in Bhubaneswar, India, Team USA split a two-game series with the host nation. However, because India scored one more aggregate goal, 6-5, it will not be not the U.S. taking one of last of 12 spots in the women’s field for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The self searching has begun.
“I’m devastated,” U.S. coach Janneke Schopman, a two-time Olympic medalist from the Netherlands, said at the time.
Schopman has now been sacked or “separated” as a USA Field Hockey news release termed the move, on November 25 th.
With a field hockey headquarters in Pennsylvania named, Spooky Nook, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s no surprise the U.S. women’s field hockey team has been haunted by troubles. Spooky Nook Sports website offers a robust welcome:
‘Spooky Nook Sports is proud to be the Home of USA Field Hockey. Before training in Lancaster Country, the team made their home in sunny California. Moving to the East Coast meant that many of the girls would be closer to home and many of their fans. The Women’s National Team practices and prepares for competition on the indoor dome turf, outdoor pitch, and state-of-the-art indoor training facilities designed specifically for the national team.’
Since 2013, the U.S. women have trained at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex. Located in Manheim, Lancaster County, the complex sits at the traditional center of American field hockey, spiritually and competitively.
Thirteen members of the 26-women national team are from Pennsylvania, including rising talent, Margaux Paolino from Villanova. Her’s and the team’s expectations before the result were summed up when the 23 year old forward said,
“Especially at practice, off the field, whether it’s culture meetings or video, film, doing stuff on your own, I think it is a very important year,” she said. “We have high expectations and we want to succeed. So I think anything we can do to get there and qualify,
The failure caused a public outcry against the USA Field Hockey’s record despite the implementation of a recent three year plan to grow the sport and improve the performances of the national team. Eliminated from the Olympics for the first time since 2004, without a coach and engulfed in turmoil, they’ve fallen from 4 th ranked to a disappointing 13 th.
The recent slump in performances added with ongoing concerns about administrative leadership, finances, and facilities has prompted the players’ unhappiness.
“In order for both the Men’s and Women’s teams to succeed,” reads their Petition to Review USA Field Hockey’s Mission to Succeed Internationally, “there are standards that need to be met in high-performance areas. Both men’s and women’s teams feel those standards are not being met.”
An online petition, which has reached 5,695 signatures, points at several problem areas, ranging from talent to facilities to budget. National team players, it claims have been served rotten or undercooked food, wear sub par uniforms, don’t get adequate medical treatment or insurance, and lack sufficient financial support.
Surprisingly, one of the petition’s chief targets is Spooky Nook, where the women’s team has its offices and where it practices and plays on indoor and outdoor fields. Only four years ago, then Field Hockey Federation president Leandro Negre had called it,“The most amazing facility I’ve ever seen.”
But the petition characterized its outdoor field as “unusable” and “unsafe”. Moreover the facility does not contain, ‘adequate locker or meeting facilities.’ The men’s training site at Chula Vista, Cal., also drew criticism for a lack of meeting space.
What is clear, is that the team, the squad and the governing body need to shake themselves down and nurture a young squad for the future while trying to guarantee them the best facilities possible to springboard the team to future success. With players like Margaux Paolino coming through the ranks and establishing themselves in the first team the future must be bright.