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USA coach Janneke Schopman is a Dutch legend and two-time gold medallist. (Source: Hockey India)

The USA hockey crew’s Road to Tokyo 2020 started on a golf course. On the first day of October, the gamers swapped their hockey sticks for golf golf equipment and indulged in a spherical of four-person scramble. The objective? Raise funds for his or her Olympic journey, beginning with a visit to Bhubaneswar for a two-match, winner-takes-all qualifying event in opposition to India this weekend.

They might have received bronze medals at the Olympics (1984) and World Cup (1994), and completed in the high 5 at the Rio Games, however the American hockey crew can’t attain the Olympics, and even make it to qualifying tournaments, with out personal donations. Unlike India, there isn’t a help from the authorities and, given the cut-throat atmosphere, the US Olympic Committee pays for the naked minimal.

So, in the run-up to massive occasions like the Olympics and the World Cup, there are up to 5 such fund-raising occasions, normally hosted by a gamers’ dad or mum. “It’s a way to make a bit a bit more money for our programme,” says USA coach Janneke Schopman, a Dutch legend who’s a two-time gold medallist, having received the 2006 World Cup in Madrid and the Beijing Olympics. “The funds from the golf event were used to kick-start our preparations for the upcoming season.”

Money, or the lack of it, hasn’t been the greatest hurdle for Schopman although. She belongs to a rustic the place hockey is arguably the second-biggest crew sport after soccer. For the final seven years, she has – in several roles – lived in a nation the place the sport options nowhere in the public consciousness.

“It’s hard to explain the sport, that’s why we have to say field, right? In rest of the world you say hockey,” Schopman says, referring to the extra common model of the sport in the US – ice hockey.


Road to Tokyo

On November 1 and a pair of, the Indian males’s crew (rank 5) will play Russia, ranked 22, whereas the girls (rank 10) will tackle 13th-ranked USA in a two-match sequence. The winner of every match will get three factors, whereas one level will probably be awarded to every crew in case of a draw. The crew with larger factors after two matches will qualify for the Olympics. In case each groups are degree on factors, the crew with the higher objective distinction will undergo If each groups are degree on objective distinction as properly, a shootout will probably be held after the second match to decide the winner This is the final likelihood for the groups to qualify for the Olympics.

Schopman, 42, joined the USA set-up in 2012, quickly after the London Olympics the place the crew completed at the backside of the 12-team pile. Back then, the programme was overseen by Australian Terry Walsh, who later grew to become Indian males’s crew coach. USA parted methods with him and introduced on board former Great Britain participant Craig Parnham, who was an assistant coach of the British girls’s crew at the London Games.

Schopman was appointed Parnham’s assistant. The duo transformed the USA right into a crew that consistently punched above its weight. They received the gold medal at the 2014 Champions Challenge, defeated then world quantity 2 Argentina for the Pan American Games title, received a bronze at the 2016 Champions Trophy, completed fourth at the 2014 World Cup and fifth at the 2016 Olympics.

The turnaround

The turnaround was scripted in the agricultural hub of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, from the place most of the gamers emerge. “It’s the hotbed of the sport in the United States,” USA Field Hockey Communications Manager Teryn Brill says. “Of the selected travelling roster of 20, 10 are from Pennsylvania. 17 of them are from the Northeast region (comprising New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire, among others but New Jersey is the most dominant region after Pennsylvania).”

Schopman explains that these are the solely areas the place hockey – a predominantly feminine sport in the USA – is performed from an early faculty degree proper up to school. But the draw back is that after school, there’s nowhere to go, that means the gamers retire at an age most gamers round the world start their careers. “At college level, the player pool is very large. But if you don’t make it to the national programme directly after college, there’s no incentive to continue playing, which means many players retire when they are 22,” Schopman says.

The American aversion to hockey – discipline hockey – baffles Schopman particularly since different sports activities which are comparable in nature – lacrosse and ice hockey – proceed to thrive. Several hockey gamers, actually, have dabbled in these two sports activities. “In this country, people love the speed of games. They don’t mind rules – American football is difficult to understand with all the rules, but they are not deterred by it. So yeah, one of my biggest dreams is to make hockey popular in this country,” she says.

One approach to do it’s by profitable a medal at the Olympics. Before that, nevertheless, they’ll have to beat India who’re going via a section comparable to USA’s – completed 12th at the Olympics after which produced a string of fine outcomes. There have been murmurs in the hockey fraternity that USA’s failure to qualify for the Olympics might have an adversarial influence on the sport’s future at the Games itself, provided that hockey’s spot isn’t assured on the Olympic programme after the 2024 version. With the organisers now eager to scale back the dimension of the Games, there have been strategies to make five-a-side hockey an Olympic occasion.

Would the failure to qualify for Tokyo 2020 nudge Los Angeles 2028 in the direction of that transfer? “I would lie if I say it doesn’t matter (qualifying for Tokyo). It is important for a country as competitive as the US,” Schopman says. “The one thing I have learned from being here is that it is important for US to feature in every sport in the Olympics. So qualifying for Tokyo does matter, yeah.”

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