If you haven’t already please read USA Behind the Scenes Part 1
Once again the hospitality of the USA Women’s Hockey Team was at its best as they invited Jemma and I to their on-field training session this morning.
It was a beautiful sunny morning again in Johannesburg and the facility at the Roedean School was far superior for what you might expect for school hockey. The field was a high quality blue, water-based pitch, and as we were walking up to it, the sprinkler system was casting a beautiful rainbow whilst dousing the parched surface.
We observed the girls being given their GPS monitors, which they were helping each other strap to the backs of their tops and as they jogged out on the pitch I noticed that the warm up was not unlike the warm ups we do at our own club; a bit of jogging first, some stretches and some basic stick work.
Janneke had said it was going to be a competition day and that there would be a prize for the winners. It was the blue team against the white team.
First up it was a goal-scoring routine. The girls were set in four groups, with the balls being played diagonally to the top of the D for the receiver to have a strike on goal. I lost count, but Janneke didn’t miss a trick and kept score throughout.
Next, they were spilt into two games and there was no holding back. One of the girls was on the receiving end of a ball that came up into her chin and she had to have treatment from the physio and the doctor who were both in attendance. Shortly after that, a well struck shot was fired into the leg of one of the players, and she just walked away as if nothing had happened. They’re really tough these girls, because if it was me I’d have been rolling around on the floor!
During the session, teachers had brought along their sports classes to observe the action and the children all sat quietly and respectfully in awe of watching these elite athletes in the flesh.
As the girls were out there working hard I went over to speak to Nick Shedd (Strength & Conditioning) who showed me the system they use to track all of the players’ activity. There were so many stats on there. Certain zones for intensity, distance, speed. Nick said that it’s a great tool for understanding each of the girls’ capabilities and how to determine the best individual routines for them.
The girls went on to practice shootouts and more mini-games until Janneke finally announced that the winners were the blue team. You’d think they’d won a gold medal. They’re such a great bunch of hard working, motivated girls and they all congratulated each other after the session, in a great show of camaraderie.
Janneke came over to chat at the end and said that the winning team will be treated to a smoothie as the prize for coming out on top. A great day once again with a great team.
You have to take your hat off to USA. They are in a very important tournament, with World Cup qualification at stake, and rather than see our presence as a distraction, they welcomed us with open arms with the ultimate goal of spreading the word of hockey and raising the game’s profile. Well done USA!