USFHA: The USA men's team will begin its quest to climb up in the international standings when the squad resumes training from 5-19 February at the USA Field Hockey Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
Opening its training camp on the newly-installed AstroTurf System 12 surface at the Olympic Training Center, the U.S. team is scheduled to take on the Dutch club team Bloemendaal in matches on 7, 8 and 11 February before meeting the Canadian national team for matches on 17, 18 and 19 February. The matches will be the first competitive matches for the full USA senior squad since the Pan Am Cup in May 2004.
'Our main objective is to re-establish our training habits and to move towards developing a new identity for the team,' said USA coach Nick Conway. 'We are truly at square one.
“However we still possess a significant amount of talent and desire to be successful. The seven matches that we have coming up, will provide us with a firm foundation from which we can improve in every aspect of our game.'
With a relatively young squad of 37 athletes with an average age of just under 22 years old, Conway will begin preparing the team for qualification to the 2007 Pan American Games. The USA placed 5th at the 2003 Pan Am Games and placed a disappointing 7th at the Pan American Cup in 2004.
'By the end of this (training) competition phase, I would hope that we have a reinvigorated group of athletes who are willing and able to commit to training towards our future competitions,' said Conway.
'We are very thin on the ground as far as experience is concerned. But this squad has an opportunity to develop as one which is a very rare occurrence. We are concerned about creating competition for places, creating a consistent and hard training ethic and having the ability to play with structure, organisation, discipline and flair.'
The two series in Chula Vista will also give the young USA team an early test against a Bloemendaal club that features some of the world's top players and a Canada squad peaking for its appearance in the Commonwealth Games in March.
'The series against Bloemendaal is fantastic on many levels,' said Conway.
'Not least, it allows our players to compete against the calibre of player as Teun de Nooijer (WorldHockey Player of the Year), Karel Klaver (2004 Olympic silver medalist) and Tibor Weissenborn (2004 bronze medalist).
“From a coaching standpoint, the opportunity for development is massive especially as the Bloemendaal players have kindly agreed to work with our athletes throughout the series. It is an extremely positive and beneficial environment in which to begin our development as a squad.'
The U.S. and Bloemendaal players will also conduct a Gold Medal Clinic for players and coaches prior to their match on 11 February at the Olympic Training Center.
'Clearly the Canada series has more far reaching implications,' added Conway.
'In order for us to be successful, we will be required to beat Canada in our continental tournaments. They will be in their final preparations for the Commonwealth Games and as such, we will get a good gauge of where we are currently, our specific need areas for growth and where we need to get to in the near future.'
Following the training camp in Chula Vista, the USA men will compete in the annual California Cup in May. But Conway doesn't expect a drop off in the team's training efforts.
'The period of time between now and then will be critical in developing other skill areas such as our commitment to consistent training and our fitness,' said Conway. 'Currently we are underperforming in these areas and these issues will be addressed.'
USA athletes will also participate in domestic competition as part of Regional Training Center competition and national championship tournament. Athletes will have the opportunity to train at various locations across the country before gathering for the national championship tournament, 20-25 June in Chula Vista.
The U.S. team is expected to compete in a best-of-three qualifying tournament with either a South American or Central America/Caribbean team in a best-of-three playoff between November 2006 and March 2007.
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