Thursday, 30 January 2014

World League Finals, Spoelstra and the Process

Nameste hockey lovers!

I’m blogging from my hotel room in downtown Chandigarh ahead of the first match of the 2014 Hockey India League and it’s fair to say the last few weeks have been pretty hectic.

2014 is not even a month old but it has already thrown up an interesting situation for my Kookaburra teammates and I…

Today I’ll bring you up to date on what has happened so far, starting with the World League 4 hockey event, which recently wrapped up in New Delhi, India.

This tournament was special. Not because we did overly well but because it marked the first time in my Kookaburra career that our team wasn’t involved in the medal ceremony at the end of the tournament. We finished 4th and left Delhi empty handed. So I guess the question must be asked, are we a team on the decline?

I don’t believe so.

Although disappointed with the result and especially with how we played in the last two matches, I am not overly worried with how we are progressing as a team.

We took a relatively young and inexperienced group to Delhi in the hope of continuing the development of some of our best and brightest young players. Daniel Beale, Aran Zalewski, Nick Budgeon, Tyler Lovell and Tristan White all have fewer than 30 international games to their name and it was a fantastic opportunity for them to play against some of the world best players in the world’s best sides.

Several mainstays of the national team were left at home to rest or recover from injuries ahead of a big year. The likes of Dwyer, Kavanagh, Swann, Butturini, Simpson, Hammond, Gohdes, Ciriello, Charters and Mitton all demand a place in our Australian team at their best. But who makes way?

Unfortunately, someone has to miss out and the next few months will continue to shape the makeup of our final World Cup side.

How did I feel after the World League finals?

I guess if I am totally honest, and this will sound odd, I felt pretty good.

I was relatively happy with certain aspects of my own game. I am confident I have improved some areas that needed attention but more importantly recognised many new areas that need work if I am to become much better.

Now I am a big basketball fan and even bigger Miami Heat fan. And Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra puts it all into perspective for me when he says:

"The result of success can poison a lot of things - poison your perception, poison your motivation, poison your sense of urgency."
This could apply to our Australian team. Over the last six years we have won almost everything. Only in the last 18 months have we started to see a dip in our form and results.
Why? Maybe because all the success we have had has poisoned our group? Maybe we aren’t working hard enough anymore? Maybe we are too comfortable?
"We have to put success in its proper box and commit to the process of continuing to get better - specifically, the process of building from the beginning of camp. Everything does matter," Spoelstra says.
The last line rings true in my ears. Everything does matter. It’s all about the process!

I viewed the World League tournament as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things. All part of the ‘process’ of building an exceptional and outstanding team for the 2014 Hockey World Cup.

I felt the same way about the World League 3 event last year in Rotterdam and will feel the same way about every other Kookaburra game and training session I take part in until hopefully I am on the pitch on June 15th this year.

That is when the final of the World Cup will take place in Holland and this will be what I consider, the final step in this process.

What is this process all about? Ask our coach Ric Charlesworth what the number one rule of sports psychology is and he will answer “process over outcome”.

In essence, this rule encourages us to focus intently on each and every instance, paying as much attention to each trap, pass, tackle and goal shot as we can.

It reminds us to remove any lingering thoughts of the final score or match outcome from our minds when on the field and concentrate solely on the task at hand.

I have been involved in some big matches and have been lucky enough to win a fair few. I have also lost some, most notably the semi-final of the London Olympics last year. Each time the result hasn’t gone our way; I have always looked at the process and funnily enough, it is usually what let’s us down. Every now and then you can blame things like bad luck, injuries/illness or even poor umpiring but usually the blame lies at the end of our own sticks. The process hasn’t been adhered to.

Spoelstra also talks about not liking the idea of settling into the same routine, believing change pushes players to become better. This is exactly what is happening with Kookaburras program at the moment.

The AIS is disbanding. Our strength and conditioning program is changing. Our coaches are looking for new ways to train and provide feedback. Our video team is giving us live information and statistics during matches. Everything is in place for the players to be successful. We just have to work hard and continue to focus on the process.

I’ll leave you today with a few pics from our time on Delhi. We visited The Red Fort, hung out at Humayun’s Tomb and then managed to find a snake charmer in a carpark who scored the crap out of me.  So far, the trip has been great!

I’ll be writing again in a few weeks, smack bang in the middle of the Hockey India League ,which is sure to provide me with some great talking points, plenty of curry and hopefully some more quality photos.

Talk to you all again soon,


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