Throughout the fall, members of Canadian women’s field hockey team have been training hard in different pockets of the country and around the world.
Some have been playing overseas playing with club teams, while a large group has been competing hard for Canadian universities in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) field hockey season, which recently came to a close.
But there has been another group quietly going about its business right here in Vancouver.
A number of Women’s National Team members have been regularly on the pitch at the University of British Columbia and in the gym in Richmond, training.
It has been an opportunity to focus on getting better, without immediate competition on the horizon.
“I personally really like it,” says midfielder Alex Thicke. “It’s given us a chance to focus on our individual skills and take them higher, and also to work on the aspects of our game we weren’t able to focus on (throughout the summer).”
Thicke joined the team early this year, at the beginning of what was a very important competition season.
In addition to hosting two tournaments on home soil – both in Toronto – the Women’s National Team was on the road competing for much of the year looking to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.
And while they fell short of that goal, the team made immense strides by winning a medal (bronze) at the 2015 Pan American Games – the first time a Canadian women’s team has done that since 1999 – and cracking the top twenty in the International Hockey Federation’s official world rankings.
“I was really lucky that I got to jump in and experience all those really big tournaments right off the bat,” adds Thicke. “They were just so much fun and such a wonderful experience that I’m just really hungry for more.”
That’s the common feeling amongst the group, which is headed into year four of an eight-year plan aimed at qualifying for 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“We are still motivated for the next Olympics,” says veteran defender Sara McManus. “Even though this one is out of reach for us, there is still that motivation to make improvements and qualify for the next Olympics.”
And while the 2020 Olympics and even the 2018 Women’s World Cup are still in the distant future, having had a taste of success, the Women’s National Team is as focused and motivated as ever.
And whether playing for their club or CIS teams, or back at the home base in Vancouver, fall training has been a way for the women to continue their progression.
“I think this is just a really good opportunity for the girls in town to work on the little things and make some big improvements over the fall before we get into tournaments again.
The Women’s National Team has its end of year camp in the first week December, before standing down until mid-January, when they reconvene for another year of competition.