There are only 150 days remaining until the Olympic opening ceremonies. 150 days to prepare the best possible Team Canada for the competition. And as the days count down, the Red Caribou are working hard every day to bring their best to the world stage in Tokyo.
Each year, the National Team coaching staff hosts an Identification and Carding Camp to identify and determine the members of the squad for that calendar year. Typically, these camps are held in the fall but as with many competitions and camps, the timelines have been thrown out the window and adapted to fit into the COVID world we are living in. In an Olympic season, being selected out of camp is the first step to walking out onto the Olympic pitch.
Last year, COVID-19 swept the globe, shutting down every major 2020 competition and delaying the Olympic Games an entire year. The IOC recently announced their steadfastness in hosting the rescheduled games as planned, and this week’s camp can be looked at as a milestone moment for the team as it truly signifies the re-ignition of the Olympic campaign. For a group that trains together so regularly, a domestic camp might seem like business as usual but with new coaching staff looking on, Red Caribou forward Oliver Scholfield said there’s an added intensity to the upcoming week.
“As soon as you call it a carding camp, all of a sudden, the level of competition goes up,” Scholfield said. “Players are trying to prove something; we’re trying to show how we fit in with the team. Especially with the new coaching staff who don’t know us as well.”
Scholfield is a dual citizen as he was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up in the UK. He recalls dreaming of playing in the Olympic Games for as long as he can remember — only he imagined he’d be wearing the colours of Team Great Britain.
When he moved to Vancouver in 2011 and got involved in the Canadian national junior program, that dream quickly shifted to donning the Red and White of Team Canada. After missing out on the 2016 Rio Olympics, he has used every opportunity to improve and give himself the best shot of making the 2020 Olympic Team.
“Honestly, every single decision I make counts,” he said. “Whether that’s lifestyle, nutrition, recovery, training, pre-hab. It all goes into the trying to achieve that goal.”
For the individuals players on the squad, like Scholfield, this camp is an opportunity to showcase their skills, athleticism and how they fit into the new style of play.
Field Hockey Canada’s Men’s National Team trains at Rutledge Field in West Vancouver.
Pasha Gademan, the newly appointed Red Caribou Head Coach has been in Canada for just over a month. Previously working in the Dutch Hoofdklasse and with the Dutch National Team, Gademan arrived and quarantined for 14 days in West Vancouver before joining the team on the pitch last month.
“We’re already making very big steps. It’s been good to get a complete overview of the team and even some of the NextGEN boys that are in town,” Gademan said. “When I’m on the ground, on the pitch, I can really see the energy of the group and the individual. Their commitment, their enjoyment of the game. It’s huge.”
Andre Henning worked with the team during January and handed the reigns over to Gademan in February. The two new coaching members have injected energy into training and Gademan sees a lot of potential with the group. He said he sees a motivated team that will be ready to play their best at the Tokyo games.
“This is a group of ambitious players that has a naturally high work rate,” he said. “This is a team that never gives up. In the core of this group, there is hard work. It’s like that at every training session.”
The Men’s National Team is currently ranked 10th in the world and qualified for the 2020 Games by way of a thrilling comeback shootout victory over Ireland at Rutledge Field in the fall of 2019. The team is coming off a 11th place finish at the 2016 Rio Games and a 11th place finish at the 2018 Hockey World Cup. Gademan thinks this is the group to take that next step and crack the top-10 barrier.
“With proper preparation, this group should believe in ourselves that we can compete for a spot in the quarterfinals [in Tokyo]. That’s my dream and my belief.”
With COVID-19 still dictating the international competition schedule, both Gademan and Scholfield said the team has to remain adaptable and take their opportunities when they can. Both highlighted the need to get competitive games prior to the Games.
“We have faith in the coaching staff to get us good competitions with safety as the top priority. But for me, it’s all about staying flexible,” Scholfield said. “We do what we can to prepare for what we think is going to happen and if it doesn’t, there will be an alternative.”
One competition alternative is intra-squad matches. The five-day carding camp takes place from Friday, February 26 – March 2 and will feature daily training sessions and two matches. According to Scholfield, these camp matches will be the first true 11-a-side games of the season. And even though there is no international ranking on the line, the opportunity to compete is huge for the team.
“We have an extended training group in town, so we’re going to get some full matches in this week. Just having those first real games to kick off the year will be huge as a starting point for the team.”
Follow along during the Red Caribou training camp on Field Hockey Canada’s social media channels. Note: The Women’s National Team is getting set for their carding camp starting on the 15th of March. Be on the lookout for stories and social media coverage of the event.
Kevin Underhill – Communications Manager
Field Hockey Canada | firstname.lastname@example.org
Celia Plottel – Men’s National Team Manager
Field Hockey Canada | email@example.com