Field Hockey Canada > 2018 U18 Field Hockey Canada Nationals - July 17: U18 Competition begins at a Furious Pace

The U15 competition finished in a frenzy on Monday evening and before taking a breath, the U18 competition began with 14 matches over 14 hours today at the Back Campus Fields at the University of Toronto.

For many of these youth athletes, this moment a huge stepping stone in their field hockey careers. Getting the chance to represent their province at a major competition is validation of years of hard work. The chance to fight for a national medal is certainly something special. For a select-few of these athletes, this moment could signal the start of another path. The pathway to international play.

Talent identification representatives and Field Hockey Canada coaches were on hand in force today as the U18 tournament kicked off. For Geoff Matthews, the head coach of Canada’s U18 National Men’s Team, the National Championships gives him an opportunity to see the country’s top prospects in one place at the same time.

“Usually, we see the kids training in their home environment. It’s difficult to make comparisons unless we actually see them in a competition situation,” he said. “It’s really valuable to us because we get to see what pressure does to them and you get to see their true character.”

Matthews coached Canada’s U18 Men’s squad to a Youth Olympic Games qualification this spring. They will attend the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aries, Argentina, in the fall. With selections for the final roster being announced in August, this is a good opportunity for players to make a late case for themselves. If winning a medal for your province wasn’t enough, there is also the added pressure of performing in front of the national team coaching staff. Matthews said that he is specifically looking for players that fit the team culture.

“Obviously you need the skills, but you also need far more than that,” he said. “We are looking for players with trust, heart and professionalism.”


On the Women’s side, the same pressure mounts as we work our way into the U18 division. National team identifiers are roaming the pitches as well as scouts and coaches from Canadian USPORTS and American NCAA schools. Here, an athlete can be identified and recruited for schools in the USA, ID’d for the national team or offered a look from a Canadian University program.

Peter Taylor, from Alberta, is a coach at this event but has the added responsibility of scouting and identifying women for the Canadian Junior Development System. He says the two don’t always go hand in hand but he makes the best of it.

“As a coach, you’re always trying to improve the players and find their talent and help them along,” he said. “Here, the National program has asked me to also scout the players that are playing so you just have to separate it.”

For Taylor, being a part of the pathway means he’s doing his best to set players up with the tools and ability to make it onto the JWNT and potentially the Senior Women’s National Team. Major American universities also take notice of the Canadian national championships. University of Maine, UMass and Ohio are major US schools that have blossoming Field Hockey programs.

“We are looking for players that have the potential to, in a couple of years, be on the junior national team. And of course, progress onto the national senior team,” Taylor said.

Taylor, who has been here since the start of the U15s (coaching Alberta) said the competition has improved and that even some of the lower ranked provinces are starting to make headway and contribute top players to the competition.

“There’s a lot of great talent, even in the lower-finishing teams,” he said. “We’re expecting the next step higher from the U18s: more intensity, higher quality, and a faster game.”

And intensity he got, as the games were extremely exciting today. With the exception of a few one-sided affairs, there was some amazing action on both pitches. Alberta boys snuck There was a battle of BC today on pitch one pitting the Stags and the Rams. Click above for full results from today’s action. Bracket play starts tomorrow afternoon with men’s quarterfinals.


Jaslan Stirling

Mississauga, Ontario

How did you first get into umpiring?

I started umpiring at the club hockey level and I’ve never done anything this serious at a National level but I actually enjoy it — it’s a lot of fun. My first experience wasn’t the best, but I learned a lot.

Why Nationals?

I’ve been playing since grade 9 so I have five or six years of Nationals experience. A few FHO members actually approached me and they told me that they thought I’d be good at it, so I applied!

What do you think is the most valuable about youth sports?

I think the most important thing is definitely the experience. Being a player, there are so many relationships I’ve formed and so many opportunities I’ve gotten from field hockey that I wouldn’t have had, had I not played. It’s such a small community and such a great environment; everyone is just so pleasant and so happy.

Favourite song at the moment?

“Stolen Dance” by Milky Chance.

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Margaux Brand

North Vancouver, BC

How did you first get into umpiring?

My mom got me started when I was 13. She was big on umpiring and so was her grandma back in South Africa. She was my mentor all through high school and my first memory was umpiring for kids younger than me.

Why Nationals?

I think it’s a great opportunity to give back to the field hockey community. Being an international umpire, it’s good to help up and coming umpires enter. It means a lot to me because I’ve always had that.

What do you think is the most valuable about youth sports?

It’s a great way for them to learn about teamwork because a lot of young kids don’t all experience the setting of having to work with other teammates. It also provides a sense of possibility and commitment. Learning that at a very young age goes a long way.

Favourite ice cream flavour?

Whiskey hazelnut.