If you were to ask any athlete, the goal entering a major competition is to have success. At a Commonwealth Games, that would typically mean winning a medal. But ask a coach, and success will likely equate to progress.
At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Canadian Men’s and Women’s Nationals had both success and progress, making for a successful outing in Glasgow.
The Men’s National Team matched its best finish ever at a Commonwealth Games, finishing sixth. This matches its previous best result of sixth at the 2002 Games in Manchester, England.
“As a group we are starting to build the depth that we need to have sustainable success on the international scene,” says Men’s National Team head coach Anthony Farry. “Provided we are able to increase the level of international competition we attend, we will not only keep up with the teams around us in rankings but also catch up to a few higher ranked teams.”
The men had their fair share of matches against higher ranked teams at this Commonwealth Games, but they were up for every challenge.
They nearly came out with a tie versus powerhouse New Zealand in the opening game of the tournament, kept the contest with England extremely close until the very end, and were in a very good position until late in the second half to win the 5th place consolation match with South Africa.
“There is no doubt that we are disappointed with our final placing, we set our expectations high for this tournament and didn’t achieve what we set out to do,” says Farry. “But the end result has us placed equal to our best ever finish on the men’s side and above our ranking for the tournament so there are positives to come out of it.”
With its eighth place finish, the Women’s National Team can take many positives from its performance as well.
On average, the Canadian Women’s National Team is among the youngest field hockey teams in the world, let alone the Commonwealth Games and the experience for a young squad made up of mainly first-timers at a multi-sport event will be invaluable as the women attempt to qualify for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.
“Throughout 2014 our performances have continued to improved; this was no different here,” says Women’s National Team head coach Ian Rutledge. “We managed to start the tournament off with a close fought affair with India and continued to improve from throughout the tournament.”
“While we are obviously disappointed with the results, our performances in four of the five matches have produced some of the best hockey we have played over the past twelve months.”
The progression is clear for the women, who had many players stand out individually on an international stage and have gained invaluable experience as a team.
“You cannot fast track experience, it can only be lived,” adds Rutledge. “We now come away knowing that the big pieces of our game are in place. We come away knowing that we are on the right track, and also knowing the areas we need to improve.”
And that’s a good a sign, not only for the women but for the men too as both teams inch closer to Olympic qualifying tournaments such as World League (which beings in September for the women, and early in 2015 for the men) and the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto next summer.
“Ultimately it’s about being successful at Olympic Games and World Cups so we have plenty of work in front of us,” adds Farry. “But we’re definitely on the right track.”