In sports, inexperience isn’t something that is usually looked at as a positive, but for the Canadian Women’s Indoor National Team it just might be what allows them to succeed at the upcoming Indoor World Cup.
All but one of the Canadian women headed to Leipzig, Germany for the tournament – which will take place from February 4-8 – are playing in their first World Cup (Ottawa’s Malinda Hapuarachchi is playing in her second).
It’s something that has brought the group together before the biggest tournament of their careers.
“I think that our team as a unit is extremely unified in what we want to accomplish,” says Toronto’s Anna Easty. “We’re all completely on the same page and I think that’s a huge strength for our team.”
The team is coming off a Pan American Cup gold medal in 2014, and while their preparation for the World Cup has been mainly training against each other as opposed to other teams, it has made them more of a team.
“We’ve got a really good group,” says Canadian head coach John D’Souza, who will be coaching in his second World Cup. “We’ve got a really mature bunch of girls. I think our average age is somewhere around twenty-four.”
What that group lacks in direct World Cup experience, they make up not only with their recent success and maturity, but also with their leadership.
In addition to drawing from Hapuarachchi’s World Cup experience, D’Souza will be looking to a core group of girls including Easty, and veterans Kristen Shier (Toronto, ON) and Kaelan Watson (Richmond, BC) to guide the women on and off the floor.
“The three of them I’m going to be relying on heavily to make sure the team is headed in the right direction,” he says.
Each of Easty, Shier, and Watson play a different type of game, and bring a different style of leadership.
As one of the most dominant indoor women over the last year, Watson will lead by example with her play on the floor, while Shier bring a level-headed approach.
“I’m one of the oldest players on the team so I’ve been around the game for a bit longer than some of the other girls and I think I just bring a good balance,” says Shier of her style. “I’ve worked with John for a long time and I’m able to see things from his side but then also balance what the players need.”
What Easty brings is a sense of calmness, which is something the team will certainly rely upon when the pressure levels ramp up.
“Going into a big tournament like this it’s quite easy to become overwhelmed by how big every game is and how hard we’ve worked to get there,” she says. “But at the same time you want to be in the moment, you want to enjoy it and you want to do what we’ve gone there to do.”
“I think part of my role will be making sure that we’re in that balance of being excited to play but not overwhelmed with how big a stage it is.”
While the majority are first-timers at the tournament, D’Souza says they’re not taking the tournament lightly, which is highlighted by the way the team had been training leading up to departing for Leipzig.
“They’ve all got something to prove,” he explains. “When they’re training and practicing, they’re training with a vengeance. They’re training really hard.”
And with a team so close, and so motivated, there’s a good chance the way they train will be the way the play.
The Canadian Women’s Indoor National Team begins the 2015 Indoor World Cup on February 4th with two games. To view the complete schedule and results, click here. Also stay tuned to Field Hockey Canada’s website, Facebook and Twitter feeds for game recaps, photos, and more.