COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – USA Field Hockey announced today to withdraw the USA Men’s National Team from the Olympic Qualification Tournament to be held in New Delhi, India, February 18-26. The decision to withdraw was primarily due to player unavailability and player retirements and injuries.
“The decision has been made strategically with the very best outcome for our program in mind,” said Terry Walsh, Technical Director of High Performance. “Unavailability of many of the senior players has left the Men’s program in a position where our best assembled team has a performance potential well below that required to be competitive in a tournament of this caliber. I have had significant discussions with our Men’s National Team Coach, Chris Clements, and we are in agreement that this course of action will be in the best interest of the long term progress of our National Program.”
The USA Men’s Team was selected to attend the first of three Olympic Qualifiers after finishing fifth at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. However, employment conflicts has resulted in player unavailability. In addition, the inability to commit full-time to a training and competition schedule has resulted in player retirements and multiple injuries following the Pan American Games has caused many of the core senior players to be incapable of selection and competition.
Although USA Field Hockey has a well-established Junior Men’s program, these athletes do not have extended international experience required to compete at the top level. With quality preparations and maturation, these athletes will advance on to the Men’s National Team and be in a better position for participation and qualification of future tournaments in 2012 and onwards.
“In finding that we have experienced serious erosion within the Men’s program due to various team member circumstances, we reluctantly made the difficult decision to withdraw the team from the Olympic qualifier,” said Steve Locke, Executive Director. “Much work and effort has taken place in recent years to develop a quality junior program. I believe that in attending the tournament that will feature the world’s top ranked teams will only hinder the confidence and development of our junior men. In another 12 months, will see these players begin to flourish and I look forward to seeing the team prepared and engaged with upcoming FIH events in 2012 and 2013."
The focus of the Senior Men’s program has now shifted to the FIH World League, set to make its debut in late 2012. Participation in the World League is essential for future qualification prospects. From 2014 and onward, the rankings from the World League tournament and the Continental Tournament Champions will determine the qualification spots for the World Cup and Olympic Games.
The Junior Men’s program will focus on the Junior Pan American Championship to be held in September, with the vision of qualifying for the Junior World Cup early next year. This will provide the younger members of the Men’s National team with exposure at the highest level heading into the Pan American Cup in 2013.
“The future is exciting,” says Walsh. “We have moved a long way forwards in recent years. A significant challenge lies ahead and is one which I believe our new schedule will create fantastic opportunities for.”
“The Board of Directors is in full support of the decision made to withdraw the team from the Olympic Qualifying Tournament,” said Pam Stuper, Chair, USA Field Hockey Board. “The decision was made with the best interest in mind of the athletes and long-term development of the Men’s National Team program.”
USFHA media release
Following the FIH guidelines of offering the replacement place to the next highest non qualified nation, Ukraine, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, Belarus, Sweden, Oman and Ghana are the seven nations who could be offered the place.