The Rabobank Hockey World Cup in Holland has seen England Women perform at a level well below what we have come to expect in the previous few years. What has gone wrong and who is responsible?
Looking at the players in Holland and the same players in London 2012 Olympics and one thing that is very obvious is they are no where near as fit. Is that the result of losing long time strength and conditioning coach David Hamilton to HockeyUSA or is it something much bigger? Following the “success” in London have a number of senior players been thinking that they know more than Head Coach Jason Lee and thus attempting to set the agenda rather than follow instructions? The new budget for performance hockey means that England have not taken there S&C coach out to the World Cup and so an already inexperienced member of the back room team is missing valuable experience!
The Men’s team transitioned out of London 2012 more effectively replacing a number of experienced players with younger players who have slotted in and worked hard. The Women’s team on the other hand has a core of players who where members of the London 2012 set up, whilst you can say that Georgie Twigg and Laura Unsworth would be genuine contenders for Rio 2016 it now looks unlikely that Sally Walton, Hannah Macleod, Helen Richardson-Walsh, Kate Richardson-Walsh and even Alex Danson will be key members of the GB setup. Given that is so then why did Performance Director Danny Kerry allow them to take up limited places in the Centralised Programme?
Having seen the coaching set up both before and after London 2012 it seems that Sally Monday has made significant mistakes in trimming the budget for the centralised programme. The Women’s team no longer has a Manager attached to the group, specialist Goalkeeping coaching is now only one day a month, and Physio and Sport Psychology service are not as comprehensive as they were on top of the decline in quality for S&C. Another major change in the Central Contract is the number of players on the Programme who are full time. With only 24 in the group it is not possible to play matches in the group and so competition needs to be found outside, either they have been playing local hockey clubs 2nd mens teams or money has to be found to travel abroad in search of matches.
The interesting thing is that photographers and Sports Writers outside the UK have seen the writing on the wall for some time and yet those that write about the game here in England have not. Before the World Cup started both the Telegraph’s Rod Gilmore and Ross Bone of Top of the D were writing that England were potential world beaters.
In trying to protect the team, we have England Hockey talking about the fact that they have women the statistical game and it is small margins that mean that the ball has not gone in the goal. Yet against South Africa they lost the statistics as well as the match. The 2014 World Cup will be seen as the event that ended the International Career of a number of England Hockey players the brutal truth is that they were exposed as laking basic skills and success in 2012/13 resulted in them believing the press rather than always trying to get better.
We don’t yet know the full ramifications of failure at the World Cup but Bisham Abbey must now expect a significant cut in the budget for 2015 from UK Sport. The track record of the commercial department does not make me think that they can recover lost funding via increased sponsorship or ticket sales. That means that a round of redundancies will now be needed if England hockey are to balance the books, they do not have enough financial reserves not to.