Well I have finally passed the 100 cap mark! After a bit of confusion with the English Hockey admin staff, our originally planned 4 game test series became a 2 games test series with 2 practices matches, therefore my 100th cap turned out to be the second match played at Bisham Abbey. Coming up against England, ranked 3rd in the world, we expected if nothing else to put up a good fight. Unfortunately in my 100th game for Canada, England showed us why they are 3rd in the world and why we’re not quite there yet. Playing against these top teams is always a wake-up call for us, but that being said our team understands that we are young and relatively inexperienced compared to these teams; our average age roughly 5 or 6 yrs younger and our average caps maybe reaching a 3rd of theirs, so we know we have a long way to go. What’s great about facing these teams, and why we eagerly accept the challenge, is that you learn so much after losing; you’re forced to be better, you analyze your mistakes, learn your lessons and accelerate your growth. And grow we did…..by the end of series we came up with a 1-1 tie, after leading 1-0 for a majority of the match. Finally solid scoreboard proof of improvement and perhaps more importantly our belief being justified.
Belief is a word that has often come up in my National Team career. Being part of a team desperately trying to claw our way out of 23rd in the world, the one thing you absolutely have to have is belief. And even as a young player I always thought I had belief in our team. Lining up against any team, even world number 1 Argentina I believed that we could somehow pull out a win. However, I’m now discovering it’s not the belief before every game that moves you up in the rankings, it’s having the belief when you’re back at home training. We talk about commitment and sacrifice when we’re in a centralized training environment. Making it to the same field every day, at the same times, working with the same people day in day out, and working what seem to be the same drills over and over. Every practice you try to bring your best, or the best of what you have to offer each day. Then when you go on tour and don’t get the results you wonder why you’re doing it. If only you could guarantee a certain amount of hours of training would translate to moving up those 5, 10 or 20 spots. But in sports there are no guarantees, on any given day any team can win. And building up a young team is a process; sometimes it’s hard to remember the wins aren’t always the ones on the scoreboard. Somehow you have to keep the belief and stick through the grind without the concrete results. Having lost every game against the U.S, Australia and England (all top 10 ranked teams), it was hard to ignore the score and focus on the improvements we were making. However knowing we had a long way to go, we diligently soldiered on, slowly watching our possession and attacking stats creep up. At the start of the England tour we beat their development squad, and we could see our game was becoming more consistent. However, we were then smashed in our first test match against England. But we knew, we believed, we could be better. So when that second game came around, we weren’t panicked, we didn’t stray from the process and build a fortress around our 25yr line. We believed we weren’t just going to compete with this team…we were going to beat them. Sure enough we were up for most of the game. A look or feeling of shock didn’t wash over our team when we were up; we continued to believe in our game, in our process. After pulling their goalie in the dying minutes of the match England managed to equalize, but we had just tied the number 3 team in the world. We finally had tangible evidence that our process is working. …but it all came after the belief.
We now return home for 7 weeks of training in preparation for Commonwealth Games. I looking forward to attacking this training with new sense of encouragement. We know the training is worth the daily grind and more importantly we believe in this group, in this team, not just game to game, but everyday.