In the world of international field hockey, United States Women’s Field Hockey Coach Craig Parnham has cultivated a team attitude of making winning a mission. That attitude has been evidenced in Game 1 and Game 2 of the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the US women’s team defeated two powerhouses – No. 2 ranked Argentina and No. 3 ranked Australia. The score for both games was 2-to-1.
Prior to leaving for Rio, Parnham said at a meet-and-greet at Spooky Nook in Lancaster County, he was confident in his team’s game. And, rules changes, and any other potential distractions, would not impede them from their goal to medal, he said. Parnham said a huge part of the reason why his team gelled is that they spent a lot of time together – on and off the field – as well as he made sure his players rested and recovered from intense workouts.
USA is currently ranked 5th in the world. The team finished in last place in the 2012 Olympics.
Both matches have shown that the women’s team is poised under pressure. They are also executing creative penalty corners, a signature of Parnham’s coaching.
Field Hockey – the game
The game is made up of 10 field players, and one goalie. The ball is played with a stick. Only one side of the stick can be used for play. If the round side of the stick is used, it is considered a foul.
When a foul occurs, the other team immediately gains possession of the ball. The player who possesses the ball can take a free hit, or start dribbling, called self start or self pass.
Formerly, officials used to call a long hit when a defender deflected, hit or played a ball over the end line. Play would resume in the lower corners of the field by the offense. The foul has changed that now offense brings the ball back to the 25-yard line instead to start the play again.
Aerial balls, and lifts are allowed, subject to officials’ interpretation of it being considered dangerous.
When a foul occurs within the circle, a penalty corner is called. Offense has the advantage, and four defenders are in cage, along with the goalie.
Prior to these Olympic games, there were two halves. In Rio, there are four, 15-minute periods.
The most common fouls occur when the ball hits a player’s foot; a player does not carry the ball five yards before hitting it into the circle on a free hit; a ball is deemed dangerous by an official; or a player obstructs their opponent from being able to play the ball by using their stick or body.
Scoring occurs only within the circle. Players cannot hit directly into the circle, unless they are outside the 25-yard line.
Upcoming Preliminary Games
Wednesday, August 10 – USA vs. Japan, 4 pm
Thursday, August 11 – USA vs. India, 6:30 pm
Saturday, August 13 – USA vs. Great Britain, 5 pm
Two of the US Women’s National Team players are from Central Pennsylvania. Jill Witmer, 25, of Lancaster, and Alyssa Manley, 22, of Lititz, are participating in their first Olympic games. Witmer played field hockey at University of Maryland, and Manley played at Syracuse University.