World Cup Qualifier Quilmes Argentina - Adam Commens
17/11/2009 Belgium- Ireland
Today begins the business end of the tournament. We play one of the form teams of the competition in Ireland. It is a team that we know quite a bit about having many of the players playing in Belgium and Holland this year or in the years gone by. The first few games for Ireland have been impressive, but it is not a team that we cannot handle if we play our best hockey. Of course this will be the focus for us. After an excellent performance against The Czech Republic our boys have recovered well and are ready for the match today.
Yesterday we were the only team at the competition that trained, with the other teams opting to utilise the rest fully. We took the chance to fine tune our tactics, set plays and to keep the “wheels in motion”. It was a light training session, but a sharp one. It is tactic used by all the top teams and is something that we may use in future rest days to help us build through the tournament. Who can forget the transformation of Germany at the Olympic Games- struggling in the early matches, but a continual improvement throughout the 2 weeks saw them take the Gold Medal home.
This is our aim. To play our best hockey when it counts. On the Final day. To do this, good management of the team with a balance between training, rest and fine tuning is important and it is something that is in our mind daily. This approach has been successful for us in the past and the players we have are hungry for more hockey and hungry to learn. It is a young and physically imposing team and after watching the first 2 days of play it is clear that we hold an advantage in this area over our opponents. It is a pleasing assessment but not necessarily the deciding factor. Details will once again prove decisive in this tournament as they have in the past and our efficiency on the set plays in both attack and defence will be the key. We have worked hard on this and I am sure the necessary adjustments have been made to prove the difference when we need it.
The next 2 matches are indeed vital for us, but you can be sure that the focus for Belgium will be on our game and performing at a level that no one has seen us perform at before.
Until next time
Preparing for important international tournaments is something that I have had to do for 10 out of the last 12 years. First as a player and now as a coach. Of course the 2 tasks are completely different with the logical difference being the physical preparation, but there are many similarities between the two roles as the level of professionalism and the concept of “lean” coaching is developed.
As a player you have to research the opponents, their tactics, their individual strengths and weaknesses and also their set plays such as PC attack and defence. Of course as a Coach this is the same. The last few days have been full of individual meetings with players, scouting of opponents, trainings and meetings with the tournament organisation. It seems we do nothing else than watch video, train, meet and eat. It is an enjoyable existence but a tiring one. As a coach there is no respite, no rest. We have to schedule rest for our players, but in these moments we need to prepare the next meeting, debrief the last one or research the opponents that we have coming up. Tournament time is indeed the busiest time for us. This is certainly the major difference between coaching and playing!
So far, with the exception of the injury to Chou Chou De Saedeleer, everything has gone according to plan here in Argentina. As you would have no doubt read in Bert Wentink’s journal the accommodation is comfortable and the food at a high standard. We have everything we need and everyone is fit and ready to go for the match today against Chile. They are a strong opponent and the last time Belgium played them we lost 2-1 here around 4 years ago. No doubt both teams have changed enormously since then and we would hope to get off to an excellent start to the tournament with a solid victory in our first match.
I mentioned earlier the concept of “lean” coaching. Asking rather than telling is something that we hear more and more in the world of modern day coaching and was common place in the Australian team when I was playing. Regularly were we assigned with tasks to scout the opponents and indeed “scout” ourselves. This is something that we have developed over the past few years, and the players have now reached a new level of maturity in researching opponents and eagerly tackle the task of scouting before each match. Not only does this improve the level of understanding of the opponent but it also allows us, as coaches, to get an insight into how well our players understand the game and what they see when they observe a match. I am sure that this method of coaching and careful guidance of the young talents we have in Belgium can see a bright future ahead for our sport. Lets hope that this begins here in Quilmes with a qualification for the World Cup.
Stayed tuned for some more highlights from our tournament and I am sure I speak for all the players when I say that we appreciate all the support we are receiving from back at home. Keep it coming!