Ashleigh Nelson

Australian Hockey Player and Motivational Speaker

Road to World Cup

Posted by on May 17, 2014

Road to World Cup

It’s one of the most prestigious tournaments an athlete could play in alongside the Olympic Games. This years Hockey World Cup is set to be a blockbuster with both international mens and womens teams taking the field at arguably the home of hockey – The Hague, Holland. Despite having loyal fans and followers there is no doubt that we will be overwhelmed by a number of people resembling walking carrots dressed head to toe in Orange supporting their much beloved Dutch Hockey team.

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Although commencing on the 31st May the road to the World Cup seems short but this has already been a trek and a half to get to where we are now. Two Olympic Games and the 2010 World Cup has seen us take out a disappointing 5th position. Commitment to change was what was needed and what we have aimed to achieve over the past 2 years since the 2012 Olympic Games in order to climb our way into more finals campaigns.

Creating a winning culture is a difficult task which requires just as much dedication and commitment to physical training. For an individual sport this may be a little easier as it rests solely on the athlete wanting to make the change. To get over 30 people on the same page, willing to commit, understand required behaviours and making an active commitment to abiding by team standards, takes work, time and feeling uncomfortable. Meeting after meeting on identifying and changing problematic behaviours, learning how to give and receive feedback and analysing ways to to reduce inconsistent individual and team performances just scratched the surface of areas we had to work through.

There is still work to do but training in an environment where inconsistent performances, lack of desire to get better/more skillful and not preparing adequately for competition are not supported behaviours is here to stay. Recent performances with a win at Oceania Cup and silver at World League finals, in conjunction with an improved world ranking indicate blending physical training with psychological development (individually and as a team) has its place in the Hockeyroos environment.

As I learnt from the London Olympics, working hard doesn’t entitle you to winning. I have no doubt every athlete at the World Cup would feel like they have trained hard and deserve to medal. What entitles team’s to winning is being skilful while having the mental strength, and resilience to focus on every moment – game by game and consistently action ones skills and overall game plan.

A hockey tournament isn’t won after one game or two games into a tournament. You can be assured however that a tournament can be lost after one moment in one game hence the necessity to dedicate oneself to performing consistently despite surrounding pressures. I look back on London Olympics and truly believe that we lost our tournament within the first 10 minutes of the opening game v New Zealand. Aside from probably not being skilful enough at that time, we succumbed to the mental pressure of the situation resulting in an inability to perform across the entire 70 minutes.

I am not saying that the Hockeyroos are going to win the World Cup – it definitely is a goal, but what I am going to say is that I feel we are better prepared to action a consistent, physically enforcing and skilful performance than previous world class events. Harnessing the culture we have created and ensuring it’s associated behaviours take to the pitch with us is what will give us the edge and hopefully make for a successful campaign.

Prior to taking to The Hague we are settling into our hotel in Bremen, Germany while playing the 4 nations tournament including Germany, Japan and England. A win on Thursday over England (4-2) was a positive start considering we had just walked off the plane sporting a vast array of chubby knees and ankles/cankles. A second solid performance against Japan saw us come away with a 6-1 win. Tomorrow we will play our final match v host Germany to see which team will take out the tournament with Germany also securing 2 wins in their previous matches.

In more exciting news it was also star Hockeyroos player Casey Eastham’s 200th game for Australia v England. I have played alongside Casey since 2007 and have admired her diligence to becoming a world class player. There is no doubt that Casey was blessed with a great physical capacity for the game with her speed and strength. Many a time I have tried to outrun and outlift Casey but my efforts have always resulted in disappointment on my end so I had to give up and let her have all the glory. What I can say about Casey however is despite her great natural ability, she has not relied on it. Casey  has instead capitalised on these strengths while working on areas such as her elimination skills, leadership and ability to influence the game to become the player she aspires to be – World Player of the Year.

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She is a great role model for those that are fortunate to be involved in an elite sport from a young age and how to maintain motivation, drive and ability to stay ahead of the pack. A determined yet humble athlete many of the team felt very honoured to walk out onto the pitch on such an occasion. I was also fortunate enough to create her 200th video (A Hockeyroo tradition) along with the help from teammate Georgia Nanscawen. Below is just one of the clips which shows just how much talent Casey has, taken from one of our last training’s pre world cup.

We will head to Belgium after Germany and then finally make our way to The Hague for final preparations before World Cup. Thanks to the support of ABC you can watch all the action live. Click on the link below to view the ABC viewing guide.

 

World Cup TV & online schedule – Australia

 

For more information on featured Hockeyroos head to their websites:

www.caseyeastham.com

www.rachaellynch.com.au

 

More to come – thanks for reading

 

Ashleigh

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