T&T hockey women’s team start countdown to Pan Am Cup
PRE-CHRISTMAS, head coach of the senior women’s hockey team, Anthony “Bumpa” Marcano, thought his squad was struggling to get in the training groove they required.
Post-Boxing Day, and just under three weeks out from the January 19-30 Pan American Cup in Santiago, Chile, Marcano is hoping to strike the right balance between rest and work as they attempt to maximise this short lead-up.
“I think the levels that we are going into (this competition), the time that we have had for Peru, to get the team to where we needed to get to, might not have been enough time to really compete with these teams,” Marcano said. “However, no excuses, we just have to go and play hard.”
Team TTO are in Pool A with hosts Chile, Uruguay and the region-conquering Argentina.
“Covid-19 was still causing some issues earlier, whether it was people trying their best to stay healthy, stay safe. Then there was the difficulty of some of the squad getting time off from their work to get to training. People striving for job security in these tough times and we can’t be against that. So these were the little hiccups you are going to get going into this tournament,” “Bumpa” conceded, adding that getting the full squad to training was a serious challenge in the circumstances.
But with much of the foreign elements of the squad, including the three Olton sisters - Sarah, Samantha, and Katie - and Felicia King returning from Long Island University duties, Marcano is looking for the team to buckle down. He is also hoping that Australia-based Kimberley Young would make the return to assist the squad.
“I am hoping now we get some time together as a group and see as much as we could push through, try to get into the tournament early, give us some time to play practice games maybe against Mexico, Peru who are in the other group, before we actually get into action. So these are the things we have planned going forward,” revealed Marcano.
It is more than likely he will maintain the weekly training schedule of Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday at the St James Barracks with the entire squad which is up to 18-20 persons on average. On Fridays and Saturdays, Marcano caters to the goalkeepers, with specialised sessions at the Woodbrook Youth Facility, while on Sundays at that same venue, the coach has separate groups coming in to do penalty corner practice.
But the main issue is remaining healthy and keeping their bodies tuned-in for their January outing.
“The science says you need a certain amount of rest-to-work ratio, so we don’t want to reach a breakdown point where they may become more susceptible to sickness,” Marcano said.
Other people to join the current training are former senior team stalwarts Alana Lewis and Tamia Roach, who are making an attempt to re-enter the national outfit, while Under-21 players like Shania Gajadhar and Mia Otero, among others, are also vying for a spot in Chile.
“It is a nice combination of taking from the Under-21s and adding to this senior team. That is the important thing,” Marcano stressed. “We have to also focus on the level of competition and if players are really prepared for that, including these young players. So we have to be careful how we go about doing it. But I think it is a great opportunity for them.”
But the overall goal, once they land in Chile, is to finish in the top six. That would ensure T&T an automatic qualification for the next edition of the Cup, without the obligation of going through the Pan Am Challenge route, as they were forced to do to advance this year.
“Everybody will say in the Pan Am region, it is always good to be in a group with Argentina, simply because you not going to cross over to meet them,” Marcano said. “Better you take care of them in the group because the cross-over is the most important part of the tournament, so if it is you are playing them in the group stages then that is also a plus, in a manner.”
But T&T still have to conquer the hosts in their first game (January 19) before Uruguay (January 21) and Argentina (January 23).
“So it is about performance-wise in each one of these games, hopefully improving as we move on to get ready for the cross-over,” Marcano emphasised. “That is where the fight is going to be, to get into the top three in the group stage and to be able to play for 5th-6th. Our first test and we will see what happens going forward.”