By Lee Tolliver
© May 29, 2013
The L.R. Hill Sports Complex at Old Dominion features a long balcony that leads to the field hockey press box.
The area provides a bird’s eye view of competition, and it’s been a perfect perch for the new U.S. women’s coach to watch his future play out.
Since last week, Craig Parnham has watched 108 players compete in the USA Field Hockey Women’s National Championship. Today he’ll watch the six teams – including the U21 squad – in placement matches.
Competition starts at 9 a.m. for fifth place, followed by third place at 11 a.m. and the championship match at 1 p.m.
“This has been a wonderful opportunity here in Norfolk, with all the players here,” said Parnham, who played for England in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and coached the women’s team in the 2008 and 2012 Games.
“What we have at the moment is really good spirit and enthusiasm.”
Parnham and a group of assistants have been evaluating the field – which includes former local standouts Kelsey and Katelyn Smither (both Lakeland), Casey DiNardo (Cox) and Stephanie Fee (Cox) – and will decide on the top 24 within “24 to 48 hours.”
“We have a competition soon and have to get on with things,” he said. “So there is no need to waste time.”
Parnham, who took over the U.S. team in February, is enjoying the newness of his relationship with the national-team candidates.
“None of these players are on my immediate radar and there is no history to my decisions,” the 40-year-old said. “It’s quite a luxurious position at the moment.”
Once his team is in place, Parnham and USA Field Hockey will move their base of operations from San Diego to a new complex in Lancaster, Pa. Prior to San Diego the team was based in Virginia Beach.
“The Northeast is a hotbed of hockey, and it makes sense to take the team there where the team can be inspiring to the next generation of players,” Parnham said. “It’s an exciting new beginning and a wonderful facility. Southern California is a wonderful place to train, but ... ”
Once in its new home, the team will host a series against Canada and begin working toward making the 2016 Olympics.
“It is a very hard environment, with great teams around the world,” Parnham said. “We need a group of players who commit to the program. We need to provide a good system that allows them to train and gain support. It will take effort, work and dedication. There are technical areas we need to address. We need to travel and compete, and expose players to a variety of styles.
“It’s a real challenge for us.”
And the first big step will be taken after today.
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“We’re excited about what comes next,” he said.
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