Every sport throughout the world connects on one fundamental component – competition. The simple concept that one team/individual must have a better score than an opposing team/individual, within a certain boundary of time, evokes the most exhilarating experience for players and spectators. Competition causes piercing rivalry with the opposition and pride filled unity between players and fans on the same team. Whether there is a buzzer beater finish, a mercy rule ending, or neck and neck performance, competition always has the same conclusion – there is 1 winner and 1 loser. But I’d like to take you one step further into the life as a USA National Team Player and our grueling dynamics of competition beyond the international stage, and between each other as teammates. With a 30-person roster and only 18 spots allotted for international games (and only 16 spots for the Olympics!), how do we stand by our team logo of “UN1TED,” but also battle, and inevitably “beat” each other for these limited positions? There is an interesting undercurrent of competition as we seek to build each other up for success, but also aim to ensure that our own name is found on the selection sheet above our teammate’s.
It is a privilege to boast the letters U-S-A on my field hockey uniform, and represent such an amazing country through the sport I love. We are centralized in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where we train, eat, sleep, and breathe field hockey. Needless to say, with a never-ending season, we spend quite a bit of time together and I have accepted the fact that I have 30 adopted sisters and am a part of one big field hockey family. We currently find ourselves in preparation for the World Cup, an Olympic Qualifying tournament held in London, England. Our training over the past couple months went from a lot to an even greater amount of practicing, lifting, and conditioning to ensure that every skill, muscle, emotion, and thought is ready for World Cup performance. As the final selection process draws near, which is based on everyday performance, recent game performances, fitness level, lifting numbers, attitude, and just about every other ounce of energy one can exert, we tread the line of friend and “foe” very lightly.
As discussed earlier, competition always results in the same underlying conclusion. The head coach selects a list of players believed to be the best representatives at the time to travel and win, while another list of players are asked to remain at home for continued training. Selection day hits every angle of emotion, as some players are overjoyed with excitement and others are left with an overbearing sting of unhappiness. But with limited time left to practice and train before the World Cup, there is no time to grapple with any emotion, because there is vital work to completed for the team’s ultimate success. This is the heart of a teammate, a leader, and a fighter to be able to stomach the bad news and work just as hard for the greater good of the team. In the words of Marco Materazzi, Gold Medalist and Captain for Italy in the 2006 World Cup (Soccer),
Just as iron sharpens iron, the day to day grind of competition has equipped each of us to perform at our greatest potential. When onlookers see the handful that are selected to play for America at the World Cup, they will see a team that represents the UN1TED effort of each USA player, who has sacrificed and exerted every ounce of effort for the greater good and success of the team. Embracing competition is a key to our ultimate success as we embark on the Trail to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games.
I am excited to share this passion and message about embracing competition through the avenue of coaching a premier youth club team in Wayne, Pa! I want to give a huge thanks to Bownet for supporting me as a player with USA Field Hockey and as a coach with PowerHouse Field Hockey Club!
Stefanie Fee, USA National Team Player