Chris Clements

Chris Clements: Coaching an Allstar US Men’s Field Hockey Team

Interview by Declan Holt

Chris Clements joined the U.S. Men’s National Team program in December 2010 as an Assistant Coach while also serving as the Associate Head Coach for the Boston College Eagles in Boston, MA. Chris worked alongside Nick Conway for a full year before transitioning into the role as Head Coach in December 2011.

Before joining the BC Eagles program, Chris was the coach of the U18 and U16 New Zealand Boys teams, as well as the National Youth Talent Identifier for New Zealand hockey.

Chris also played in the Netherland’s Premier League with, Klein Zwitserland and Kampong clubs at the end of his playing time in the New Zealand Men’s Sr and Jr selections.

Chris has a teaching background with a Bachelor in Physical Education and Health Education, with a graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning, from the University of Canterbury and Christchurch College of Education in New Zealand.

He taught Physical Education and was teacher in charge of Health Education at Christchurch Boys’ High School. While in the Netherlands he spent time teaching at the British School and American International School of The Hague.

Alongside this he also created a ‘Monday Masters’ Hockey Academy to create an advanced technical and tactical program for the Klein Zwitserland Hockey Club.

Chris has been coaching for over 20 years and most recently was a participant in the Federation of International Hockey’s, High Performance Coaching course where he was invited to attend the FIH Final Coaching Course.

What are some of the unique aspects of coaching an all star squad of players?

The critical part is getting everyone on board with the vision, values, expectations, accountability and performance objectives. Having ability is one factor, however the most important factor is working in the same direction as your teammates.

How do you best form cohesion amongst a team in a short period of time?

We form this through honest, direct and concise communication. We typically have meetings with all individuals regularly and as a conference call intermittently to ensure we are all accountable and up to speed with where everyone is.

Other than that we have a culture that allows players and staff to work towards the desired outcomes and we create this with a collective effort from all involved.

Does having such a great selection of talent enable you to be more creative and bold in your strategy development?

Unfortunately in the USA, we do not have a huge pool of players to draw from. However the players who are involved are talented and willing to learn, compete and succeed. The toughest element is that we do not have a great deal of time together as an entire squad to develop.

Therefore tournament time is the main time for us to find out the most about ourselves. This is not ideal and something we are looking to change, with the resources we have we can only do so much.

What did you feel gave you the edge against your competitors at the Hockey World League Round 2 competition?

We were close to all of our opponents in the tournament. We were clinical against Trinidad and Tobago and had lapses against the stronger teams, which only consisted of seconds or two minutes within a match.

Our inexperience and youth played a part in that but we have a bright future when our players have more matches under their belt and our average age is around 25, currently it is 22.

How did you feel about missing out on the games with Argentina and Brazil due to their immigration and scheduling conflicts?

When Plan A goes out the window due to factors outside of your control you have to adapt on the run. Not playing any preparation matches since last August hindered our ability to perform in the tournament.

Pat Harris won the award for top scorer, what is happening with the team that could be improved to increase the results across all players?

We had as many opportunities as our opponents to score goals and Pat is an example for all of our younger players to learn from. Take your opportunities – simple as that.

Does the competition of US Ice hockey influence the strategy of field hockey in any way?

No, however I am aware of a number of ice hockey players in the high school ranks that would benefit greatly from some off season training with field hockey.

Is it difficult to increase awareness of men’s field hockey as sport in the US when the attention of hockey media is primarily focused on Australia, The Netherlands and Germany?

The culture around field hockey for men in the USA is a difficult one to adjust. Mainstream sports in all nations attract the greatest numbers to the game. Field Hockey is a sport that does that in the countries mentioned above and here it is baseball, American football, and basketball.

Therefore it is difficult to attract more people to the sport when you are competing with sports that have the resources and being a ‘traditional’ sport in the country.

We are working on increasing field hockey in PE curriculums and creating opportunities for younger players to be introduced to the game to aid us in the long run.

What are some ways a team can improve their skills and become more comfortable in large competition environments?

We just need more opportunities to play games. We do not have a substantial domestic league. We have a number of players who play in Europe. We have a robust centralized training program however it comes back to time as a team playing against varied and stronger opponents.

Our physical, technical and tactical areas are sound. Our experience performing under pressure in competitive situations is what is hindering us from performing to the level of our actual ability. Without adding this to our current structure it is very difficult to expect the results we are aiming for without adequate opportunities to prepare and test ourselves outside of major competitions.

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