There was instruction, a game and excitement at Sacred Heart Greenwich on Thursday.
Sacred Heart Greenwich was the site where USA Field Hockey’s Under-19 junior national team played a friendly game against Chile, after a group of youngsters learned the skills of the sport from national coaches.
USA Field hockey in an effort to promote the sport in the nation, held three free field hockey clinics at Sacred Heart, the last of which took place Thursday and judging by the number of kids that turned out, it was indeed, a success.
“This is great, especially for Connecticut field hockey,” said Abdel Elkettani, who is the junior varsity field hockey coach at Sacred Heart and helped coach the youngsters and the U-16 U.S. national squad at the clinics. “It’s great for the kids, we are really honored to be hosting this program here at Sacred Heart.”
Elkettani said 20 children attended the opening clinic, followed by 25 the second day and more than 30 turned out on Thursday. Girls and boys competed in each clinic.
“Having that amount of kids is a really good signal for field hockey,” Elkettani said.
Sacred Heart’s water-based turf, which is used for field hockey, helped draw the clinic to the school. The clinics took place Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 3:15-4:30 p.m.
“The field is amazing, it’s the best field we can have,” Elkettani said. “You can do things on this turf that you can’t do on other turf fields. It helps players work more on their skills.”
The U.S. junior national under-19 team is playing four exhibition games against Chile this week at Sacred Heart. After losing their first two games, the U.S. beat Chile, 4-3, on a penalty corner after time expired on Thursday. They have their final game on Friday against Chile.
Will Holt, a member of the United States men’s national team, was present to help instruct the U-19 and U-16 squads this week at Sacred Heart.
Holt has played on the national team since 2007.
“It’s awesome, I’ve had some cool life experiences and have competed against the best players in the world every day,” said Holt, who is on the coaching staff of the men’s U-15 team as well. “I’ve competed in Pan Am Games, Olympic Trials, World Cup qualifiers and World League events. Field hockey is a big sport. A lot of people in the U.S. don’t know it, but it’s the third biggest sport in the world.”
USA Field Hockey is trying to grow the sport in the country and clinics like the one that was held this week at Sacred Heart is one of the ways they are trying to get the message out — that the sport is for both girls and boys.
“I’ve played on the U.S. men’s national team when I was 17 in 2010, and it’s been one of the best experiences of my life,” Mike Barminski said. “It’s taken me around the world and I have made lasting friendships from being on the team. Clinics that we had this week are great. It shows how fun the sport is to play and it’s great for developing skills in a fun atmosphere.”
Said Rutger Wiese, the U.S. junior national team coach: “The facility here at Sacred Heart is great, we are so happy to be here. Our team worked hard and has improved every game against tough competition.”