WALSH HAS U.S. PLAYERS AND COACHES THINKING DIGITAL

By Al Mattei
Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

Terry Walsh could have chosen any position in any country after taking the Dutch men's field hockey team to a silver medal at the Athens Olympics.

But in taking the position of high-performance director for USA Field Hockey, he took a route where he thought he could do the most good.

"I have a very strong feeling that the two sleeping giants in hockey worldwide are, one, the men's program in India; and, two, the women's team in the United States," Walsh says. "My coaching career, dealing with a national program, has finished with Holland, and, having coached Australia and Holland, I've really enjoyed the experience. But it's time for me to do something else."

There was, however, another aspect that sold Walsh: the ability to bring technology -- laptop computers, digital cameras and the like -- to the job.

"My background recently has been in technology, and that's one of the areas that we really need to work with in the United States," Walsh says. "They clearly have some of the components, quite clearly, that the rest of the world has. But unfortunately, the knowledge base and awareness of skill level is not there. That's where I think I can come in and give some assistance."

Walsh helped in the development of a computer program called SportsCode Elite, which indexes video files for playback. With the program, a coach can order a series of penalty corners, turnovers, goalkeeper saves, missed or successful tackles, or any other aspect of the game which bears review.

The program, which is used by such diverse and successful teams such as soccer's Manchester United, WNBA champion Seattle Storm, and Duke University's men's basketball team, uses indexing to create custom DVDs or video files showing any aspect of a contest or practice. A coach looking to improve a basketball team's fast break can simply index all of those situations in a game video and create a DVD for the team or a specific player to watch.

But for Walsh, the use of video is not necessarily about the gee-whiz technology, but it's about giving the nation's field hockey players and coaches any kind of exposure to high-level matches.

"Role-modeling is really important, and that's one of the biggest issues here," Walsh says. "Picking up videos is one of the ways to get more information, but it's better if you're watching players you can relate to. You have to develop our heroes, those who the young people can look up to. That can only happen if information is made more available, and if our players do well at the international level."

To that end, Walsh made a declaration at the 2005 National Field Hockey Coaches' Convention that could serve as a Marshall Plan for the sport. He said he would provide any American coach with a copy of any video in his possession upon request.

''There are thousands of coaches for many more thousands of players here, particularly in the high schools," Walsh says. "They all want information. They are thirsty for it. And they all find it difficult to come by, and the task is to get that information to them.''

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