Coach Spotlight: Tracey Paul on the Upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup
With the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup (JWC) less than 25 days away, USA Field Hockey spoke with U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team Head Coach Tracey Paul to gain some insight into the thoughts, training and expectations leading up to this important event.
The young squad does have some experience playing together at the JWC – Katie Dixon, Hope Rose, Annabel Skubisz, Abby Tamer and Lauren Wadas were all in South Africa in 2022 – and under the leadership of Paul, who has been head coach of the team since 2021.
“For myself and some of the players this will be our second Junior World Cup together, so we have a sense of what to expect in a major tournament such as this,” commented Paul. “Admittedly, it will be different in that there will be no COVID restrictions this time, which is exciting in itself. There is definitely excitement around it – the squad is focused and they want to perform well. The players have a quiet confidence and resolve to use the success and lessons learned from [the Junior Pan American Championship] and Senior Nexus to help us achieve our goals at JWC.”
Paul, who is also an associate head coach at Boston University, knows that despite the challenges of having a squad that consists mainly of student-athletes, there are benefits as well.
“Playing in their college season definitely has its benefits to help prepare the players for this event. They will be continuing to work on their fundamental basics, and some will have the opportunity to become positionally flexible/versatile, having to adapt to playing on different lines/sides of the field for their college teams. The college season also gives them the opportunity to work on their mental game, improve their vocal presence, or grow in the areas they have set personal goals for themselves.”
As the team will be taking on some stringent competitors, Paul elaborated on what it takes to prepare under the circumstances.
“Pool D definitely has three very tough opponents in it. England has competed in a Four Nation tournament, and like Japan are training regularly together, and New Zealand are having three training matches with their senior team as part of their preparations. While our squad are all playing with their college teams keeping connections throughout our time apart has been critical. I have had meetings with the players on a regular basis. The squad have been meeting via zoom in small groups working on scout clips on each Pool D opponent over the past two months and they have also stayed connected to each other. When we arrive in Chile, we have practice matches with Netherlands and Korea to get us reconnected to playing with each other and back up to international pace of play while focusing on what we need to stop, start and continue.”
The No. 5 Junior Eagles impressed back in April when they won gold and defeated No. 2 Argentina at the Junior Pan American Championship under Paul’s leadership. Now, heading into the Junior World Cup, Paul can set expectations for her team based on that success.
“I expect us to create success for ourselves. We know what we have the potential to accomplish, and we know what it takes - a strong team culture, a growth mindset (staying process-focused), a commitment from all to do their job to the best of their abilities, execution under pressure, and competing for 60 minutes.”
“I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to my staff, Allan, Jordan, Mark and Cheree who volunteer their time and expertise to contribute to the ongoing success of the U-21 program. I am so grateful to their employers for allowing them so much continued time off to attend the trainings and tournaments.”