July 24,2014(ISN) – It’s a buzzword before any major competition. Typically, it’s something that, if you don’t have, you’re considered an underdog, and if you do have, a favourite.
For both the Canadian men’s and women’s national field hockey teams, though, experience is something they believe is on their side; even if it’s in different ways.
Heading into the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, the men and women are playing the roles of older brother and younger sister.
The men’s roster in Glasgow boasts a vast number of athletes who are competing in their second Commonwealth Games and even more who have been to three of four major games.
In addition to representing Canada at the last Commonwealth Games, captain Scott Tupper (Vancouver, B.C.) and midfielder Mark Pearson (Tsawwassen, B.C.) have both competed at an Olympic Games (2008 in Beijing). And they, along with some of their Commonwealth compadres, also competed at the 2010 World Cup in India.
“I’m just going to take it all in,” says David Carter (Vancouver, B.C.), who, in Glasgow, will once again be playing keeper for Canada at a Commonwealth Games. “I’ve got a couple years left on this career of mine. I just love going on tours and I just want to go to Glasgow for the first time and experience everything it has to offer.”
Cagey veteran David Jameson (Vancouver, B.C.) has experience of all sorts, having played at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and 2010, and his third Games will have added significance, as he gets ready to play in his 200th match for Canada.
“It’s always been a great tournament,” says Jameson, who is currently the most capped active player for Canada. “The teams that are in the Commonwealth are all great. Just any multisport games you go to are great because the atmosphere is great and you’re around all sorts of different athletes from many different sports.”
There’s no doubt on such a large stage, that wealth of experience will come in handy when the pressure mounts.
The women, on the other hand, are drawing on their lack of major games experience as a positive.
While the Women’s National Team is returning four players from the 2010 Commonwealth Games – captain Kate Gillis (Kingston, ON), Thea Culley (Rossland, B.C.), Abigail Raye (Kelowna, B.C.), and Kristine Wishart (Hamilton, ON) – the majority of the roster is experiencing the Commonwealth Games for the first time.
But it’s the excitement of a new experience and the anticipation of playing on an international stage, with the world’s eyes on you, which has them geared up in Glasgow.
“At this point I am more excited than nervous but I know as the days count down that might change,” says Karli Johansen (North Vancouver, BC), who has only played sixteen matches for Canada.
“I know there will be a lot of distractions at a multi-sport games, so I just have to stay focused on myself and the team and what we are there to accomplish.”
And what they’re there to do is play hockey.
For first-time Commonwealth Games participant, Maddie Secco (Victoria, B.C.), striking a balance between enjoying the experience and staying focused on the task at-hand is what will make for a memorable experience.
“First and foremost we are going there to represent Canada (on the field),” says Secco. “But I think along with that it’s very cool to have that experience off-field. I’m definitely going to try and take everything in. Going to my first opening ceremonies and walking into that stadium.”
“But the hockey comes first and foremost.”
And while the on-field competition is always the main focus at these types of tournaments, the experience is just as valuable for both the women and men. Whether it’s for the first time, or whether it’s old hat.