These are tumultuous times for the United States Women’s National Field Hockey Team.
After failing to make the 2020 Summer Olympics, USA Field Hockey is looking for a new leader of its national women’s team.
And it soon may be looking for a new training home outside of its current central Pennsylvania residence.
Monday, the ruling body of United States field hockey, in a news release, announced the “separation” of Janneke Schopman as the head coach of the national team.
That sounds a lot like a polite way of saying she was fired.
Schopman’s “separation” from Team USA comes as no great surprise. After nearly winning a medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, when the Americans finished fifth, the U.S. team failed to even qualify for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
The Americans, featuring Central York High School graduate Lauren Moyer, fell one goal short of a qualifying berth for the Tokyo Games in a recent two-game series against India.
That failure apparently cost Schopman her job.
In 2016, Team USA looked like a field hockey program on the rise. Now it looks like Team Turmoil.
Before its failure in the Olympic qualifier vs. India, Schopman led the Americans through a disappointing inaugural season in the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Pro League, when they finished last in the nine-team field. The U.S. team is now ranked No. 13 in the world. Twelve teams qualified for the 2020 Olympics.
Training facility under fire: In addition, the team’s training facility at the nearby Spooky Nook sports complex in Lancaster County has come under fire.
Spooky Nook became the home of the U.S. women’s national team in 2013. At the time, the sprawling facility in Manheim seemed like a natural fit. After all, the bulk of the Team USA roster came from the mid-Atlantic region, including a large number of Pennsylvania players. That roster includes Moyer, a 24-year-old midfielder who has earned 72 caps (or appearances) while becoming an integral member of the national team.
Recently, however, the field conditions at Spooky Nook have become a matter of serious concern. The national team will continue to train at Spooky Nook, but it looks like the facility won't host international competition anytime soon.
When the 2020 Pro League schedule was recently announced, it was revealed that Team USA will play its home games at the University of North Carolina, where Moyer was an All-American. The FIH confirmed that the move was made because of poor field conditions at Spooky Nook.
The women's program, meanwhile, is in ongoing contract renegotiations with Spooky Nook. The field conditions at Spooky Nook will certainly be a pivotal part of those talks. A new field at Spooky Nook will almost certainly be required if the facility wants the national team to keep its headquarters there.
The issues at Spooky Nook, however, go beyond just the field conditions and have led to speculation that USA Field Hockey could move its women's headquarters from Lancaster County, which would be a blow to the central Pennsylvania economy, including York County.
Petition started: In addition, members of both the men's and women's national teams recently started a petition on change.org listing a number of grievances with the program, which allegedly have hindered both squads' recent success.
The petition reads, in part: "In order for both the Men’s and Women’s teams to succeed, there are standards that need to be met in high performance areas. Both teams feel these standards are not being met, resulting in continued challenges for each program."
As of Tuesday morning, the petition had more than 5,500 signatures.
Schopman era: Schopman, meanwhile, leaves after five years with Team USA, including three years as the head coach.
Her reign did feature some highlights, including a gold-medal performance at the FIH Hockey World League Semifinals in Johannesburg, South Africa. She also led the women to bronze-medal finishes at the 2017 Pan American Cup and 2019 Pan American Games. Moyer was a star at the 2019 Pan Am Games with five goals over six games, helping the Americans go 5-1 at the event.
Schopman is a former captain and a two-time Olympic field hockey medalist for the Dutch National Team. She was a part of the silver-medal squad at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and a member of the gold-medal squad at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
She couldn’t achieve similar success as head coach with the U.S. team and now finds herself out of a job.
Key decisions to make: USA Field Hockey now has two very important decisions to make — hiring a new head coach and determining if Spooky Nook is still the best place for the women’s team to train.
The outcome of those decisions will be of intense interest in these parts and will likely determine if the U.S. women’s national team is playing in the 2024 Paris Games or is again sitting on the sidelines.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.