‘Who should go to the Olympics,’ commentary on USA Field Hockey and Erin Matson decision

It’s been eight years since USA Field Hockey has repped at the Olympics.


During that time, there have been over a half dozen administrative and coaching staff changes. From the outside looking in, there seemingly hasn’t been a strong sense of cohesion amongst the chosen; strong enough to qualify for the summer games, let alone achieve the deeply desired dream of medaling.


That doesn’t mean the talent hasn’t been there all along. It means change within the organization and its management, as well as leadership, has been necessary. Without change, and improved governance, how the organization tries to reach its objectives could cause many of its followers to become doubters and they could leave.


One would think that every field hockey player in the running for a spot on the Olympic roster – not the training roster, Junior team, or even Senior team, the Olympic team – would eat, sleep, dream, obsess over, and practice the mechanics of her craft to the point that visualization of standing on the podium becomes a tangible feeling.


Women’s field hockey has been getting its day in the sun. For many years, it has languished in the shadows of other female sports that have a much stronger defined pathway between college and the Olympics. Let’s face it – whether you like it or not – girls and women in sports are finally garnering some media attention.


But, with attention comes responsibility. Attention to important matters forces those whom are closest to the subject to face facts. The subject being – who should go to the Olympics?


The great coaches – they spend countless hours watching films, creating plays, developing emotional intelligence, and exploiting the strengths and weaknesses of their players to place them exactly where they perform at their best.


And, they also play them when they are at their best, too.


Moving your best goalie to attack in a semifinal at an international qualifier doesn’t make sense, right? Heroics are inspiring but at what cost? Just for clarity, this didn’t happen. It’s a figure of speech, an example.


It’s upsetting that University of North Carolina Head Coach Erin Matson isn’t getting her chance to play in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The news that she was “denied” a spot rattled social media for days. Matson is undeniably, insanely talented when she’s part of a team.


Denied, though, is a strong word. Statements from both Matson and USA Field Hockey were eventually published after The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Matson was denied, in February, an opportunity to try out.


USA qualified for the Olympics in January – the very last qualifier to make it into the 2024 games.


USA Field Hockey, in February, called up four athletes that head coach David Passmore and staff felt could help to round out an Olympic squad destined for things yet unknown.


The added four of Charlotte de Vries (Malvern, Pa.), Phia Gladieux (Oley, Pa.), Caroline Ramsey (Morristown, N.J.), and Lauren Wadas (Annville, Pa.) upped the Olympic training roster to 28 athletes. All four athletes had participated in USA Field Hockey’s Olympic pipeline training in 2023, and stayed in touch with Passmore throughout the Fall. 


The four relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina in mid-March for centralized training with the national team.


Female Athlete News applauds Matson for publishing a statement. It couldn’t have been easy to wade through those thoughts, feelings, and emotions. We feel that she arrived at a place of acceptance and articulated that to her supporters. 


But, it would also be terribly upsetting that every woman who has poured blood, sweat, and tears into her training; the ones who said yes to the emotional rollercoaster, knowing they were the rebuilders of the not giving up movement, would be bumped because a prolific athlete said she wanted in. 


The athletes in Charlotte are the ones persevering through perilous times around the world, connecting through travel, laughter, and injury, traversing challenges yet to be shared, and are committing to try to make it to the finish line.


Caution should be exercised to avoid the appearance of splitting a comeback era between camps for and against Matson. The criteria was being keenly looked at by both USA Field Hockey and the International Hockey Federation.


USA Field Hockey offered Matson a chance to be seen but as a new college coach, Matson passed on the opportunity to train with the other athletes in the Olympic pipeline. 


There are just over three months – 112 days – left until the Olympics. Time is ticking. 


Female Athlete News believes USA Field Hockey made the right decision.


We were happy to see Matson back in a USA jersey playing at the Indoor Pan American Cup in Canada, and we hope to see more of her in uniform in the future. What she has already accomplished at Carolina is nothing short of contagious inspiration to girls and women.


The athletes, though, who have been grinding it out together deserve recognition for their dedication, and also setting positive examples after an eight-year backslide. 


The coaches and team working day in and day out in Charlotte, including the called up crew, have placed USA Field Hockey back on the map, regardless of rank and position.


That fight isn’t easy. The Olympic team will be decided by mid-June. 


FAN wishes all the Olympic training athletes, and Matson, positive mental health through this transformative time in USA Field Hockey and college field hockey history.

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