It was a warm welcome on a rainy October 14 as people gathered in Olympic Hall at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex to hear special guest speaker Craig Parnham, USA Field Hockey’s Director of Coach Education and Learning.
Parnham was previously the head coach for the U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey Team, from 2013 to 2016. While coaching the team, the women finished in 5th-place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Other achievements for Parnham include gold medals at the 2015 Pan American Games and 2014 Champions Challenge, 4th-place at the 2014 Rabobank World Cup, and 2015’s National Coach of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
But, before he became a renowned coach and player – representing England and Great Britain 115 times and competing in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, in addition to playing in the 2002 World Cup – he says he got a late start in the game; Parnham made his debut for Great Britain in 2000 at age 27.
The day’s program, presented by Leadership Lancaster, was about inspiring leadership, and who better to explain what it takes to be a great leader than Parnham! He said the key to success for him as a coach was to have the U.S. Women’s Team “fully function and thrive without him.” As a coach, he said it was important for him to be “in the background and just guide them [the players].”
To be a good leader of a team, he says, one must understand and observe behaviors. He suggests having a “cultural architect” on board will help to change the mindset of others. “These people influence change and are tough to find.” Another is a “restless expert,” who he says, “delivers outstanding work in their field.” And, while most will find the next type of person annoying, Parnham says it’s not bad to have a “cultural assassin” on your team as well. “A cultural assassin challenges the norms and asks those questions that make you stop in your tracks and make you think.”
He continued to say that “the biggest barrier to success is when you don’t play the game because you fear the consequences,” or “you don’t express your ideas, so you just sit quiet.” Being a good leader is to also understand your team’s weaknesses and strengths. Parnham closed the day’s program, before a brief Q&A session, by saying, “If we understand our behaviors, we’ll find success.”
After the day’s program, a tour was given to a handful of individuals who were interested in a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of a U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey Team member. Two players and three representatives led the way from Olympic Hall through the food court to their practice area, media room, workout area and offices overlooking the playing field.
Ninety percent of the team is from the Northeast region of the United States. The players’ ages range from 18 to 29, with the average age being around 22 to 25. An ordinary day consists of working out from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., like a daily 9-to-5 job.
Even though the players don’t necessarily have a strict diet regimen to follow, the women say they’re pretty level-headed about their food/drink intake. From the food court, the tour meandered through practice areas until reaching the media room, where the team conducts mindfulness and wellness meetings, views old films for reviewing and holds other classes/meetings.
The tour ended with a bird’s eye view of the practice field below, which was covered in puddles thanks to the day’s relentless rain. But, come rain or shine, the women’s field hockey team, led by some incredible coaches and team members, will continue to “fully function and thrive” as a united force.
The U.S. Women’s National Team will play against India for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Olympic Qualifier on November 1 and 2. For more information, visit teamusa.org/usa-field-hockey/uswnt.