Terry Walsh was a terror on the pitch during his days when playing for Australia. Having coached over the last two decades, Walsh is in a position to provide insights on the state of hockey at present. I caught up with Walsh during his stay in Johor Bahru for the Junior World Cup.

Question: Having seen some of the matches, what is your opinion on the quality of play in the JWC?

Terry Walsh: Due to the 2 venue format I have not seen all the teams play but as expected there is a significant variation in the level of play teams are exhibiting. For me the cultural variations exhibited by teams is more pronounced at the U/21 age group level than at senior level. The top level teams are producing performance levels which are impressive.

Question: Do you agree on the increased number of teams and the format of play?

Terry Walsh: There is no doubt that the overall growth of the game improves with 20 teams. However the complexities involved would seem to increase with 2 separate venues, naturally. The exposure for the teams outside the top 8 is a key issue for the development of our game globally. As we move forward the ability to see how a 2 pitch venue can handle this number of teams, or even more, is interesting to contemplate. Obviously the format for this tournament was driven significantly by climate parameters.

Question: The autoplay rule is to help speed up play, so does it really help?

Terry Walsh: This rule requires umpires to have a significant feel for the game as interpretation of appropriate usage is diverse. The physiological implications of this rule will gradually unfold but my sense is that this will become a key tactic in creating major tempo changes in matches. Ultimately this could lead us beyond the present physiological preparations for a tournament as teams endeavour to take a further advantage in the physiological edge. It is clearly an addition to the power options available to teams.

Question: What rule changes will you suggest to make the sport more spectator friendly?

Terry Walsh: Playing the ball above the shoulder is confounding. Why not permit danger to be the key factor in the receiving or playing of high balls? Conjecture as to the ball being above shoulder height at the point of reception in field play compared to legally saving a high ball from a goal shot seems unnecessarily confusing. My view is that our rules have moved away from black and white – indeed many are extremely ‘grey’. Creating ambiguity is confusing not just to spectators but also to players and I sense also for the umpires.
For the very top level I think we need to have a semi professional circuit of umpires.

Question: Having coached in Malaysia, and having kept abreast with its developments, where would you place Malaysian hockey 15 years after you left?

Terry Walsh: My sense is that Malaysia is now further from the top level of International performance. This is not enhanced with a disjointed approach to development. Quite frankly there needs some very tough administrative decisions made if there is to be success. There is a lot to be said for planning and implementing effective processes…but it won’t happen overnight. One wonders where the coaching development programs implemented in the early 90’s are today.

Question: Who do you pick to win the JWC or your pick for the last four?

Terry Walsh: Somehow I sense the New Zealand group will make it through. In the end I think they will join Holland , Australia and Germany. From there my reading of it would be that Australia’s exhibited power will be difficult to maintain in the end against Holland. Having said that the finals will bring something special. One thing is for sure, it will be very tight.

Question: What is your role in Fieldhockey USA?

Terry Walsh: My role is ‘USAFH Technical Director of High Performance’. My responsibilities are primarily to the direction and guidance of the International Programs at senior, junior and development level for both the women’s and men’s programs. USA hosts the Junior World Cup for Women in Boston during August this year while our senior National Teams vie for positions at the World Cups next year. We are pleased with our progress but the road in front of us is a very long one. However I see that USA can be a major contributor in the International scene, especially in the women’s program. We have plenty of numbers on the women’s side but it is clear our numbers must build on the men’s side as we only really have less than 30 players to choose from for the present Junior World Cup challenge.

Question: Will you consider a coaching position if approached for the 2012 Olympics?

Terry Walsh: My focus is now not in coaching a specific National Team. My role with USAFH is all encompassing and extremely challenging. Assisting to bring USAFH to the Olympic arena as a regular and consistent competitor in both the Women’s and Men’s programs is challenging and somewhat daunting. Our progression to date has been encouraging. I do understand this is a long term project but 2016 should see us be able to realistically assess our development. But in the end this project will continue to evolve.