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IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 7 (Saturday 13 August): Play-offs

Entry 7 of an assistant’s web-log of the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 Sursee

Today is the day of the play-off phase for my son and his team mates of the Belgian National Powerchair Hockey Team at the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 that is happening 9-14 August in Sursee, Switzerland.

Shirts to proudly wear

Remember from yesterday’s entry (6) of my assistant’s web-log of the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 Sursee that the opportunity to play this game is why we needed to win our last game of the group phase. If we had lost that game (against Canada) we would have been competing for the 9th or 10th place today, which would have been our last game of the world cup at the same time. However, because we won our game against Canada, today we are competing Germany to determine who is going to play in which of tomorrow’s games (the finals day). The winner of today will play for 5th or 6th place. The loser will play for 7th or 8th place.

By the way. The reason for this course of events and games lies in the fact that this world cup exceptionally has 10 participating countries, rather than the usual 8. There is a reason for that too: There is a world cup every 4 years. In between, there is the European Championship. The last EC should have taken place in 2020 in Finland. Obviously, given Corona the tournament didn’t happen. The ambition was to move it to 2021, but that turned out impossible too. Therefore, 10 teams were allowed into this world championship as a way to make up a bit for the missed opportunity of playing the EC. Without any unfortunate events (like Corona), the next EC will take place in 2024 (country to be determined) and the next WC will take place in 2026 (country also to be determined), both with 8 teams again.

Before playing their own game against Germany, the team is watching the other cross-final game: Italy-Spain. Final score: 12-2.

But then, it is…match time: Germany-Belgium.

It looks like Germany is presenting a reduced team. As said in my earlier entries, each team has 5 players on the pitch. Teams typically have 10 players in the selection, in general 2 players for each position. Germany is presenting only 7 players before their game against Belgium. We hear that they have a few suspended players.

While the players, the staff as well as the supporters of other countries often enthusiastically sing along with their national anthem, Belgians are known to be very silent during their anthem. The only exception I know are our field hockey players, the “Red Lions”. Nevertheless, the Belgian fans of our national powerchair hockey team did some admirable attempts to break this old pattern. I’ve witnessed them looking up the lyrics online and give singing along a try…

The game starts off like a really open game. Much to our delight, young Maxime opens the score. Do you remember him from entry 4 of my ‘assistant’s web-log of the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 Sursee’? As he plays with a T-stick his goal delivers us 2 points. In the play of our team I finally see some good patterns that I’ve seen in trainings but not in the tournament so far. However, not too far into the first half, Team Germany ups their game (with some substitutions) and speed up. From evening the score we go to a mid-game result of 7-2. It strikes me how Team Germany puts some risk in their game, e.g. with the goal keeper dynamically and frequently leaving her goal area. Substitution still seems to not be part of our strategy.

Final score: 13-3.

Our son didn’t get to play. Again. We don’t know why. Again.

Still, what strikes me in the healing and motivating conversations I (need to) have with my son is that he is most concerned over the fact that the team gets beaten (heavily) without any lessons being learned, shared or discussed. He misses a clear game plan, tactical instructions, debriefings, game analyses. This disturbs him much more than the fact that he doesn’t get to play. I admire him for his team spirit. If he doesn’t get to play, at least he would love to know where to improve, what to keep doing, what to change, what experiments will be undertaken in future games.

Caring for the well-being of my son, having worked with teams so much in my professional life and caring about people in general, I ache under the many thoughts and observations that twirl my head and dazzle me.

Is this what it feels like for a player to be a piece of the furniture? Were we invited to be part of the team only to reach the figure of 10 players and because of our financial contribution? If it was never the intention to allow our son to play, why did nobody have the guts and honesty to tell us that before we accepted the invitation? We could have make a balanced decision whether it was worth our financial and time investment.

I can’t stop my brain from comparing how I’ve seen leadership and management behave in my professional life: people climbing the ladder and thereby suppressing their innate (yet, past) people management side, the Peter Principle of people rising through a company’s hierarchy up to the point of reaching a level of incompetence (Is there an analogy of such rise happening when players become trainers?), sea gull managers, managers seemingly starting fires to demonstrate how great a firefighter they are (the competency upon which they got promoted in the first place), conflict avoiders always laughing problems away? On the bright side, I expect this trip to leave me with some analogies and stories that I will use in my consulting and training activities. I am learning all the time. And that is still a part that I love.

In our current reality however, we find ourselves facing a lot of hard unknowns. The only known is that in 5 games, thus 200 minutes of play time, my son has played 2 x 5 minutes. Without having a clue.

The question whether to write about it tears me even more apart. Throughout the conversations with my son, I consciously decide to accept and follow his viewpoint of not going up to the coach to ask for an explanation. I also decide however to stick to my intention of honestly describing the journey of my son and me at this world championship, without obfuscating or adding to the hypocrisy. Integrity is too important a value in my life.

By the way, when looking at the group results so far, in Group B (the other group than ours), Denmark has done a pretty remarkable job too. They won all their games, often with dazzling scores close to what the Netherlands did. One obviously never knows at a tournament like this, but are we heading towards a final of Netherlands-Denmark?

A pizza night with the family and fans that travelled all the way to Switzerland is a wonderful distraction. Tomorrow, we play our finals game against Spain to determine 7th and 8th place. They lost their play-off game from Italy, who will thus compete with Germany to determine 5th and 6th place.

There’s been a short conversation between the coach and my son. Another day, another ray of hope of improvement. Repeat from yesterday.

I hope you will enjoy reading all about our adventure for which I envision following episodes:

If you want to watch any of the games, check out the IWAS YouTube channel where all will be broadcasted:

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