The Swiss team is a puzzle.
It is a special season: Vancouver is waiting. In less than three months the games are on. Switzerland is in a tough group with the gold favourite Canada along with the ones that also dream of gold Sweden and the newcomer Slovakia.
For a little country like us – we only have about 1000 female hockey players - this is a huge challenge. – but we will face this fight with all our pride.
We are all non-professionals (we work full time) and have not had much time to prepare for the Olympics especially when you compare the practice and competition time of countries like Canada or Sweden. That’s why it is even more important to use what little time we have.
We all need to have huge discipline to prepare individually at home. Our coach can then work on raising our game to the next level during our practices. Our couches give us advice, ideas and tasks. Sometimes the coaches don’t tell everybody the same information. So each player, especially within a line, has the responsibility to share her knowledge or her new advice with her line mates. So it happens that five different issues are brought together and we have to interpret and transfer for our linemates.
Our coach wants us to think and find answers to questions which might occur during a game. But since we don’t have that much on-ice practice and games like other nations we never have the chance to experience special learning moments on the ice which would be very helpful. So we have to be mentally prepared that we can solve a tricky situation as a team, as a line the moment the situation appears. I can’t tell the “serious” situations since we don’t want to show any weakness.
We have a creative spirit in our team, but there is also nervousness. We all know we don’t have the right circumstances to play together more than three days a month. So we have to work almost perfectly as a team and be very creative to use every minute the best way. But on the other side everybody wants to be on this team. It is hard for a young team like us to find this tiny difficult balance between being a great team and still everybody is fighting for a spot in the team.
We played so far only six games. We played against Germany, France and the Czechs. All of them are nations which are based on the world ranking behind us – so we should win. We didn’t play that well. We lost three games and won three. Well, at least an even statistic so far but nothing to be proud of.
We play with many young players because our college players in the States and Canada are busy. Right now we have 8 players who play in a college and two who are playing outside Switzerland. This is the chance for the young players to grow and fight for the spot. On our entry long list which lists 35 players we have 18 players who are under 20 years old.
The college players get a great education and have the possibility to develop as hockey players abroad. The college players have the chance to be on the ice every day. To train and compete with great athletes of other countries which lifts them to another level - especially physically. They learn to play tougher and quicker – all what it needs to perform well on the international level. And when they play the next time for the national team they have to show that they really learned something and can deal the pressure to be on the spot. When you play abroad – you don’t have that many chances to fight for a spot in our team because we don’t have the money to fly the college players in. College players learn to deal with pressure – and know that sometimes you just have one chance, one game to fight for a spot. That’s a good mental exercise, too. They need to show that they are able to transfer their skills they learned at the college also into the national team – and lift up the level of the whole team.
It is not ideal that every player plays and develops somewhere else. We are kind of a “puzzle team” but we still have had great progress because we make the best of our situation. We climbed up the world ranking from number 8 to number five in the last three years.
If we can put together our “team puzzle” against all the big nations, that will be a good start. We will see how it turns out. I am happy to tell you about how the lives in our puzzle work as we countdown to the Vancouver Olympics…