SURREY — Graham Walker trusts his Handsworth Royals to trust the process.
And this past Friday, when that trust ultimately manifested itself on the field hockey pitch at Surrey’s Tamanawis Park in the form of desire, North Vancouver Royals once again found themselves at the top of their game when it mattered most.
Tara Redmond opened the scoring midway through the first half, and Luisa von der Heidt connected before the break to give the Royals all the offence they would need en route to a 2-0 win over Duncan’s Cowichan Thunderbirds to repeat at B.C. senior girls AAA field hockey champions.
Ask Walker about it, and it’s clear that he views the dynamics of team performance a little differently than the masses might.
“Over the last couple of years, I give the team a talk about 45 minutes before the game, and then I don’t talk to them,” he begins. “I give them the line-up, I tell them what I expect them to do. And then they have their own team meeting, and their own warm-up.”
Empowered by their coach to manage their own team dynamics, the Royals’ players have created their own kind of team culture, one in which the most skilled players on the team aren’t necessarily going to be the top point- getters.
On Friday, before they faced off against a talented Thunderbirds team, all that has gone into Handsworth’s championship pastiche was on display as its players huddled, talked about the game, then went into their unique team warm up, something they call The Hurricane.
Even Walker isn’t sure exactly what it symbolizes. But he does know it looks pretty cool when the team’s two keepers stand in the middle and shut encouragement to the rest of the Royals, who break out into something resembling a 360 degree tempo run.
“There are four things that you need to be successful,” begins Walker. “I start from the assumption that the skill has to be there, and we have it in spades. So chuck that out. Then there is effort. But you can have all the skill and effort and it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have teamwork. And then the most important thing, you have to have desire.”
Organically, like they did last season in a title-match penalty-strokes win over the Kelowna Owls, their togetherness spiked in such timely fashion that it was hard to doubt the power of the team’s intangible aura.
From the pre-match magic of The Hurricane, to making a pre-season team purchase of pink cancer socks, which are only worn by the girls at the UVic-hosted Bridgman Cup invitational, and at provincials, it’s all of the small details that add up to the big picture of a second straight B.C. AAA title.
And, as Walker adds, while the Royals are graduating a bushel of top talent again, there are many more ready to rise to the challenge of joining the senior class, and just as many ready to move up from the junior varsity.
They too, it is assumed, will embrace trusting the process.
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