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May 22, 2013

Monarch Blog

Andrew Griffiths doesn't get the opportunity he has this weekend very often. He will kick back and watch some field hockey from afar. And he'll be doing his job to the best of his ability in doing so.

Old Dominion University is hosting the USA Field Hockey Senior National Championships this weekend, beginning Thursday. Five regional squads and the Senior National Team will play at the L.R. Hill Complex on the backside of the campus just off of Powhatan Ave. It'll be Griffiths' and ODU's job to be the hospitable host, for when you host an event like this the residuals pay off down the road.

As Griffiths explained it, this is a perfect storm for ODU. They have the right turf and the right environment. School is out, so there are dormitories that teams can use. And this complex hosted last fall's Final Four and will host this year's.

"It isn't like I can recruit any of these players," Griffiths said. "They are already in college somewhere. But what we can do is put on a really good show and when these players leave here hopefully a couple of things happen.

"First, maybe they have a little sister or a friend they can go home and tell about ODU. Second, maybe they go on to be a coach at the club or high school level and one day they tell their players about ODU, or one of them is being recruited by ODU and they can give confirmation or affirmation that, yes, ODU is a top-notch program with a top-notch facility. They'll be able to validate what we have here."

Griffiths is in his first year as ODU's head coach after a spectacular six-year coaching run at Lafayette College. Griffiths led a school that is far from a traditional power to a 73-46 record over six years and last year his squad went 17-3 and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

He replaces a legend in Beth Anders - she won an NCAA Division I record 561 games, mind you - and comes to a program that has won nine national titles. There will be plenty of opportunities for Griffiths to walk into a living room and try to seal the deal with The Big Recruiting Pitch. This weekend isn't that opportunity.

Instead, he will watch from a distance after being a part of the USA National program for almost a decade. He served as an assistant coach for the U.S. National Under-21 squad from 2004 to 2011.

How, you ask, does a man make it in a sports dominated at the coaching level by women? Well, Griffiths is Canadian and in Canada men's field hockey is a little more than an afterthought, which is what it is here in the U.S. for the men. Griffiths played in 214 international games for the Canadian men's national team, including the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. So the credentials are there.

There's been a lot of hard work along the way. But this weekend, the work will be more of the cerebral type.

"I'll get to observe and soak in the tactics teams are using and why they are using the," Griffiths said. "It'll be different than what I've been used to. I don't have a horse in the race and it's been a long time since I've had this luxury."

He'll sit on the balcony outside his office. The perch, if you will. And he'll survey ODU's field hockey kingdom from on high.

And when it's all said and done, he'll hope those who were here go home and tell tales of a Monarchy where field hockey rules.

Sorry about that last line, it was too easy.


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