An athlete trains to become faster and stronger. They learn the elements of their sport, and when it finally comes to game time you may come up to an opponent who is equally as strong and fast. It’s at that point where the “little things” begin to matter. It may just be in the execution, a funny bounce of the ball, or even an officiating mistake. But often you hear an athlete explain their performance afterward as using their “instinct,”
Let me say upfront, I do not believe in instinct, but instead I see it as the ability to detect the intentions of your opponent through a “tell.” Maybe its the eyes of the opponent to give away intentions, or a repeated movement that gives away the next pass or shot. Often times you hear of defensive backs in football who are not only watching the person they are guarding but watching the quarterbacks eyes to see where he intends to pass. As a counter, the best quarterbacks learn to “look off” receivers to fool the defender.
In field hockey, the better goalkeepers look where the shooter means to place the ball. The shooter on the other hand will look to deceive the goaltender by looking one way and placing the ball somewhere else. One of the improvements in Lafayette’s play has been their ability to place passes where their teammate will be, rather than passing directly……….one of the little things. Deception is an important part of any game, and Field Hockey is no exception. Yes, you can overwhelm an opponent with speed and strength, but with two equally prepared teams sometimes the unexpected deception can be the difference. Consider the words of Noor Coenen as she described her winning goal last Saturday. She placed herself on the dashed line. The ball on the corner was delivered to her on the insertion. At that point the corner is officially over having reached the dashed line and the restrictions on the height of the ball on a subsequent shot is no longer operative. She is free to flick or lift using, as she said in her words, ” whatever the defense is giving me.” It’s an example of the little things.
Right now the Patriot League is bifurcated into two groups. Bucknell’s dominating win on Saturday certainly puts them in the upper group. Lehigh’s win should alert the Leopards that their game with Lehigh combined with the Rivalry emotions makes it competitive. The final emersion into the playoffs may well depend on doing the” little” things well.
Lafayette is refining their play. Half this team did not play in a college game before the season. They are a work in progress for this talented group. They will be better in the end than the beginning and I am sure their opponents will take notice.
I sincerely believe this Lafayette team may the best that has ever arrived on the Hill and is filled with excellent athletes and skillful players with the desire to win, but a championship in the end could be decided on who can deliver “little” things to the field of play. ( And maybe a win against ranked opponents like Rutgers and Penn State). The Leopards may well see American again before the end of the season, and for this fan I will look forward to it,