As one of the veteran leaders on U.S. Olympic Women’s Team, Gigi Marvin knows how important it was for Team USA to finally get two wins against rival Canada going into the Christmas break.
After losing to Canada three straight times at the start of its Bring on the World Tour ahead of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, this February, Team USA finally defeated Canada in consecutive games. After losing by a total goal count of 13-7 in the first three games, Team USA beat Canada 5-1 on Dec. 12 in Calgary and 4-1 on Dec. 20 in Grand Forks, N.D.
“Our team has done a great job implementing the different systems and kind of goals our coaching staff provided,” said Marvin, a 26-year-old defenseman who won silver at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. “So it was great to put everything to work. Everything we’ve done in practice the last couple weeks that we’ve built up was put on display and we had a great team effort.”
One issue Team USA has had against Canada this year has been putting together 60 minutes of good play. Marvin said the U.S. players are getting closer to their goal of playing a complete game.
“We put together a solid 60, but the first period was not our best, that’s for sure,” she said of the game in Calgary. “The final 40 minutes we definitely stepped it up a bit more. We still have the opportunity to put a full 60 minutes together against them.”
Marvin has scored seven points in seven games in the Bring on the World Tour, including assists in the last two wins against Canada. She got things going in Calgary by skating out from behind the net and passing the puck to Alex Carpenter for a goal at the 11:59 mark of the opening period that put Team USA up 1-0.
“We were on a five on three and the players did a great job moving the puck around,” Marvin said of the assist. “Carp snuck in back door on the high slot. It’s easy to put it on her stick. That girl is a sniper. She can get it from anywhere. It was a nice tick-tack-toe play. Carp is a sniper. Carp has a nice shot and she roofed it.”
Then, at the 8:37 mark in the second period in Grand Forks, Marvin fed a cross-ice pass to Brianna Decker for a goal that put Team USA up 2-1.
Coming up big in the last two games against Canada is indicative of Marvin’s leadership style. Even though she has played in six International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships and seven Four Nations Cups, Marvin noted that around half of the 23 women competing for the 21 spots on the 2014 U.S. Olympic squad have previous Olympic experience. With that experience, she said she can lead simply by focusing doing her job.
“For me personally it’s simply you do it, and I think it’s simple as everyone always says, ‘You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk?’” she said. “A lot of people speak, but what speaks volumes is actions. Simply going out and doing what’s called on you to do.
“I don’t think it’s more on my shoulders than anyone else’s shoulders.”
Marvin said the entire team knows how to talk the talk as well.
“It’s something we enjoy doing,” she said. “We love to share what experiences we’ve learned and how we manage different things, manage certain situations and what to expect. You don’t even think about it truly because it’s some within you and it just happens.”
Marvin said it was also a shot in the arm for the team to get good results in the past two games against Canada.
The games in Calgary and Grand Forks were not only Team USA’s first wins against Canada in its pre-Olympic tour, they were also the first games in the tour that were broadcast by the NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports Network. The final two games of the tour against Canada on Dec. 28 in St. Paul and Dec. 30 in Toronto will also be broadcast by NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports.
“It’s awesome that NBC is broadcasting it; we couldn’t be more happy,” Marvin said. “I remember in 1998, the first time women’s hockey was in the Olympics and they were on TV winning the gold in Nagano. That was huge, and the fact that it was televised brought so much attention.
“It’s the entire country supporting us and encouraging us. I love the fact that NBC is broadcasting it. We love the support and encouragement. We love all the prayers people are sending our way.”
The St. Paul game will also be a homecoming of sorts for Marvin, who hails from Warroad, Minn. and played for the University of Minnesota, where she was twice a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 2008 and 2009.
The game is also Team USA’s first game coming out of the Christmas holiday, so Marvin won’t have much traveling to do. And even though Team USA is preparing to play Canada for the seventh and eighth time in just a three-month span, Marvin said it doesn’t take much to get motivated to play the northern rivals.
“I was just talking to one of my friends who said, ‘Wow it has to be difficult to get up for them to play them so often,’” Marvin said. “I said, ‘No it’s exactly like college when we played Wisconsin and North Dakota four times.’ We see the same teams over and over, but it’s not a burden. It’s awesome because it’s great competition. It’s enjoyable; we love to compete against them, and it’s definitely something none of us take lightly. We embrace every opportunity.”
Marvin also said having to get up to play Canada so many times makes it easier to not get ahead of herself by looking ahead to the Olympics.
“You focus on the day, focus on task at hand,” she said. “Many times you get in situations where you focus on the Olympics, yeah that’s great, but that’s not today. It’s not Feb. 7 or 20, it’s Dec. 16 today and you focus on doing the job today. You can’t worry about tomorrow.
“Do the job today and embrace it and find joy in that. … You put work in now and act as if this is the gold-medal game every day and live it.”
Sept. 1, 2015 | More than 40,000 spectators, plus a national television audience, watched the Little League World Series this past Sunday on a glorious afternoon in Pennsylvania. There were smiles, cheers, entertainment and the noticeable absence of demand for those 12- and 13-year-olds to pitch from 60 feet, six inches or run 90 feet between the bases like their professional baseball heroes.
Right-sized baseball and softball fields, along with age-appropriate rule modifications, have been accepted wisdom in youth baseball for more than 50 years.
Coincidentally, while Little League was paring to its finalists, U.S. Soccer announced a nationwide initiative to improve youth skill development. The centerpiece was a shift to small-sided game formats and field sizes to be phased in across the country by August 2017. As part of the new plan, American soccer at U6, U7 and U8 will be played 4v4 on a pitch approximately one-eighth the size of an adult soccer field. Nine- and 10-year-olds will play 7v7 on a one-quarter-scale pitch. Not until age 13 will players begin competing 11v11 on a regulation adult-sized pitch.
“Our number one goal is to improve our players down the road, and these initiatives will help us do that,” said Tab Ramos, U.S. Soccer’s youth technical director. “In general, we would like for players to be able to process information faster, and when they are in this (new) environment, they are going to learn to do that. Fast forward 10 years, and there are thousands of game situations added to a player’s development.”
With this change, American soccer will join sports like baseball, basketball, hockey and tennis, all of which have embraced the skill-development benefits of age-appropriate playing dimensions and competition formats (see chart below).
Those benefits are at the core of USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which was recently praised by the Sports Business Journal as a “trailblazing program.”