Field Hockey Stars Return From China

April 12, 2007

Two members of the University of Iowa field hockey team, Kadi Sickel and Caitlin McCurdy, were selected to the Under-21 team. The team is composed of the nations top players under the age of 21. The team traveled to China to compete against the Chinese Under-21 team and the Shanghai Club.

The USA fell to China twice and tied them once, but did defeat the Shanghai Club in both games. Sickel scored the only USA goal in 6-1 loss against the U21 team of China. The following game between the two teams McCurdy carried the USA to a 1-1 tie. Following is a question and answer session with the two Hawkeyes.

1. How long of a flight was it to China?

Kadi: 14 ½ hours

Caitlin: About 14 hours, but the movies were good and the food wasn’t too bad.

2. What types of food did you eat there/was it good?

K: Rice and deep fried chicken in sweet and sour sauce. I also ate a lot of toast with peanut butter. I was scared of the beef and we were only allowed to eat fruits that could be peeled, which narrowed it down to watermelon. The food wasn’t bad; there just wasn’t a lot that I liked, so I ate the same meals, three times a day, for eight days.

C: As much as I hate to admit it, I mainly survived off of what would be compared to General Tsou’s chicken, white rice, lots of watermelon, coke, bottled water, and occasionally noodle soup.

3. What did you do during your spare time?

K: Tried to call people back home when they were actually awake, wrote emails, ate, watched movies and did a lot of shopping!

C: We didn’t have a ton of spare time. However, we were fortunate enough to do some shopping downtown Shanghai. We were able to get a glimpse of the famous Pearl Tower that overlooks the city. Our team also made a trip to an English-speaking school that was located across the street from our hotel. We entertained an assembly of seven year olds for about an hour with “Simon Says”. It was truly a great experience.

4. Did you travel throughout the country at all, or did you stay in one area?

K: We primarily stayed in the area where our hotel was located and took about a 5 minute drive to the field each day. In our spare time we could walk to some nearby shops and food stores. We did go into the city of Shanghai twice, which was a lot of fun because it is huge and so different than anything I’m used to seeing. At night the shops and restaurants would light-up huge neon signs and it looked like Times Square.

C: Unfortunately our hockey ventures did not stretch beyond the borders of Shanghai, however in such a large city it sometimes felt like we had toured half of China.

5. What was your most memorable moment from the trip?

K: The most memorable hockey moment for me, was our second game against the Chinese U-21 team. The previous game we lost 6-1 and this time we tied them! It was actually kind of a bummer because we outplayed them but couldn’t finish. My other most memorable moment would have to be the welcome feast that the Chinese Hockey Association put on for us. It was a huge traditional meal that spanned over an hour and a half with numerous courses. They gave toasts and we were able to try tons of beautifully prepared traditional Chinese Cuisine. The welcome and farewell feasts had the best food.

6. How does the U-21 Team compare to the Iowa team?

K: It’s very different, we were all new to playing with each other so it took awhile to adjust. We all come from many different colleges, so we have very different playing styles. With Iowa we are able to build a strong foundation over a long period of time, with the U-21’s, we had to make a lot of progress very quickly. Overall, it was a great experience to play with some of the best college players in the country instead of playing against them, but I loved coming back home to my Hawks.

C: The American U-21 team has many of the components that make the Iowa team great. The strongest points of emphasis were matters of confidence, implementation of experience, and most importantly problem-solving abilities. The major difference between the two teams is in the refinement of basic fundamentals that we practice on a daily basis here. Mastering the fundamentals is career long process and our progress toward that goal at Iowa falls well within range of athletes around the country and the U-21 team alike. I am proud to say that we have more athletes here at Iowa that can compete at the level of the U-21 team than only Kadi and I.

Caitlin McCurdy

7. If someone was going to visit China, what is one thing they should do?

K: Plan to drink only bottled water, download Skype on their computer so they can call internationally, and also bring a mattress topper because the beds were harder than wood.

C: Bring a thick-foam mattress. When I think back to my experience in China I really can’t neglect the memory of sleeping on a very hard bed.

8. How does the fan base in China compare to the fan base in the United States?

K: Field Hockey is a bigger sport in China than it is here. There were always kids around watching us play and cheering for the Chinese. It was cool to play in front of people other than only our families.

C: The fans in China were very enthusiastic, as they are here in the U.S. However, I think that there are more individuals that have a good understanding of the sport and the rules in China; therefore they are able to enjoy the matches to a higher degree.

9. Is there any difference in the style of play in China?

K: It is very fast. They move the ball around the field very well and attack through the center hard. Their ball handling skills are top notch and they can shoot on cage from anywhere in the circle. It was a very physically demanding style to defend against.

C: The Chinese play a very fast game of hockey. Their style was not drastically different from ours. Their U-21 team is fortunate enough to train together for many hours per week, which makes them a much stronger team from the standpoint of on-field cohesiveness. This definitely works to their advantage.

10. If you could bring one Chinese tradition home with you, what would it be and why?

K: They like to toast at every meal, which brought a sense of community into each eating experience. They were very hospitable and gracious.

11. What is the main difference between international play and intercollegiate play?

K: As I said earlier, the speed. Foot speed, ball speed and execution of a shot were all very impressive to play against. It was nice because you were forced to elevate your play and try new things you hadn’t thought to do previously.

C: Speed! Much like the jump in the all-around game speed from high school to collegiate hockey, the jump from collegiate to international is even bigger. Everything is faster, athletes are stronger, and individuals are smarter with their decision making. It is an incredible experience and pretty overwhelming until you get used to it.

12. How did you handle the time zone change?

K: Going there wasn’t bad, we slept on the plane and had an afternoon to adjust once we landed. The hardest part was coming back because it is 12 hours ahead in China. So when it was 9 pm here, it felt like I should just be waking up and vice versa. It took my body and sleep patterns about a week to get back into the swing of things.

C: It was hard at first. When we arrived in China I didn’t feel like I really needed sleep until the end of the week and my body surprisingly adapted well. I was able to see quite a few sunrises in the city of Shanghai, but did not make many sunsets. However, when we got back the adjustment was much harder. With a little discipline sticking to a routine, the transition was made after about a week.