Matthew Thomey, coach of the host boys' ball hockey team, would like to have a bit more than 10 weeks to get his squad ready for the 2012 Newfoundland and Summer Games. But they will be ready, he says.
The boys' ball hockey competition runs Aug. 18-21.
"I don't think it will be a great detriment to the team," he said. "No one is going to roll over us."
When the Harbour Grace-Carbonear representatives held its first practice as a team last week at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace, it was one of the first times Thomey had the opportunity to gauge the complete skill level of his squad.
"It's really the first chance for me to get up here and get a look at what I'm working with," he said. "It's good to see them on the big surface because the gym is a bit smaller."
Even without having much of an opportunity to get his team out for some runs on the host rink, Thomey and his staff, which includes coach Daniel Sparkes and manager Nick Saunders, believe they have a strong group of athletes.
Thomey specifically noted the running prowess of his team.
"I was really impressed with the speed that they showed," he said.
Watching the team practice, the speed of the athletes was evident, and is sure to be a strength going forward.
Speed is a big part of any hockey, and this group has it in spades.
There are a couple of older players on the team, Grade 10 students at Carbonear Collegiate, who were able to sneak in under the age limit of 15.
"We've got some players with hard shots, and we have hard workers. So, we're confident that we can compete," said Thomey.
First team selected
The team was the first to be selected by the host region.
"As a host region, we have a very small pool of athletes to pick from, and it is good to know that ball hockey has a full team," said David Kennedy, who is director of sports and officials for the Games.
Each of Thomey, Sparkes and Saunders have previous Games experience, and it is something they are looking to pass on to the team.
Thomey and Sparkes were part of the Conception Bay North ball hockey team that captured gold at the 2000 summer games in Mount Pearl, while Saunders brought home the bronze medal at the 1988 games, also in Mount Pearl.
The three each brought their medals in an effort to provide inspiration to their young charges.
Saunders has fond memories of the "whole experience" with the athlete's village, getting to know different people and making new friends.
"We're telling them to get the most out of it, and to have fun," said Saunders.
Thomey said his team had the luxury of preparing for an entire year before the start of the Games, but the skills he learned during that time still resonate with the athletes he will be guiding into the Games this summer.
"We're certainly going to try and incorporate a lot of what we learned into the team," he said.
Thomey believes one sure advantage in the corner of the host team will be having access to the stadium where the Games are being contested.
Most teams will be doing the majority of its practicing in gymnasiums 10 or 20 feet shorter than the stadium in Harbour Grace.
"Once you get going in a gym, you go 10 yards and you have to slow down again because you'll hit the wall," said the coach. "We don't have to worry about that up here."
Thomey sees his team being able to take advantage of the extra space, use its speed and push the pace.
"They're really quick, blue-line to blue-line, and the fact that we have this at our disposal is going to be a big advantage to us," he said.
Thomey said his goal over the next couple of months will be to make sure the team is working hard at practice and outside of practice.
"We've got a lot of games in two or three days and we have to make sure they're prepared for that," he said.