Head Coach Indy Sehmbi brings a wealth of experience as both an athlete and a coach. He has been coaching since he was 19, when he coached a high school team. Once his career as a national team player was over [he retired in 2009], he became involved in various national team roles, starting as an analyst and then taking on role as Head Coach to the junior team in 2016.
Like Sehmbi, Manveer Jhamat was born into a hockey family and has been playing the game since he was six. His team mate, Chris Tardif, was a late-comer having spent his junior school years as an ice-hockey athlete in Quebec.
‘I grew up in Quebec, which was more known for ice hockey but field hockey has been growing in that part of the world so the transition wasn’t as difficult as it could have been,’ says Tardif.
When the team heard the news that they would be travelling to India, it was as if they had been given a second chance to prove themselves after a disappointing performance at the Junior Pan American Championships.
Reflecting back, Sehmbi says the team’s preparations for that event had been severely hampered by Covid restrictions and the players almost needed JPAC to kickstart their campaign.
‘This is one of the best junior teams I have been involved in and I have worked with the past three junior teams and been a player with one as well. The thing about this group is the incredible diversity within it, whether it is where they are from in the country, their ethnicity or their level of experience.
‘After the JPAC tournament [where Canada finished fourth] we felt we needed that tournament to get ready and our placing there was no reflection on where we are as a team. The athletes are really hungry for this. They are focused and prepared and we will see their best hockey in India.’
For Jhamat in particular, playing in India will be a dream come true:
’When we got the news we would be playing at the Junior World Cup it was exciting and it rocked my world a little as well. My background is from India so I have a lot of family there and I am really looking forward to it. When we play India [in the pool matches] I expect my family will be cheering both teams on.’
Tardif says the team are very ready for the challenge. He explained that, despite not initially qualifying for the World Cup, there was always a slim chance that things could change so the players had been working hard both in the gym and on the pitch.
He added that every international provides its own opportunity to learn and develop: ’Every international event is a privilege. The Junior Pan Americans were my first international event and I came back and changed a few things in my game. Each international event adds a new perspective.’
As they contemplate their biggest challenge to date, Sehmbi explains that a late qualification should spark a sense of freedom within the players:
’Resilience is a word we use a lot but I also want the guys to play ‘free’. We really appreciate the opportunity to be at the Junior World Cup. We are going to have some great performances and some challenging performances but we will go out and play our best hockey.
‘This will be the tournament at which I will say the least because I really trust the athletes. But if I was to offer them three pieces of advice, it would be to have some fun and enjoy being able to compete with the people you train with. The second thing would be to trust your team mates and your staff. And finally I would ask them to manage their expectations.’
Canada will be competing in Pool B, alongside France, Poland and the host nation and reigning champions, India.