The United States U18 Ball Hockey Team is competing in Sheffield, UK in just one short week at the 2016 ISBHF Junior World Ball Hockey Championships. Head Coach Bobby Jones is ready to go get a Gold Medal and took a few minutes of out his final preparations to chat with us…
The tournament is 10 days away. How would you describe your emotions these past weeks?
My emotions have been all over the board this week. I’m not big on flying and I’ve never been overseas so all that is new for me. My family is not making the trip with me and that’s affecting me a bit, but honestly when I get on the rink with this group of players it all shifts to hockey and I gotta say, this is a really talented group.
Talk about the preparation the team has done. What are some of the positives you’ve seen?
Well this whole process is about 16 months in, the team itself has been together for a year now and we’ve played multiple tournaments together, and have had multiple camps. It’s really starting to gel! I’ve seen friendships grow, players mature, a lot of them have put on some size and gotten themselves into incredible shape. The efforts at practice and the success in the men’s tourneys and freshman tourneys have all been positive.
Certainly every game is important when you need to win them all to get the Gold Medal. That said, you open up against Canada, the team the US beat to win Bronze in 2014. Talk about this match-up and the importance of starting strong.
The Canada USA match-up has always taken center stage – North American ball hockey at its best! We both play similar styles, we both work hard in the corners, we both like to bang a little, our games are always battles. I think the things like adapting our game to the larger European rink as well as the PP and the PK will be difference makers against them. But let’s not forget about the Slovakians either!
Throughout this process, one of the main points of focus is the importance of teamwork and everybody being on the same page. How do you feel your team has prepared in this area?
I coach at a lot of levels. My youngest son Aiden is a Cadet, my oldest son Bob is a freshman, and I coach multiple men’s teams with Jersey Fresh, so I’m really good at getting players on the same page even at different ages and maturity levels. However this ASHI USA experience has had the challenge of logistics but I’m very lucky to have the coaching staff I have. Timmy Myers is a flat out players coach. He talks the talk and walks the walk, the same with Dan Gregory. Having Dan Gregory leading the Pittsburgh contingent has helped us immensely in alleviating the logistics issue with the kids out there. He’s very much like Tim and I as all three of us have spent our lives playing this game. We were also very blessed in getting ourselves into 4 men’s tournaments including one that we won in double OT….that definitely bonded the team early.
There’s a large contingent and parents, family, and friends heading to the UK to support the teams. How important is that for the team to have fans there rooting them on? What does it mean to you as the Head Coach?
It’s an extremely important factor. How many times have we used the term “home floor advantage”? Since we will be so far from home, it’s awesome to be bringing a piece of home with us, and I know the South Jersey peeps can bring the noise!!! We also plan on supporting our brothers on the U16 and U20 teams with everything we have!
I understand that you have a long list of people you want to thank for their help and assistance. Thanks for doing this, Bobby. Good luck in Sheffield!
I’d like to thank the entire ball hockey community; it’s like no other experience. Junior Division GM Scott Tarzy, the undying effort from him and our Assistant GM Joe Cataldo to pull off this massive event. Of course Ricky Laperriere, Chris Banks, Chris Bokuniewicz, Mike DeFazio, Dave Reaser and everyone at ASHI. Thank you to Jamie Cooke and all the Masters who paved the way for these kids and this level of hockey. Our team manager Lisa Cataldo, Jason Kelly and JJ at Cool Hockey Events, the Sullivans, the Gregory’s and Albrights @ Pittsburgh and Penn Hills Ball hockey, Kevin Cooley, the South Jersey ball hockey family for finding us rink time in GT, Bellmawr, West Deptford and Marlton. Also want to thank the Tansboro Dek Hockey center for giving us a home for the last year. I especially want to thank my family and friends who have helped me along the way and made this impossible, and Chris Caplan for being the best friggin’ ball hockey player in South Jersey and inspiring me to love this game!!!