Pittsburgh, PA native Mike Albright will be leading the first ever Junior U16 USA Ball Hockey team at the 2016 ISBHF Junior World Ball Hockey Championships in Sheffield, UK. The tournament starts July 6 and this weekend, Mike will be with the team for their final preparation camp before shuttling off to the airport for the trip overseas. Mike was generous enough to talk to us about his emotions and the team’s readiness as he puts the finishing touches on a process that began some 16 months ago.
U16 Head Coach Mike Albright
The tournament is just a week away. How would you describe your emotions these past weeks?
Every week the excitement and anticipation grows. Believing in what you have learned over the years will be enough for your team to be successful and win.
How have the preparations been coming together?
I have been communicating with my assistant coaches every couple weeks. To go over what systems we should be working on. To go over how strong different players have been looking in practice. To talk over different line combinations. I can tell the intensity and excitement has grown at the Pittsburgh practices as well I’m sure as the practices in New Jersey. I love the speed and hustle the team has been showing at both places.
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 matchup and the importance of starting strong.
What better way to show every other team in the tournament that team USA made the trip to Sheffield to win Gold by smacking one of the best countries in all of hockey right in the mouth.
As the first ever U16 Team USA competing in the ISBHF Junior World Ball Hockey Championship, do you and the staff feel any additional pressure at all? How do you believe the players have handled being the first U16??
As far as the pressure being the first U16 team USA, I watched the first U18 team USA team take home bronze in Slovakia in 2014 when my son Drew was on that team. So the only expectations we will have is to medal in Sheffield. No less! I think the kids are just so proud to be representing their country they’re not even thinking about being the first U16 USA team.
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 makes me so proud to say I am an American. To see how large our hockey family has grown from Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Boston, and the Philadelphia area. A lot of friendships have built over the years and now Sheffield, England is going to see how tight we are. There have been many battles between our associations over the years but ones we step on that rink together we are all brothers and sisters.
Anyone you want to thank specifically for their help/support/assistance?
Of course Scott Tarzy and Joe Cataldo for spending endless hours preparing coaches, players, and families for this trip. So I say thank you to them. I say thank you to Mike Malloy and Joe Washart for their hours preparing the players in New Jersey. Thank you to Steve Gregory, Dan Gregory, and Cory Herschk for helping me get the Pittsburgh kids ready. Of course my wife Jane for making all those trips to New Jersey with me. Finally to all my players parents for allowing me to coach and prepare them to represent their country. This is a wonderful experience for all. Thank you.