Eliisa Alanko: From U19 to the women´s national team and WFC in Finland
The upcoming women‘s World Championships are played in Tampere Finland. For me, this means an opportunity to participate in the WFC in my home country and in the city where my club SC Classic plays. That‘s a rare privilege for an athlete to get to play in front of the home crowd and I‘m looking forward to that!
Many people might think that home field brings too much pressure to succeed but from my opinion it‘s just the opposite. Of course the expectations from the media and floorball federation are high, but many times in the league, clubs can take advantage of the home crowd and get more energy so why wouldn‘t it be possible in the national team as well? What‘s a better supportive factor than a cheering home crowd giving extra energy in the difficult moments or boosting the flow?
The preparation for the WFC has went quite the same way as before. Our goal is still the same and that is to win the gold medal, but we had and have to work hard as hell to succeed. Compared to the former championships, these ones have been on my mind more often, maybe partly because of the increased publicity. In Finland people working with floorball have wanted to get more media time for women‘s floorball, I want to say big thanks to everyone involved! Players have also participated in many ways, for example dressing up in costumes and wearing face paintings. In this matter, as in many others, doing things together is the main issue how big things are done, on and off the field.
And what has this preparation involved? Sweat, pain and occasional tears. However, it has also involved some great moments and feelings such as overcoming obstacles together as a team, success and even tears of happiness. Hard work usually pays off. The preparation for the WFC started right after the last championships. After that we have had several training camps in the last two years where we‘ve trained physics, technique and tactics.
Even though training camps are important, every individual player does the biggest work at home with their own club as well as training by themselves. Especially summer is time when everyone‘s motivation and willingness to succeed is put to test. At least in Finland, this is the time when there‘s a momentary break from the team‘s trainings and some players travel back to their home towns for the whole summer and therefore missing all the team‘s trainings. This is an important factor that separates players both within the team and on a national scale: Do you want to be the one scoring the decisive goal or be a bystander? For some people this is an opportunity to relax when there isn‘t anyone around to watch your every move. It is easier to skip the practice and spend time with your friends or go out to party. For others this is the time when those sweat, blood and tears are brought to surface.
During the summer there are no games where you should prepare yourself remembering to rest and plan your training according to that schedule. This is the time to create the physical base that enables you to get through the whole demanding season. The hard training doesn‘t stop there but that‘s the time to get a head start on those players who think that there‘s still two months before the next game so why should I start training now. I train as much as possible during the summer without forgetting the importance of resting! Before the WFC in my home country I made the decision to cut back on school and work to be able to train twice a day throughout the whole summer. All the trainings were planned with a professional because training too hard or wrong is not smart. Planning is a key factor here as well. It is important to remember the versatility. The practice sessions happened outside, inside as well as in the water. They included stamina, speed, strength, agility etc. The idea was to do everything so well that there will be no second guessing when the championships are over.
When I was younger I also participated to the U19 championships. How did that differ from the women‘s WFC? Everything was new back then of course, those were my first WFC and I didn‘t know what to expect. On the other hand the situation was the same for almost all the teams, we were all rookies on a journey to the unknown. For some, a trip to a foreign country was also something they hadn‘t experienced before. The situation in the women‘s WFC is different. There are rookies as well but also those experienced players who have participated in many previous WFC‘s. Then we are able to create a good mix of experience and young enthusiasm. I have played in three championships before the WFC in Tampere where the games will be played across the street where I usually play so there probably won‘t be many surprises outside the field – hopefully ;)
The preparation is also different for U19 and women. It wasn‘t as professional back then even though of course we trained hard but when you compare that to the current situation you can see the difference clearly. That is partly due to the change and development of the sport towards a more professional direction. You could say that in the U19 team we were learning how to be athletes and in the women‘s team we are. In my opinion this is the biggest difference between women and girls. There are many talented players in the U19 team whose personal skills are astonishing but they are not athletes yet, not physically nor mentally. With the future in mind, these young players should be patient and humble. They will earn their spot on the women‘s team for sure as long as they keep working hard. Too many promising young player quits or doesn‘t live up to their full potential in the women‘s league because they don‘t have the appetite for the daily work. Nowadays it‘s not enough being the best in your age group but the competition has become harder than that. Talent is always needed but more important than that is the long-term commitment to the goal and willingness to work for that. The positive thing is that even though you wouldn‘t have been part of the national team when you were younger you have all the possibilities to make it to the women‘s national team. In women‘s games having only talent doesn‘t cut it anymore but you need to be mentally ready as well.
Even though playing takes up a lot of time and there are difficult moments every now and then it is all worth it. You experience feelings you wouldn‘t be able to experience anywhere else, you get to be part of occasions and events that a lot of people only dream of and the best part is that you can share all that with your best friends. You are never alone as the team will always support you. One day the hard work will be rewarded as long as you believe in that. Even though you have a clear goal in mind for the future, the most important thing is to remember to enjoy the journey and live in the moment!
Photo: Martin Flousek, WFC 2013