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Monday, May 20, 2024

USA Field Hockey Rejects GOAT’s Olympic Tryout Request

  • The federation released a lengthy statement defending its position.
  • Matson, 24, won four NCAA titles as a player and one as a head coach.
Syndication: USA TODAY

USA Field Hockey has rejected a request from one of the country’s best players to try out for the 2024 Olympic team.

Erin Matson, the legendary North Carolina player and coach, won four national championships with North Carolina as a player before becoming the team’s head coach and winning a fifth in 2023. She had competed with the national team for a decade but stepped away to focus on coaching.

The 24-year-old Matson is in her second year as the head coach at North Carolina.

The selection procedures say the team will be fielded from a group determined in May 2023, but additional athletes can be invited to a tryout in spring ’24. In a post Thursday night, Matson said she met all the criteria to be eligible for the tryout, but USA Field Hockey told The Philadelphia Inquirer she did not. The group did not give a reason as to why Matson was denied, but said it encouraged her to “return to field hockey as an athlete and make herself eligible” for next time.

“My request wasn’t to be an Olympian; my request was to allow me to try out,” Matson said.

Matson’s coach and predecessor at UNC, Karen Shelton, won bronze in the 1984 Olympics while she was head coach of the Tar Heels. “I don’t know if it’s the exact reason, but they made some remarks about me not playing for a year and taking a year off,” Matson told the Inquirer. “It’s very common for players throughout Olympic cycles to take a year off here or there.”

USA Field Hockey defended its decision in a lengthy statement published on its website Friday. The federation said Matson has not played in the national or international matches necessary for a proper evaluation, so she did not meet the criteria to get an invite to the tryout.

USA Field Hockey invited Matson to come to the trials to discuss playing in the 2026 World Cup and ’28 Olympics, which she declined to not “take time and attention away” from the group preparing for Paris, she said in her post.

The U.S. women’s team last competed in the Olympics in 2016, finishing fifth. The team has not medaled since 1984.

“I believe change in USA Field Hockey is necessary. We should be focused on naming the strongest possible roster in order to be successful on the world stage,” Matson posted.

USA Field Hockey did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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