Senior wins spot on the U.S. men’s junior field hockey team

October 19, 2022 — by Anthony Wang
Senior Siddharth Kamannavar defends the goal during a scrimmage at Talent Identification and Training Camp.
After a rigorous selection camp in August, senior Siddharth Kamannavar qualified for the training squad of the 24 best field hockey players aged 18 and under in the nation.

Only a day into the U.S. Men’s National Team Talent Identification and Training Camp for field hockey in August, senior goalkeeper Siddharth Kamannavar felt a sharp pain in his thigh as he returned to his dorm after an evening scrimmage. 

“As soon as I hurt it and put weight on it, it hurt so much my head was spinning,” Kamannavar said.

Determined to complete the camp — which would give him the best chance of being selected for the U-18 men’s training squad, a group of 24 high schoolers from around the country — Kamannavar immediately wrapped his leg in an ice pack to ease the pain as much as possible right after returning to his dorm.

The next day he was back on the field, trying his best to persevere through the pain. His love for field hockey, communication skills and attitude were thoroughly tested through more scrimmages, intensive drills and tactical training sessions requiring players to judge the replays of professional players.

His toughness paid off a month later: On Sept. 9, the national team’s coaching staff announced that Kamannavar had been selected as a member of the training squad.

Kamannavar had previously been invited to the selection camp in summer 2021, but did not make the cut then. He attributes his success this year to a combination of his determination during the camp and practice  throughout the year — but also growth in his character.

“Second time around, I put in effort to change some things about myself personally as well,” Kamannavar said. “It’s not just about the skill; they’re looking for specific personality traits, like being able to tell defenders, ‘Hey, you got to be there.’”

Kamannavar started playing field hockey at age 10 after being inspired by the Hindi sports film “Chak De! India.” After joining the Stanford Lightning field hockey team in Palo Alto, now known as Lightning Youth Field Hockey, Kamannavar found a vibrant, closely knit community of field hockey players that supported his ambitions for the game. (Field hockey has an only girls’ team at SHS and other Bay Area schools, but is a popular sport for men on the East Coast and elsewhere.)

His first coach at the Lightning, coach Yadh Sidhu, has remained by his side for almost a decade, staying involved in his field hockey club, mentoring him and chaperoning him to events.

“He taught me how to hold a hockey stick,” Kamannavar said. “And he was one of the first people I informed about my selection.”

Currently, Kamannavar practices and plays with UC Berkeley’s collegiate team after volunteering to step in for their goalkeeper on days when he was injured. 

Kamannavar believes that this spot on the training squad will be a stepping stone for future success in his field hockey career, propelling him further through a sport traditionally associated with women. He plans to continue his field hockey career when he goes to college, although he says he likely will not be getting a scholarship.

“I know that wherever I go, as long as there’s a [field] hockey team, I will be playing,“ Kamannavar said. “The schools that I’m applying to are places which are very conducive to guys playing.”

But, while college is approaching, the community that has allowed him to come this far will continue to be an important part of his journey. Kamannavar said that he has become close friends with many that he has met while playing field hockey, especially at these selection camps.

These players have also served as guides and inspirations for Kamannavar, as they have demonstrated to him that it is possible to attend college in America and play field hockey at the same time, whereas in the past, many players would go to Europe to play. 

“They have already gone through this process already, becoming a male field hockey player in college,” Kamannavar said. “Having seen others blazing that path, I know what to do now.”

He also stresses that the community in the Bay Area has been extremely encouraging.

“I’m very thankful that, at least in Saratoga, a lot of people have been very supportive and receptive,” he said. “When they find out that I play the game, they always ask ‘How was selection camp? How was Cal Cup [a field hockey tournament]?’ I don’t think you get that feeling in other high schools.”

From Oct. 14-17, as part of his commitment with the training squad Kamannavar traveled to Spring City, Penn., to play against Canada’s youth men’s field hockey team in a best of three match over three days. Kamannavar earned this opportunity after being selected out of the squad as top player. Additionally, Kamannavar hopes to qualify to play in the Junior Pan American Championship in Barbados in April.

Although Kamannavar will likely be tackling the responsibilities of a college student in the next few years, he has not kept that from distracting from his biggest aspirations.

“In terms of goals, the 2024 Paris Olympics,” he said. “I would quite like to make that spot. And in 2028, we’ve got home Olympics in L.A.”

Nevertheless, Kamannavar maintains that the supportive attitude of the community he has in Saratoga has been key in his enjoyment of the sport. 

“Being a guy in field hockey, it forces you to build a lot of character and a thick skin,” he said. “You have to roll with the punches, questions like ‘Isn’t that a girl’s sport?’ I’m very thankful that at Saratoga, there’s a network of support that makes it easier for me to talk about it in a casual situation.”

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