Hockey India's calculated approach has raised the level of Indian hockey, says Sardar

Sardar Singh praised Hockey India's meticulous planning which has reaped rewards for the Indian men's and women's hockey teams over the past decade.

Sardar Singh spoke about how the changes brought in by Hockey India mouled the national team players into professionals.   -  FILE PHOTO/K. MURALI KUMAR

These are testing times for sportsmen. The pandemic has driven them indoors and pressure has only mounted as the sporting world prepares for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. For Hockey India (HI), establishing a smooth working relation with the Union Sports Ministry and the Sports Authority of India has been the priority to ensure the players can focus on performance.

Veteran star Sardar Singh spoke for the hockey fraternity when he emphasized, "There are a lot of positive changes that have been implemented by HI since it took over (in 2009)."

The HI has a vision programme and the mission has been largely successful with men's team being ranked at No.4 in the world and women ranked at No. 9 in the FIH World Ranking.

When the COVID pandemic struck the world and sportsmen looked to resume their training, HI took the lead by submitting the SOP to SAI in April. In the opinion of a senior HI official, it was “mainly done to ensure national teams can resume activities at the earliest.” The SOP for domestic season to restart was also submitted to SAI well in advance. 

As Sardar pointed out, "One of the key things that has helped both the men and women's team improve their performance and climb up the world ranking is the professional approach they have inculcated over the years and providing a well-rounded support system for the team."

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The Khel Ratna awardee reflected on the scientific approach adopted by the HI in 2007-08. “There is now plenty of emphasis on diet, mental-preparation and fitness which has really helped the team and has made players self-conscious about what they eat, how they recover, and pay attention to their overall fitness.”

The immediate target for HI when it took over the game’s administration was to ensure the qualification for the Olympic Games in the men’s and women’s categories. The goal was achieved with women qualifying in 2016 and the men's team qualifying in 2012, 2016. Indian hockey will be seen in action in both the sections at the Olympics in Tokyo.

The Indian women's hockey team qualified for back-to-back Olympics for the first time.   -  Hockey India

"I believe the working relationship that HI has established with SAI and ensuring that they follow all the protocols and paperwork required by SAI to clear our tours and competitions has also been the key,” said Sardar. According to him, the ACTC is prepared well in advance. “At the beginning of the season, the team is aware of what tournaments they will be playing through the year and this helps the coaching staff and players prepare to peak at the right time,” he added.

"Additionally," said Sardar, “HI hosting some of the top tournaments in the country has helped in developing the sport and infrastructure in the country. India in the current scenario boasts of the best world-class facilities to host events, the world saw India's hosting capabilities during the 2018 Men's World Cup which raised the bar at a global level.”

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Giving credit to the HI League, Sardar observed, "It helped players raise the bar. It was a big platform to groom young talent. Spending more than a month with world class foreign players did a lot of good as we could see personally how they go about their game, preparation and mental makeup, body language etc. I feel this experience has helped players individually and also as a team."

As part of its effort to regain the game’s glory, HI has chalked out plans to develop the game at the grassroots and domestic level. "The first big priority was to have annual National championships for all age groups i.e sub-junior, junior and senior (both men and women).  Both junior men and women have shown considerable results in the international level," said an official from the HI.

As for the hockey activities, the National caching camps for men and women are currently underway at SAI, Bengaluru. The SAI had assured that the camps will continue until the end of November for men and until the second week of December for the women's team.

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