Santisers, change of stick grip - Indian hockey teams adapt to new normal

After being confined to their hostel rooms at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru for over two months, the core probables of men and women teams have started outdoor training.

File photo of Indian men's hockey team during a training session in Bhubaneswar.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Back on the turf after more than two-month lockdown, Indian men’s hockey captain Manpreet Singh and his men are slowly adapting to the new normal in times of COVID-19 pandemic, which includes using sanitisers during every break and drinking water from individual bottles.

After being confined to their hostel rooms at the SAI Centre here for over two months, the core probables of men and women teams started outdoor training 10 days ago after following strict guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of Hockey India and Sports Authority of India.

“Since all of us had been doing some basic fitness exercises in our hostel rooms in these two months, we were not stiff when we returned to the pitch but we are taking it slow and steady. We are going about a very simple routine without putting too much pressure on our bodies,” said Manpreet.

Indian hockey teams resume outdoor training  

“Our sessions are conducted in small groups to ensure social distancing. Earlier, we never used hand sanitisers in between sessions and we would use the same tumbler to drink water.

“But all that has changed now with players consciously rubbing their hands with sanitisers, not just before entering the ground, but also every-time there is a break and each one of us carry our own bottles and ensure we don’t share.”

As per safety norms, they are also changing the grip of their sticks regularly while there is a temperature check every day.

“We also change the grip on our stick regularly and our temperature is recorded after the session as well and it is monitored closely everyday to check for any irregularities. This is the ‘new normal’ for us and we need to follow it,” he added.

Manpreet, however, said their goal remains intact -- to do well at the Tokyo Olympics.

“Over the next few months, each of us have a plan and a target to improve on our individual game. Internally, we are focusing on little things that we need to do to be as good as possible for the Olympics next year,” he said.

Indian women’s hockey team skipper Rani Rampal, meanwhile, said the coaches have been regularly in touch with the players as they resumed on-field activities.

Narinderpal Singh: Coaching amid COVID-19 guidelines a challenge  

“After we began basic activities on the pitch last week, the coaches discussed with us individually how we are feeling both mentally and physically. All players are urged to express any issues they are facing and coaching staff check with us about the well-being of our families,” she said.

“We are back to basics right now with simple activities such as passing, trapping and shooting. Personally, I am taking it slow too and not stressing my back or shoulder too much.

“All of us realise it is important to start slow in order to avoid any kind of injury and we just want to enjoy being back on the field again,” Rani added.

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