Stacy’s style: Combining Indian offence and Australian power

"Hockey India League provides an interesting challenge for all coaches. My ability to invest time to understand my players, identify their areas of strength, provide a training and structural environment, where they can play their best hockey, will be important. This will enable the team to gel together and perform at a high level on a consistent basis," says Jay Stacy, the new head coach of Dabang Mumbai.

Jay Stacy, the new coach of Dabang Mumbai, during a training session of his team at the Mahindra Stadium in Mumbai.   -  Vivek Bendre

Jay Stacy played in four successive Olympics (1988 Seoul to 2000 Sydney) and won three medals – a silver (1992 Barcelona) and two bronze (1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney). A penalty corner specialist, the Australian has 160 international goals to his credit.

Now as the head coach of the Hockey India League franchise, Dabang Mumbai, Stacy is working on team building at the Mahindra Stadium here.

Stacy, 48, took up coaching following his retirement from active hockey in 2000. He is currently coaching at the Victoria Institute of Sport in Australia.

Question: You have been appointed the head coach of Dabang Mumbai in place of Germany’s Valentin Altenburg, who is now the German national coach. What are your thoughts on Germany hockey?

Answer: I have the utmost respect for German hockey. They focus on preparing for the big events such as the Olympics and the World Cup. They defeated us in the final of the 1992 Olympics. It was very experienced teams that had lost the previous two Olympic men’s hockey finals (1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul). Germany will be trying for a ‘Three-Peat’ of Olympic gold medals following the titles in 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London), which were outstanding efforts.

To appear in four Olympic Games and remain injury-free is an amazing feat. Were you involved in any epic Australia versus India matches at the Olympics?

We had a fantastic physical preparation staff. I was always very professional away from the pitch. I was always focused on keeping my body in the best of conditions possible so that I could compete at the international level for as long as possible.

Over the years, India and Australia had some fantastic battles at various tournaments. We had a very tight encounter at the 1992 Olympics (Barcelona). I think the score was 1-1. Pargat Singh was leading from the front and Dhanraj Pillay was dangerous in full flight.

The Australian teams were known for their eye-catching playing style, though podium finishes in international competitions were missing. Now, success and style go hand-in-hand for Australia. Could you explain?

I disagree with your view that Australian teams lacked podium finishes at international tournaments. I have provided some compelling results for you. In the past six Olympics, Australia have been among the medals. In the past seven World Cups, we won medals apart from winning the title twice. Australia have won every Commonwealth Games gold medal since hockey’s entry; we also won five successive Champions Trophy tournaments (from 2008 to 2012).

Distinguished international players taking up coaching is positive for the sport. Do you agree with the view that coaching education is a necessity for famous hockey players nursing ambitions of becoming a coach, and why?

It is great for the sport when long-serving international players take up coaching. These players have an immense amount of experience and knowledge to pass on to future generations. This does not guarantee that they will be a good or successful coach. In my case, I put as much time and energy into learning, developing and reviewing as I did when I was a player. Formal accreditation is a fantastic addition to one’s prior playing experience and knowledge.

Work for Hockey India League coaches involves blending various playing styles and understanding players from different nationalities. Have you done this before in Australia?

HIL provides an interesting challenge for all coaches. I have experienced coaching players from various nationalities and playing structures in Europe and, to some extent, in Australia. My ability to invest time to understand my players, identify their areas of strength, provide a training and structural environment, where they can play their best hockey, will be important. This will enable the team to gel together and perform at a high level on a consistent basis.

What is your vision for Dabang Mumbai in HIL 2016?

At Dabang Mumbai, we want to play an exciting brand of hockey that blends the traditions of attacking Indian hockey and the power of Australian hockey. If we can achieve this, our loyal fans will enjoy the matches very much.

Professionals do their homework on leagues, teams and players before taking up an assignment as coach or player. Can you explain the factor/factors that convinced you to find time for HIL besides the monetary aspect?

Professional coaches do many hours of homework on leagues, teams and players. Since my appointment, I have been researching everything on Hockey India League. I was offered the opportunity to be the head coach of Dabang Mumbai when there was a change within the German national team. I was not part of the player auction back in September, but believe the franchise and Valentin (former coach) have assembled a competitive list.

The main driving factors in accepting this position were that as the head coach of the men’s Hockey Programme, Victorian Institute of Sport – my employer in Melbourne – granted me leave for the duration of HIL. It gave me the chance to coach some of the world’s best hockey players and the opportunity to develop an unknown team with varying nationalities into a winning combination.

FAVOURITES LIST

Favourite Indian player: Pargat Singh. He was a very skilful defender, fierce competitor and great leader of his national team.

Favourite Olympic moment: 1992 Barcelona Games. We defeated the Netherlands 3-2 in the semi-finals.

PLAYING CAREER

Appearances: 321

International goals: 160

Olympic Games: 1988 Seoul – fourth; 1992 Barcelona – silver; 1996 Atlanta – bronze; 2000 Sydney – bronze.

Champions Trophy: 1999 Brisbane – gold.

Award: FIH Player of the Year, 1999.