Why do you need a psychologist, questions Harendra

Though senior players, in the past, had time and again batted for a specialist psychologist, Indian Men's Hockey team coach Harendra Singh thinks otherwise.

India hockey coach Harendra Singh at the jersey launch ahead of the World Cup, in Mumbai on Friday.   -  Vivek Bendre

India’s last-minute loss against Malaysia in the semifinal of the Asian Games in Jakarta last week led to questions on whether the team needs to work on the psychological side of things to overcome the odds.

While the team’s head coach, Harendra Singh, admits that it is important to be mentally strong, he doesn’t back the idea of having a specialist psychologist with the team as that would bring a ‘negative vibe’ in the dressing room.

“Why do you need psychologists? If gaining confidence is the aim, then you can even consult a commoner and take motivation from him. The word psychologist itself carries a negative vibe and the players feel that they are doing something wrong for which they need to consult a psychologist,” Harendra said on Friday, in the sidelines of India’s new jersey launch ahead of the World Cup.

In the past, when the Indian team was coached by the foreigners, even the senior players had time and again batted for a specialist psychologist.

However, Harendra thinks otherwise. “For any team, the biggest psychologist is the coach and the player himself. If I can’t motivate myself, nobody in the world can motivate me. I need to be my biggest critique. I need to look at myself and work step by step,” he said.

India went down to Malaysia in the semifinals despite putting up a commendable performance in the previous outings. “When I was firm in the previous games, why did I get emotional in those last few minutes? That’s the question I should ask myself and should get an answer. If that happens then that’s enough. Taking help from psychologists, who have no clue about the team and the sport, won’t help,” the seasoned coach said.

India hockey players posed for the photograph at the jersey launch ahead of the World Cup, in Mumbai on Friday.   -  Vivek Bendre

 

With the World Cup set to begin in Bhubaneswar from November 28, the coach has already set his sights on it and preparation will begin next week. “We will create a pool of 24-26 players, who will be form core group. The main aim to polish the things ahead of the World Cup,” he said, adding, “In terms of skill and fitness, this Indian team is far better than any other team. There’s a thin line between winning and losing, and that’s where mental toughness comes in. We need to change our mindset.”

The coach admits that it is important to "erase the memories of Asian Games" and look forward. But at the same time, he makes it clear that there was no complacency in the team before the debacle happened in the semifinal.

“Complacency is a word which doesn’t exist in my dictionary. Against Malaysia, we had 39 circle penetration, 24 goal on shots and 56 per cent ball possession, so where does the question of complacency comes in? That was a bad dream for us, we could not materialise our dreams (of winning gold),” Harendra said.

He also points out that there is no division between juniors and seniors in the team. “There is nothing called senior or junior. The moment you don the India colours, such things should go out of the window. It was tough to regroup the team for the bronze match. We told the boys that something is better than nothing. Had we come fourth, that would have been a disaster for Indian hockey,” he said.

“We motivated the boys, went out for lunch, roamed a bit. They came out of the shock and that helped,” he added.

While he is confident of achieving success in the World Cup, Harendra has come up with a plan for Olympic qualification. “We need to maintain and rank so that we are placed against a 13-th or 14-th ranked side, instead of a sixth or seventh. If we can do that, things will be easy for us,” a confident Harendra signed off.