Focus on the future

Cedric D'Souza... theoretician.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

India not qualifying for the Beijing Olympics is painful, but we have to accept the fact. No amount of emotional outbursts can take us back to the top. We have to learn from this, get our act together and move forward, writes Cedric D’Souza.

No one can deny that there is abundant talent in our country. The proof is that we have been continuously in the top 4 in most of the age-group tournaments. So, it stands to reason that this augurs well for our future and also projects a good base.

Having said this, you may then ask what happens to us at the senior level? Why isn’t our national team showing any results? Well the answer is quite simple. At the youth level the process is not that important, skill becomes the driving force and since we have abundance of this, winning is a customary phenomenon. The transition from the junior level to the senior National team is where the issue must be addressed. It is here that the focus shifts to the process, and so this is where professionals with expertise and the know-how should be roped in.

In a nutshell, if we nurture this talent in a manner where players are thoroughly trained in all the aspects of modern hockey (fitness, skill and tactics), give the players sufficient international exposure, ensure a smooth transition from one age group to the next and systematically induct them into the National team’s programme, then we will have a harmonized professional National team which will deliver sustained and consistent performances.

A lot has been said and a lot more will be said of our team not qualifying for the Beijing Olympic Games. It is a foregone conclusion that what follows failure is the blame game and sacking or resigning of personnel. I speak from experience; I have been in such a situation.

The crux of the matter is that we have not qualified, and if this does not warrant a change, then in all honesty nothing else will. However painful not being at Beijing is for all of us, we have to accept it. We cannot alter the result and no amount of emotional outbursts can take us to the Beijing Olympics or get us back to the top. The need of the hour is to learn from this, get our act together and move forward.

The key is to immediately utilise the expertise and knowledge of Ric Charlesworth who has been appointed as Technical Advisor to Indian Hockey.

So, how do we put Indian hockey back on rails? For me the only way out is to devise a ‘Long Term Plan’ where we focus on the ‘Process’.

The key will be to implement the process where optimum returns are derived. Since we are a vast country a system must be put in place where the benefits trickle down to the clubs and institutions, which I would like to call the ‘Roots’. At the moment, the clubs and institutions train their players with their own methods, after which many of these players get into the Indian Hockey Federation’s National camps to represent the country. However, the methodology used at the National camps could be quite different from what the players had learned at their clubs and institutions.

In my view, the way to go about this is for professionals to plan and execute a programme with the IHF’s wholehearted support. What is crucial here is how the IHF gets the state associations and institutions to support and implement the process.

In return for their cooperation, the IHF should reward the state associations and institutions by sending professionals to implement the programme and also train local personnel who can carry on with the programme in the future.

This will undoubtedly ensure a sustainable and a uniform process around the country.

The main aim of this plan would be to create a uniform structure run by likeminded professionals where the essence would be:

Constructive and critical analysis.

Structuring the game from the grass-root level, with the focus being on youth development.

Training and ensuring uniformity in coaching standards which will result in quality and sustainable team management.

Dissemination of information to all parts of the country.

Procuring all technical and financial support.

Providing continuous international exposure against quality teams for our National as well as Youth teams.

Ensuring prompt administrative back-up action.

Whatever the costs, there is no choice but to procure the required funds and focus on the process of building a winning team for the 2012 London Olympic Games and onwards. The process needs to start right NOW with hard work and discipline being our mantra.