Unenviable job, no doubt

Indian hockey has never had a uniform coaching structure or system, right from the club and state level to the National level. Players have worked to the top training under various coaches in club/institution/state teams. Now, the chief coach of the Indian team, Jose Brasa of Spain, is telling his players to unlearn what was taught to them in their formative years and learn to play hockey his way.

The FIH Master Coach has had to work with a pool of such diverse players — each one is on a different wavelength due to his upbringing — that setting up a standard set of instructions that could be understood by all is an impossible task. The Spaniard needs time to understand the existing coaching structures in the country and put in place people who will teach his way of playing the game. In this way, Brasa hopes that the National players would form the apex of a pyramid rather than the other way round where a coach at the National camp is supposed to be the starting point of a change. Earlier, Australian legend Ric Charlesworth, handpicked by the FIH to overhaul Indian hockey, worked on the task but went back frustrated following his differences with the Indian authorities even before his observations and suggestions could be implemented.

Former India coaches Cedric D’Souza and Joaquim Carvalho realised the need for uniformity in coaching, but after their tenures ended their efforts were not carried forward by the others.

Brasa is facing stiff resistance from some of the established Indian internationals as he is seen to be thrusting European hockey concepts down their throats at the National camps and during foreign tours without even thinking of the adverse effects such experimentations would have on the players’ confidence, especially in the run-up to the 2010 Hero Honda World Cup.

Fixing a time frame, like the Champions Challenge in December this year, to assess whether the coach and the players are pulling in the same direction is unrealistic. Experienced internationals need space and time to modify their game without having to worry about their fluctuating form. Similarly, the coach also needs space and time to perform without having to bother about the fate of his contract even if his short-term performances don’t match up to the expectations.

Like Charlesworth before him, Brasa is part of the FIH efforts to assist Indian hockey in regaining its place among the world’s elite. After more than a decade of struggle at the international level, Indian hockey has to decide whether we need foreign expertise to coach our coaches and train our players.

Nandakumar Marar