Hawgood,the other Aussie in Indian hockey,faces first test

Trial run: Women’s coach says players must improve mental strength and fitness

Written by Jonathan Selvaraj | New Delhi | Published:September 20, 2012 3:07 am

In a little over a week,national women’s hockey team coach Neil Hawgood will face his first big assignment when he takes his side to the Champions Challenge I in Dublin. The Australian,however,isn’t setting the bar high. Hawgood has been with the team for just six weeks. The period has given him ‘just enough time to learn every players’ name.’

The tournament will be a testbed for this team,which needs to build on fitness and mental muscle.

“We will be playing in a competition that features four teams (Australia,Belgium,USA and South Africa) who have just played at the Olympics. We are still some way from that level. At Dublin we are going to find out where we stand and whether the path I have started the team on is the right one or not,” he says.

India’s target,he says will instead be two years from now at the Asian Games. “I’m not saying we’re going to be number one in the world. It is going to be hard to chase down teams like Argentina or Germany. What I want is for this team to be number one in Asia. That is a very achievable goal. If everything goes to plan,we could be in that position by the 2014 Asian Games,” he says.

One thing that didn’t go quite to plan was the fact that the women’s team was selected before Hawgood began his assignment. He isn’t complaining however.

What Hawgood,who has formerly coached both the Australian men’s and women’s teams seems to be emphasizing,is fitness. However,he insists that he isn’t preaching anything new. “Everyone seems to be talking about fitness as if it is some new discovery. It is as essential in hockey as is trapping. That 24 players have a certain standard of fitness shouldn’t be something remarkable but rather a given. “ he says. The way Hawgood’s theory is put into practice isn’t in scheduling additional training or gym sessions. The players in fact train for shorter periods but with added intensity.

“The girls are getting used to not training as much as they did in the past but they are training with much more intensity. It is surprising to them that they are training for 11 sessions a week rather than 18 but are completely tired. Initially they would be training from 9 am to 11.30- 12pm. But I had them training from 9 to 11am. But they didn’t have all the little breaks where they go to the side and get a drink of water and chat with their friends. I had them keep their water bottles on the field and have their drink and get back immediately. I tell the players that when we will be competing there won’t be time to go have a break,” he says.

Hawgood understands that there are things that must change. “We need to work on our mental toughness. Right now I notice that when the side is a goal down,their shoulders drop.”

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