When it comes to retaining coaches, there’s something drastically wrong with the way Hockey India is functioning. First, it was Australian Michael Nobbs in 2012 who was shown the door after the London Olympics and then Terry Walsh, the man who guided India to a place in the Olympics and a gold at the Asian Games and now it is Dutchman Paul Van Ass. All have been unceremoniously dismissed for taking on Hockey India (Narinder Batra, HI president to be precise) and its system. Just a year ago, Indian hockey seemed to be treading a rosy path. It was on a path of ascendancy. India won silver at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and then a couple of months later, won an Asian Games gold to book a place in the Rio Olympics next year under Walsh.
It is a well-known fact that more than Walsh’s salary, it was his demand for more control on the team and ego clash with the association president that forced him out. Even the Van Ass episode seems to be nothing but a clash of egos. Any level-headed coach with authority would not have liked or permitted an administrator to rebuke his players on the turf. If Batra was unhappy with the system, coach or the players, he could have privately called them and told them directly about it.
And why should, in the first place, an administrator try to meddle with the team affairs? That is entirely the domain of the coaches. Empathise with the plight of coaches. What about the players? Pity them. For, in another few months, they will have to inevitably get accustomed to the ways of a different coach with a different personality and ever more different perspectives. Transition, as always, takes time. And that’s precisely what India doesn’t have. Every coach brings with him not only his preferred support staff but also his own set of ideals and blueprints, which are sometimes contradictory to the predecessor’s. And players will also have to make quick adjustments, mentally, tactically and physically to suit the new norms. And forcing players for such adjustments a year ahead of the Olympics is asking for too much. To state the obvious, the consequences of such a recurrence would bode ill for the health of Indian hockey, more so because the present is a time when tense is a word used to describe its general atmosphere.