CHENNAI: Ever since Sjoerd Marijne took over the Indian women’s hockey team in February, the emphasis has been on two things — adopting a fast brand of play and improving fitness of players. It is not rocket science to understand that the latter is an extension of the former.
The emphasis on fitness has never been higher, what with the World Hockey League Semifinals coming up in Johannesburg from July 8 to 23. Hence, the stint at the SAI centre in Shilaroo as part of the team’s high-altitude training to get acclimatised to similar conditions in the South African city.
And Marijne has been pleased with the progress of his wards so far. “It’s going good, and I’m happy with the location. It’s going to help us in a big way, as Johannesburg is at a high-altitude as well. The first four days, we took time to acclimatise, but now we’re fine and training as hard as we can. It’s a beautiful environment here,” he told Express from the small town in Himachal Pradesh.
“Hockey nowadays places so much emphasis on conditioning, as it has become such a fast sport. So that’s the main aim with the girls, improving their fitness and helping them adjust to the pace of the game. That’s why we’re here, and once we reach Johannesburg, we can say that we’ve done everything to prepare ourselves,” added the coach, when asked about the increasing importance placed on endurance in today’s sport.
An aspect that needs work is the hand speed of the girls. But that will take time, as they are still getting used to Marijne’s methods. “Yes, they’ve played under different coaches and systems till now, but I have a clear vision and style. They are excellent at Indian dribble, if I may call it that, but the girls have to understand that just doing that is no longer going to win you games against the best sides. The Indian dribble is in fact delaying the quick passing and receiving game that I want to incorporate.
“We see it with the men’s team also, that they’re working on being quicker. It’s all about the speed of passing and thinking. Even in the recent series against New Zealand, where despite losing 5-0, there were quite a few positives, showed the importance of quick passing. We’re working hard on that, and I’m happy with the way the girls are responding to the challenge,” the 43-year-old said.
The World League Semifinals will be a stern test of the girls’ credentials, and only then will we know how far Marijne has moulded the team in his image.