CHENNAI: Harendra Singh likes words beginning with ‘C’. He is so infatuated with the letter that he has about ‘15-16 words beginning with that particular letter’ written permanently in the team’s dressing room.
“Cool, calm, composed....,” he says when pressed on his love for that particular alphabet. “I have those sort of words scribbled in the dressing room to din the importance of those attributes into my players.”
It might sound like a strange technique but Harendra, the chief coach of the Indian junior hockey team, knows that it is working. For his team has just returned after winning the junior Asia Cup, an emphatic 6-2 win over rivals Pakistan in the final confirming their rise to the top. Ask Harendra, who has previously coached the senior team in two World Cups, whether the victory was expected and he replies in the affirmative.
“Given the way we prepared for this over the last 45 days, we knew we were in with a chance. Perhaps the margin of victory surprised even us but we are happy to say the least.”
But like most modern coaches, Harendra doesn’t place emphasis on triumph. “I never really play for results. How we play — style, right attack and movement — the process is more important. Sometimes you can play really well and still lose and for us we can take confidence from how we have played.
“Once the self confidence comes in, results follow. The process is very hard to master but once we have done that, we will start winning. And the evidence of that process is we are the best junior team in Asia. That gives us the belief that we can meet the best in our age-group in Europe.” he explained.
Some coaches tend to monitor their more promising wards a bit too much – institutionalise them and coach the fire out of their belly. But not Harendra. “For me giving freedom to my players is very important. I don’t deny that we have a set structure in our team but that structure allows our more creative players to express themselves. Because first and foremost, players should enjoy themselves while playing the game.”
But he also had a word of caution for the 18 players who brought back the title from Malaysia. “I don’t think any of the current lot will be ready for the Olympics. A more realistic prospect for them will be to train for the junior World Cup next year (New Delhi).”