NEW DELHI: Former chief coach Neil Hawgood believes the current Indian women's hockey team has become a mentally tough unit under incumbent Sjoerd Marijne which augurs well for its upcoming Tokyo Olympics campaign.
Hawgood, who was in charge of the Indian women's team in two separate stints between 2012 and 2016, acknowledges the growth of Rani Rampal and Co under Marijne.
"Sjoerd (Marijne) has done an amazing job in elevating the team's level. The current team is mentally tougher than previous years," the Australian was quoted as saying in the latest episode of Hockey Te Charcha, a podcast series initiated by Hockey India ahead of the Tokyo Games.
"Earlier, if the team conceded an early goal then it created a worrying situation which could lead to a heavy defeat. In a similar situation now, the team is calm and confident knowing that they can come back into any game. I am delighted to see that the team has kicked on and reached another level since my time."
Under Hawgood, the Indian women's hockey team had qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics after a hiatus of 36 years.
Reflecting on his time at the helm, he said, "When I was first appointed, I felt everything was in place in terms of structure to build upon. Our intention from the start was to build a team for the future. We never felt the need for an overhaul, but my team and I implemented minor changes.
"I suppose the biggest change we made was in the way the team trains. Lot of players at that time would train through injuries to avoid losing their place in the team. But we placed emphasis on rehab and taking time to heal so players could train at the highest level and not worry about being left out of the team because of injury.
"Our biggest success wasn't changing the hockey, it was changing the training methods," he said.
Hawgood feels lack of matches leading up to the Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic might be a cause of concern for teams like India, Australia and Argentina unlike their European counterparts.
"It's going to be tough on the teams from the southern hemisphere like Australia, India and Argentina because they haven't played much hockey recently.
"The European teams have all been playing regular test games amongst each other so they have that match practice. On the other hand, they will have the surprise factor in their favour since no one will know what tactics these teams have been up to," he said.
"Anything is possible in the first two games and any team can come out with a win."