CHENNAI: Willingness to learn is a choice. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that that trait is seen explicitly with the Indian women’s hockey team.Known for experimentation, coach Sjoerd Marijne has recently introduced shooting to the team. The last national camp of the year, which was held at SAI Bengaluru from November 18 to December 15, saw the women having two sessions of shooting, each for a period of two hours. This, they say, was to improve their concentration in high-intensity games. Understandable, given that they have to be on their toes with the Tokyo Olympics just six months away.
This is not the first time that the hockey team is learning another discipline. In August, Rani Rampal & Co tried their hands at taekwondo to have better control over their body movements.
“It was quite challenging,” says India goalkeeper Savita Punia. “For every individual, their way of approaching a game is different. Everybody knows hockey is a difficult game — interesting and intelligent. We knew in shooting, focus ki zaroorath hai (is a necessity). Only when we had those sessions, we realised how much effort we need to put in to tune our minds. Staying focussed for all the 15 minutes in a quarter (in hockey) is not easy. From the outside, it may look so. But for us, even if we are off for 15 seconds, the game will tilt the other way. We understood how important this session was for us.”
Having tried shooting for the first time, Savita felt field players would have benefitted more by this activity than the goalkeepers. As goalkeepers, they are trained to keep their eyes on the ball till the very end and react swiftly. For players, it may not be the case.
“Till the last moment, we, goalkeepers, need to stay focused. There is not much of a difference when it comes to shooting and goalkeeping. But for a field player, this would have been of great help. In hockey, when you hit the top of D, it is called shooting. If you want to hit the ball right down and set the angle correctly (to hit the post), you have to do it with utmost focus. A field player would have learnt all these things from the shooting drill that we had,” feels the 29-year-old.
That apart, the primary target of this camp was to see how far the players can push themselves, mentally and physically. This also included extra hours of running, more core-specific workouts in the gym, in which, Savita says, they “were out of their comfort zone”.
“We even trained for eight hours in a day to see how far we can go. After that session, many of us felt we were overtraining. Sometimes we feel we are tired physically but it’s our mind that says ‘bus, ho gaya’ (that’s it). We don’t realise that our bodies can actually work beyond that. One of the lessons from this camp was that hum apne aapko jyada push kar sakthe hai (that we can push ourselves hard).”
This going out of the comfort zone started months ago when the team cut down on oily and spicy food. Next July, we will know if these steps did anything to better the team’s performance.