Trekking in Switzerland—Indian hockey team's Olympic prep

As part of team bonding exercise, Harmanpreet & Co set to explore the mountains before departing for Paris on July 20
While there, the plan right now is to do some trekking before 2021 bronze medalists switch base to Netherlands for three friendlies before they leave for Paris on July 20.
While there, the plan right now is to do some trekking before 2021 bronze medalists switch base to Netherlands for three friendlies before they leave for Paris on July 20.Photo | Hockey India

BENGALURU: In a week's time, the Indian men's hockey team will throw away their sports gear for some jackets, headlamps and hiking boots. As part of a team bonding exercise before the high-pressure environment of the Olympics, the contingent—the playing members and the support staff—will meet up with the side's mental conditioning coach, Paddy Upton, in Switzerland for a three-day camp.

"There will be no hockey there," Craig Fulton, coach of the national team, said during an interaction with this daily about their Olympics preparation.

"Everything that we need to focus on to be the best team we can be. Most have a good time doing it because it's been tough, training really hard. Sometimes, we also need to see the wood for the trees (laughs). The mountains could be what we need. (There will be) no hockey there, we will pick it when we get back."  

While there, the plan right now is to do some trekking before 2021 bronze medallists switch base to Netherlands for three friendlies before they leave for Paris on July 20.

The three-day team bonding session could also see the side have a spell with Mike Horn, a motivational coach who has worked with the Indian cricket, the Germany men's football team as well as Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Doing these sort of team exercises is nothing for Fulton's wards. Last year, they climbed Table Mountain. Before the Asian Games, the players were split into small teams and were asked to shoot short movies (movies were shot on a mobile camera before they were screened).

PR Sreejesh, who will be featuring in his fourth Olympics, spoke about why these team-bonding exercises are much-needed. "Climbing the Table Mountain was a good experience," he said.

"Different people had different goals; somebody wanted to finish first, a few just wanted to finish, others wanted to come last so they could motivate everybody else to finish. It was all about showing mentality."

On the upcoming trip to Switzerland, Sreejesh said: "We are going to meet Mike Horn (Horn had taken the South African men's cricket team on an expedition to the Swiss Alps in 2012), I have read about his work in Paddy Upton's autobiography. That was so inspiring and I'm sure his lessons will help us at the Olympics. When you feel like you are breaking down or the team is breaking down, his experiences will help us make good decisions under those circumstances.

"It will be something new for us but that's what we require, we need to distract ourselves. Three days doing this before coming back to hockey will refresh us."

The men's team will play their first match against New Zealand during the Olympics on July 27. 

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