Rani Rampal and the Indian women’s hockey team huddle before taking a penalty corner in their 2018 Commonwealth Games opener against Wales on Thursday. India got 17 penalty corners, converting only one, and lost 2-3 to Wales.(Getty Images)
Rani Rampal and the Indian women’s hockey team huddle before taking a penalty corner in their 2018 Commonwealth Games opener against Wales on Thursday. India got 17 penalty corners, converting only one, and lost 2-3 to Wales.(Getty Images)

Harendra Singh’s modern methods make Indian hockey women’s team a transformed unit

Despite making big strides in the recent past under Harendra Singh, Indian women’s hockey team’s campaign in the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast got off to a disappointing start when they lost 2-3 to Wales in their opening Pool A match.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Avishek Roy
PUBLISHED ON APR 05, 2018 12:58 PM IST

The Indian women’s hockey team has forever lived in the shadows of the men, who always gets top priority when it comes to quality training and facilities. (CWG 2018 live updates)

But, slowly and steadily, the women’s team is getting its due and making its presence felt. Indian women, who began their 2018 Commonwealth Games campaign with a 2-3 loss against Wales in Gold Coast on Thursday, have a seven-member support staff -- the same number of coaches and trainers the men’s team has been given for the CWG. (CWG FULL SCHEDULE OF DAY 2) (MEDAL TALLY)

Apart from chief coach Harendra Singh and coach David Ian John, the women’s team has the services of an analytical coach (Erik Johan Wonink), scientific advisor (Wayne Patrick Lombard), physiotherapist (Sonika Sundan), masseur (Radhika Bhikan Chaudhari), and a video analyst (Perumal Amuthaprakash).

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Backed by the scientific approach in training, the team, led by seasoned Rani Rampal, has taken impressive steps forward in terms of speed and fitness. It reflected in the recent results – they are the current Asia Cup winners and beat South Korea 3-1 in a five-match away series last month.

In September last year, when men’s coach Roelant Oltmans resigned in controversial circumstances, Hockey India replaced Sjoerd Marijne, who was named the men’s team boss, with Harendra Singh as the women’s coach.

While the feeling at the time was that the women’s team was deprived of a foreign coach unfairly, the move to appoint Harendra has turned into a blessing.

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Harendra, who led the junior boys’ team to victory in junior World Cup in 2016, was looking to prove himself at the higher level. A certified FIH coach, Harendra places importance on use of modern scientific methods in training. The first thing he noticed in the women were their low fitness levels and confidence.

While the team took a giant step by making it to its maiden Olympics in Rio, the women never believed in their abilities. The Rio Olympics campaign taught them a harsh lesson. Captain Rampal remembers the ordeal.

“It took some months for us to forget our Rio performance. As a group we realised that competing is not enough, we need to start winning,” she says.

They came back stronger as a group and Harendra did a fine job of instilling confidence in them.

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Yo Yo tests became regular and help of biomechanics expert, a sport physiologist and psychologist were taken at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre. Harendra brought in all the components of modern scientific training while working with the team.

He told scientific advisor Wayne Lombard that he would push the women in training only when they would achieve a certain level of fitness.

“Fitness is everything in sport. If a player is fit, he feels good about his game. Otherwise he or she will be defensive. The speed comes with fitness. It builds confidence, a player starts taking risks. I tell these girls to play attacking. But it can only come if you have power in your legs,” says Harendra.

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The players soon developed a winning mentality and were thinking about the team first. More importantly, they have begun to see themselves on level with the world-class teams. All of this would be tested at Gold Coast before Harendra and the team takes the flight to Asian Games and the World Cup later this year.

Expectations are high and an opening loss will not make things easier though it is not the end of the road for the Indian team. The women know Commonwealth Games is a platform where they have fared better than the men’s team. They have a gold medal to show from the 2002 Manchester Games while the men’s team has two silver medals. And Rani Rampal and Co. looks primed to achieve another podium finish.

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