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Hockey India to launch nationwide scheme to unearth talent

Mar 07, 2023 08:31 PM IST

The federation wants to provide top level training and facilities and also ensure that there is continuity in their development until the senior level

Hockey India (HI) announced a new and ambitious grassroots development programme on Tuesday to unearth talent and improve the bench strength of the national senior and junior teams for men and women.

HI will hold zonal championships at the sub-junior (U-16) and junior (U-19) levels to unearth talent from the four zones – north, south, east and west.(Hockey India)

Under the initiative, HI will hold zonal championships at the sub-junior (U-16) and junior (U-19) levels to unearth talent from the four zones – north, south, east and west. The first inter-zonal tournament will begin on March 19 with 30 state teams expected to participate.

“The zonal championships will provide young athletes exposure to the same match conditions as the national championships. Shortlisted athletes identified in these championships will be required to participate in the nationals, giving them opportunities to further develop their skills,” said HI president Dilip Tirkey, who planned the initiative on his election to the post last year.

To spot talent, each zone will have selection committees. “It will have a minimum of three members each. The selectors and coaches of the zonal teams will be responsible to monitor and keep us updated on the further development of the players,” HI secretary-general Bhola Nath Singh said.

Tirkey added that they are focussed on developing players in specialised positions. “We’re looking to develop the sport in a holistic way. A group of 10 men and women goalkeepers and drag-flickers will be selected initially and trained under Indian and foreign coaches.”

The grassroots development committee will identify training bases that have adequate facilities. The programme aims to track the development of players from the U-16 level. This will help HI to identify the skill set of each player and hone them.

“The development of players in junior and sub-junior teams is also a focus as not everyone can play for India. The zonal championships will allow players to take pride in playing for their zonal team and enhance their resume,” added Tirkey, a former India captain.

HI also plans to build U-17 and U-19 national teams and send them for foreign exposure. This is expected to improve the bench strength of the junior and senior Indian teams.

The U-23 national development squad will also be integrated into the ecosystem to serve as a feeder for the Indian team.

HI has also identified two crucial components. A special coach's panel is being formed for the inter-zonal championship consisting of those who hold at least FIH Level 1 Certificate. These coaches, besides training the teams in the championship, will also help develop domestic coaches. “Match officials are as important as coaches and players. We already have a list of promising technical officials from across the country. They will form a robust panel that will officiate in the grassroots tournaments,” Singh said.

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