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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Why have a foreign Coach for ailing Hockey team ? - to hone their playing skills or improve English language ????

Is the art of communication lost in modern World ?  ~ some would say that you don’t require ornate words and jus enuf if you make the otherman undstand… to some - communication is not a skill to be learned, but an art to be cultivated. Effective communication compasses many including body language and mind reading…..  Sridevi enrolling an English speaking course to stop her husband and daughter mocking her language skills and coming out superior was a good theme for a film – ‘English Vinglish’  
Do you know one significant difference in the composition of the squads that won the Cricket World Cup in 1983 under Kapil Dev and in 2011 under MS Dhoni… !!!!!!!

BCCI has dallied with foreign coaches with different results….. first it was the New Zealand left hander John Wright in 2000 and India enjoyed a remarkable winning percentage of over 40 in Test cricket, winning 21 out of 52. More importantly, Wright's tenure taught the team to win overseas, winning 10 matches on foreign soil, including victories over the Australia, England, Pakistan and the West Indies. Then came the forgettable Greg Chappell era, known more for controversies rather than cricket.  He rubbed most of the Senior players and later we moved to South African Gary Kirsten under whom the World Cup was won……. After Kirsten left, the Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher came. India struggled in Overseas with 4-0 drubbing against England, as also woeful performance against the Aussies; after a successful home series and the win in Champions Trophy, wounds are healing………

Moving away from Cricket, after Michael Nobbs' removal as head coach of the Indian hockey team, the clamour for a 'desi' coach grew and former players advocated the need of an Indian coach who would understand the 'Indian mindset'. Toeing the popular sentiment, Hockey India (HI) decided to appoint MK Kaushik (who guided India to Asian Games gold medal in 1998) as the head coach. Dutch player Roelant Oltmans, who is the high-performance director of the Indian team, is currently in-charge of the Indian team and Kaushik assists him.

Indian hockey team captain, Sardar Singh, begs to differ from the popular sentiment and feels that the sport nowadays has changed by leaps and bounds and only a top foreign coach can meet the demands of modern hockey. However, former captain Dhanraj Pillay has expressed a desire to be the coach of the national hockey team. He claims that if given a free hand he can deliver results within a year. The four-time Olympian (1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 Games) is against having a foreign coach for Indian hockey and insists that there is no dearth of good coaches in the country. He is quoted as saying that "Indian hockey does not need a foreign coach. We have been spending a lot of money on foreign coaches, but from Gerhard Rach (in 2004 Athens) to Micheal Nobbs (2012 London Olympics), the outcome is the same. Indian hockey is back to square one and we are now struggling to qualify for the World Cup," Pillay told PTI. More than anything about the coach, what is the ‘focus area’ the players need to be trained is a million dollar Q ?!?!?!?

India’s Senior Women’s Basketball squad now has experienced Spanish coach Francisco Garcia as the head coach. 

Garcia spent the last season with Spanish Women’s national team players as a private development coach, including stars like Amaya Valdermoro, who has won three WNBA championships. Will Garcia have a significant impact on the fortunes in the Asia's biggest basketball event - the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship for Women - from October 27 - November 3 in Bangkok (Thailand) remains to be seen.



There have been times when Coaches try a new ball game and players instead of improving get hurt…. Cricketers have twisted their foot playing football a day before the match…. Roelant Oltmans, on his part rode to controversy with his plan to teach English language….. sounds … !!! In a Nation which prides speaking the colonial language, Roelant Oltmans, himself a Dutch, prescribes English-learning classes for Indian players, right from the grassroots level. Is he is preparing them good enough  for an employment or grooming their hockey skills ? … Oltmans is of the view that English is the language of world hockey and proficiency at it makes it easier for hinterland players to comprehend tactics better in a high-coordination sport such as hockey.  For sure the language skills would enable a degree of social mobility; will it in anyway help enhance the skill and technique of a player at all.

In early 1990 when India toured New Zealand – the presenter posed a couple of Qs to the leggie Narendra Hirwani who could not understand them at all ~ WV Raman was caught on TV translating them to Hiru with his limited hindi skills [those days]…. Whether he understood or answered never diminished the way Hirwani turned the ball and took wickets..

May be those with limited English skills would have problems in ordering food in a famous outlet or conversing freely when travelling abroad – but will that in anyway impact their playing skills…….. on the contrary, the coach needs to reach out to the players and perhaps can learn Hindi and native languages.  Remember that in IPL at least for audience sake, foreign Umpires spoke a word or two when on mike and so did reputed foreign players when commentating.   In a fast-paced game like Hockey there is little need for oral communication on field rather than instinct as to who is where and to whom the placement needs to be made.

In T20 we have seen rustic mofussil players playing alongside top foreign players……… how did they catch their accent and communicate… was there any problem at all on this count. Olympic archer Rahul Banerjee feels it works best if the foreign coach learns the local language. “In any case I have five Indian coaches with me. I know their English and they know mine,” he says, adding that psychology and understanding of the wrestler’s mind were more important than learning a language. Cuba’s Blas Iglesias Fernandez, the first foreign coach to be awarded the Dronacharya Award, admits to knowing “thoda thoda, zyaada nahin Hindi” after spending nearly two decades training India’s national boxers. “The maximum technical words in boxing are in English, but our boys know them. In training, those are among the first thing we teach them,” says Fernandez. Emzar Makharadze, India’s Greco-Roman wrestling coach from Kazakhstan hit the nail best stating ~  “Many coaches may know English. But not all know coaching.”

At 59, the Dutchman is one of the foremost thinkers in the game and it is possible that there could be a deep-lying rationale to this proposal that we are failing to read.  Koreans, Japanese, Chinese all excel in games – do they speak English well – doe the lack of language skills prevent Sri Lankans from performing well in Cricket.  More than the language, Indian hockey has far greater issues to address – like improving their speed, converting penalties,  developing strength to hold off opponents while screening, or developing the new strokes in the game today.  The issue of an Indian sportsman, a common global language and mainstream acceptance has always been a historically peculiar one.  

Tailpiece :  When the 1983 World Cup was won, PR Mansingh was the only official – the Manager who took care of the nets, travelling, ticketing, hotel booking and everything else.   The 2011 squad consisted of a big Support team of  Head Coach, Mental conditioning coach, Fitness trainer, Physiotherapist, Masseur, Performance analyst, Bowling consultant and more.  Just prior to the Semi-Finals, they had Mike Horn,an adventurer and a person with extraordinary experience in the Arctic circle, circumnavigating the World sans motorized transport giving them a pep talk.  Gary Kirsten ensured Paddy Uppington as mental conditioning coach and  in  turn Paddy engaged another South African to talk to the team  !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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