Press Esc to close

'Focus on the players'

Sidney Kiran, DH News Service, Dec 4 2017, 17:21 IST
The Netherlands have struggled to match their past performances in recent times. FIH Media

The Netherlands have struggled to match their past performances in recent times. FIH Media

June 15, 2014 is an unforgettable day for the Netherlands hockey fans, for the wrong reasons. Hosts of the Hockey World Cup, the nation awaited a perfect climax as their side marched into the final for the first time since 1998. Fans thronged the Cars Jeans Stadion in The Hague in great anticipation. But in a span of 70 minutes, joy turned into agony as the Australians not just defeated the Oranje but massacred them. The 6-1 pasting left the Dutch Hockey Federation (KNHB) totally bruised.

News reports then emerged that there was lack of communication amongst team members and barriers were placed by some elements. Fearing things could get worse, KNHB turned to a trusted hand - Max Caldas - to first stabilise and then bring about a revamp. The Argentine-turned-Dutch had won the 2012 London Olympics gold and 2014 World Cup at The Hague with the women's team and his deeds were highly appreciated.

The burly Caldas took up the challenge instantly and set foot in Bhubaneswar for the Champions Trophy where the Netherlands finished fifth. Caldas recognised the reason why the Netherlands were failing was that there wasn't any bonding in the side and players hesitated to voice their opinions. The only thing the team shared was the dressing room.

Caldas, who delivers motivational speeches during his free time, then took the squad on a tour of South Africa early 2015 where the main priority was to get the team to talk freely. He ensured everyone voiced their opinions and they all felt comfortable in each other's company. Slowly the bond of old that made the Dutch sides of the past amongst the most feared teams returned.

"One of the things that we decided was if we wanted to play better on the pitch, we had to understand each other better," Caldas offered during a candid interaction at the ongoing Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneshwar. "We wanted to involve ourselves better as players towards the programme. That is what we have been trying to do every day, even when we are here. That is what we have been doing, try to be very honest and a very close group. If things need to be said, good or bad for the right reasons, the group will say it. That's what we have been reinforcing every day. Keep talking amongst each other and this trip is no different. Yes, we are happy with the way the group is developing. This tournament gives us the change to develop that (bonding) some more.

"I think the job of the coach is to be of service to the players, you need to help them understand where they can be. It is not about what I want or need, it is about what they aspire to be, what they want to achieve as hockey players and our job is to act as facilitators to the players. It is really not about me or my ego, it is all about the players. It is also about the staff and how best I can be of service in the right way. Of course, you have your own ideas and stuff you want to bring through but that's secondary. It's mainly about the players. That's pretty much my philosophy," added Caldas, who represented Argentina in the 1996 and 2004 Olympic Games. Caldas, who was appointed Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau for his contribution towards the growth of women's hockey during his early coaching years, feels the Dutch media can be very critical and that sometimes can be detrimental on the team. "To be honest, I don't read the papers. I understood as I got along in my job as the national coach that people have opinions and I am not here to change their opinion. Respect it instead of losing energy in not agreeing with a piece in the paper. I just don't read it. I think that's a healthy way to go about it. It worked for me. And the Dutch do demand medals (from all competitions). That's one of the things I've started to change when I became the national men's coach.

"We have the most of everything - the most number of pitches, the most clubs and most players in the world on the men's side and we underperform. Our last World Cup win is 1998, Olympics was in 2000. Surely, you don't expect us to win every tournament because other teams also play to win. Every team here can win but if you look at our resources and results, there's a big difference. That's what I tried to do in the beginning and now we are on the right track."

While professionally Caldas has hit the right notes more often than not, personally he's suffered a setback but has taken it on the chin and soldiered on gracefully. He married Alyson Annan, considered one of the greatest female hockey players, but separated within two years after the Sydney Olympics. Caldas later came to know that Annan, who now coaches the Dutch women's team, found love in former Netherlands' women's team captain Carole Thate. Annan later married Thate. That was also the time when Caldas' personal form dipped and he migrated to the Netherlands in search of greener pastures.

Caldas felt every experience in life hands out a lesson. "No, it (the separation) didn't affect me. I am married to a beautiful woman now. I've got four kids and a dog so I have a really lovely life in Holland with my wife. I was married to a woman who happened to be a hockey player so there's a big difference in that. I think every experience in your life makes you€takes you to where you are now. I don't have any regrets, you learn from things and you move along, understand yourself better so yeah, it's a part of my life I don't want to forget or don't want it buried. It is what it is. I made the choice to be there. That's a part of what makes you who you are now. That's the way I see it."

Eager to learn new things, Caldas has always maintained an open mind. That perhaps is why he was successful with the women's team and is getting the men's team back on track.

Go to Top

More from this section
Photo Gallery
An electricity board worker installs a new line for the upcoming Magh Mela festival at Sangam...

An electricity board worker installs a new line for the upcoming Magh Mela festival at Sangam...

An Indian paramilitary soldier marches past the MI-8 helicopter during its phasing out ceremony...

An Indian paramilitary soldier marches past the MI-8 helicopter during its phasing out ceremony...

Transgenders society members during a protest against 'TG Bill 2016' at Parliament Street...

Transgenders society members during a protest against 'TG Bill 2016' at Parliament Street...

Protestors burn posters of U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest, organised by...

Protestors burn posters of U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest, organised by...

A man walks past the Coronation Pillar at a park in north-west Delhi that marks the iconic...

A man walks past the Coronation Pillar at a park in north-west Delhi that marks the iconic...

A laptop bag made out of cement by Indian artist Somesh Singh exhibited at the Craft Beton...

A laptop bag made out of cement by Indian artist Somesh Singh exhibited at the Craft Beton...

A view of snow covered mountains of Kashmir valley which caused due to recent heavy snowfall...

A view of snow covered mountains of Kashmir valley which caused due to recent heavy snowfall...

Snow covered mountains of Pir Panjal range seen in the backdrop of Chamera Lake in Chamba on Sunday.

Snow covered mountains of Pir Panjal range seen in the backdrop of Chamera Lake in Chamba on Sunday.

A view of the Gomateshwara statue of Shravanabelagola in Karnataka. A scaffolding and visitors...

A view of the Gomateshwara statue of Shravanabelagola in Karnataka. A scaffolding and visitors...

A view of the illuminated Takhat Shri Harmandir Saheb Gurdwara to mark of 350th Prakash Parv...

A view of the illuminated Takhat Shri Harmandir Saheb Gurdwara to mark of 350th Prakash Parv...

Like us on Facebook

Copyright 2017, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523
Powered by Yodasoft Technologies Pvt. Ltd.