'Our defence makes me angry'

Oltmans laments the lack of strong youth development programme

Many would instantly agree that defence is the biggest weakness of Indian hockey team. However, Hockey India’s High Performance Director and chief coach Roelant Oltmans chose to disagree, rather terming it ‘as an area of improvement’.

“Always in India we keep talking about weaknesss, weakness, weaknesss,” said the Dutchman after a rigorous training session at the SAI campus here on Monday.
“There is no weakness. I would call it areas of improvement and we are working hard on that aspect. I’ve seen that some people have concerns about our defence but it’s all about structure and that’s what we will be focussing on in this camp.

“We’ve already discussed several defensive structures and each and every player knows what their role is. When there is a good structure in place we can work from that. So far its all been theoretical and we’ve just got to put into practice. So I reiterate, we don’t have bad defenders but good ones. They just need to improve.”
The 59-year-old, known for his tactical acumen, however did admit that defenders irk him at times. “The way they defend sometimes makes me a little angry. We don’t use the stick the right way, and that can lead to penalty corners. We run into defenders in our 25-yard zone. When they do it during our exercises, I immediately stop  the game and talk to them about it.

“Communication on the field is important. Defence is a team effort -- you can’t blame any one person. What is defence? Everybody is a defender when the opponent is in possession; we have 11 defenders, not just three or four of them.”

The no-nonsense Dutchman, who guided his country to Olympic gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games before clinching the World Cup two years later at Utrecht, lamented the lack of a strong youth development programme which has resulted in players graduating to the senior team with not-so-great skill levels.

“I see these boys (here at the camp) are improving but the bigger problem is there is no good youth development programme. These boys start on a level which is not high enough, and to be honest good skills has to be learnt between 10-14 years of age. You don’t learn basic skills at 27-28 or even 21-22 for that matter.”

There have suggestions from several quarters to appoint a sports psychologist to motivate the team that often crumbles at the slight hint of pressure. Oltmans felt it’s better to appoint someone on a permanent basis who would travel with the team continuously. “Yes, it would be nice to bring someone (sports psychologist) in but not in these seven weeks. We don’t have time for it now. We have to work for seven weeks in only one direction.

“It’s part of the long term plan and we need to find someone who’s willing to be with the team on a permanent basis. Not someone who flies in, delivers a session and goes away.”

Oltmans also revealed that striker Gurwinder Singh Chandi will be out of next month’s Asia Cup as he has failed to recover in time from the injury that he suffered during the Hockey India League earlier this year.

Comments (+)