'Players yet to realise magnitude of Olympics'

Eves' camp begins under Hawgood

'Players yet to realise magnitude of Olympics'

In his second stint with the Indian women’s hockey team, chief coach Neil Hawgood feels his toughest task will be to make the players understand the magnitude of Olympic Games.

Hawgood, who first coached the national women’s team for a period of two years from 2012-2014, returned to the helm in October last and the 53-year-old Australian said that the team will have a busy schedule before the all-important Rio Olympics.

Speaking to reporters during the national camp here at the Sports Authority of India, Southern Centre, Hawgood revealed the plans for Rio, on areas of concern and much more. Excerpts:

On the Olympic Games: I feel the players have progressed a lot but the disappointing part for me is the fact that they are yet to understand the magnitude of the event. The men’s team will know the seriousness around Olympics because they have been a part of it before but the women’s team do not have anybody to ask about what it is like playing in the Olympics. This is one aspect I am working upon.

 On India’s chances at Rio: Our realistic goal will be to perform well. At the Olympics there are no easy groups. We go into the Olympics as the second lowest ranked group. The other group has Holland and New Zealand. We have Australia and Argentina. I don’t think there is  much difference. You always have to win so many games to progress. I think we have good chance of upsetting teams. In the recent past, We drew against Argentina and Australia and lost to China in Tests. There is nothing really to be afraid of. It is more about the girls handling the pressure of playing at the Olympics.

On his plans during the camp: The camp will go on till February 18. I intend to work on the conditioning and strength of the players. We have also brought in junior players for the camp . I am trying to build healthy competition in the camp.

On the South Asian Games: It has come as a bit of a problem for us. We hadn’t planned for it and it is a distraction as there is a tour of South Africa from February 13. But we need to accept the challenge. So we will leave a core group here which will go to South Africa and we will take another team to South Asian Games. 

On the mood in the camp: The players are currently feeling very comfortable that they are in the Olympics probables. I want them to know that they can be tired and sour but at the end of the day, the Olympics will wait for none. They need to push themselves hard and learn to handle pressure. We are working with a sports psychologist employed by the Hockey India on the mental toughness of the players.

On the schedule: The South Africa tour will end on March 4. We resume our camp from March 10 and train till March 26. We then head to New Zealand for a four-nation tour from April 1 to 10. Post that, we travel to England on April 26 for three Tests against Great Britain. On 26 May we ahead to Australia for a four-nation tournament from June 1 to June 7.

On skipper Ritu Rani: Ritu became the captain at the age of 18. So she has been facing pressure from a young age. She had to deal with losses and defeats from a young age. We are trying to help her by spreading responsibility among other players.
 

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