Keep it simple, says Staniforth

Keep it simple, says Staniforth

Goalkeeping coach pleased with progress of young Indians

Keep it simple, says Staniforth

The first time he walked into the Indian hockey scene in 2013, the national side had hit a new low. A dismal show at the London Olympics meant a revamp in the back room staff and one of the many people who came in was Dave Staniforth.

Hired as the strategic analyst and goalkeeping coach, Staniforth had just one aim -- to ensure that this team gets a reliable man between the sticks by the time another Olympics came around.

It’s 2016 and the Indian side has had a satisfactory season so far. The final phase of preparations for the Rio Olympics are in full swing and PR Sreejesh has gone on to become one of the most solid goalkeepers of the game. Finally it seems like Staniforth is a satisfied man. “I came in by 2013 when the team was preparing for the Asia Cup in Ipoh (Malaysia),” he said.

“Since then, the team has improved. The team has won a handful of medals at the biggest level, and Sreejesh is one of the best in the world.” Ask him about the secret behind the tremendous rise in Sreejesh’s performance, the former Olympian has just one reply: “Keep it simple.”

“I focus on the basics of goalkeeping. If you don’t have the basics then you’ve got a problem. That was the starting point for his (Sreejesh’s) improvement. The best part is that he understands what’s required. “I think when one million Indians are watching, you want something really simple to rely on,” explained the South African.

Being tipped as one of the best in the world can be a double-edged sword. While it can go a long way in boosting a player’s confidence, in some cases the pressure of expectation can consume the player. And Staniforth believes that with Sreejesh, one need not bother about the latter ever.

“He’s a clever guy. When on the field, he knows what’s right and what’s not. When things don’t go well, he often comes off and says ‘I was on my heels, I wasn’t in the right position and so on.’ That shows how closely he understands the game. I think he can manage the pressure perfectly,” Staniforth pointed out.

While the Kerala man continues be the first-choice ’keeper for the national side, Staniforth believes that the future of goalkeeping in India too looks bright with the likes of Vikas Dahiya and Krishna Pathak hitting the right notes.

“I think there’s plenty now. Not that long ago, there was one goalkeeper to hold on to for every tournament. There are lot of genius goalkeepers coming through. Vikas and Krishna are really good. Moreover, Sreejesh is an excellent role model. Earlier, everyone wanted to be striker and now most of them want to be goalkeepers now because we have one of the world’s best in our team,” he added.