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Interview: Horst Wein on Indian Hockey (11/7/2009)
--s2h Team
Horst Wein needs no introduction. A hockey player par excellence, a master coach with assignments in five Olympic sports in 53 countries and author of 34 text boxes--mainly in hockey and football--the 60-year-old German lives in the adopted home of Barcelona (Spain) for the last 20 years. A special invitee at the Medcon 2009, Dr Wein talk about the problems that Indian hockey faces and the changes it needs to undergo immediately.

Q After the Montreal Olympics, the playing surface was changed from grass to synthetic at the international level. How far did it affect the performance of teams from the subcontinent, particularly India where hockey is generally played on grass.?

A. Grass hockey is history. And you can reverse it any more. But the real difference between India and other leading hockey-playing nations is that the Indians have stuck to the traditional style of coaching and playing while the European nations have made rapid progress through changes in all aspects of the game.

Q As you know, India failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. What reasons do you attribute for missing the bus?
A As per my observation, your players don’t go through a well structured system of youth competitions as in countries like Germany or Spain, the last Olympic finalists. They have only played throughout their career a 11-a-side game which I consider is the cancer of Indian hockey as none of the young participating players is understanding what is happening on the ground. Hockey India is too rigid and should modify as quickly as possible through exposure talented youth to different age-oriented competitions . Their competitions should be like the shoes of the kids, should fit them perfectly. Then the progress will come in as I consider the games of mini-hockey, six or eight-side-hockey as masters of the game and not the coach. Fresh ideas should be infused like inter-changing players more often during the game as it actually happens elsewhere in all major tournaments. European teams generally change players in the forward-line and midfield every eight minutes. This enables them to recover adequately and go back to the match with a renewed energy. This way, at least 50 inter-changes of players should take place in every match.

Q How do you rate the current Indian team? What are the prospects of the team in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games?

For a podium finish, the Indian team needs to work with quality and efficiently than the teams which are already ahead of them. In a short period of time, you cannot expect miracles.

A What about the London Olympics. Does India stand any chance of qualifying?

At this moment, we should be optimistic as Hockey India is putting in all efforts to avoid the mishap that happened before Beijing. To excel in the future Olympics Games, a new generation of players should be spotted and trained or developed on modern line for more than eight years. Hockey administrators should put in practice an Indian development model. And this way all academies and schools would be guided in future to achieve through its application the desired success.

What changes do you suggest?

The playing structure needs to be changed. Take for example, in Spain. Kids play 3-a-side in their formative years up to 10 years. Then they switch over to six-a -side as they grow up. Finally they are introduced to 8-a-side game on three-quarters of the field for the 12-13 old boys and girls.

Playing with this different format not only improves gradually the players’ perception, but also enables them to make quick decisions. Improving the above aspect of the game helps them later on when they play 11-a-side at the senior division with more quality and effectively, making less mistakes than ever before as the games are growing in difficulty and complexity with their intelligence and physical fitness levels.

What about the Indian coaching system?

It is really poor at present and needs to be improved in all aspects. Different coaches for various age group should be employed to stimulate young players. In India, generally a coach is asked to train all players, independent of their age. It is impossible to be a specialist to develop an eight or nine year old and at the same time be a top-performance coach. With kids you should not look out for results, but should be aimed at improving their perception, decision-making and hockey specific skills.

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