New hockey coach Marijne brings player-driven, coach-assisted process

Bengaluru, Sep 25: Newly-appointed Indian hockey team chief coach Sjoerd Marijne is bracing up for his first test in the form of the Asia Cup, scheduled to start on October 11, and is currently incorporating a mantra of player-driven, coach-assisted process to know his squad's strengths and weaknesses.

Dutchman Marijne, who joined the men's squad last week, replaced sacked Roelant Oltmans. Marijne's new wards enter an important cycle with major tournaments coming up in the next 15 months including the Hockey World League (HWL) Final in December, Commonwealth Games in April followed by the Asian Games and the 2018 World Cup.

At the national camp that's underway at the Sports Authority of India, Bengaluru campus, it is a usual sight for senior players Sardar Singh, S.V. Sunil and skipper Manpreet Singh to stay back after every training session to give their feedback to Marijne.

Goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, who is also back in the camp after recovering from an injury, too is often seen having long animated conversations with the coach about areas that require improvement ahead of the Asia Cup in Dhaka.

This exercise is part of the team's new mantra - "Player-driven, coach-assisted process" where seniors are expected to give their critical analysis on specific areas of the game.

"The Hero Asia Cup 2017 is a fresh start not just for me but also the team who are mentally prepared to return home with the title. I believe this process initiated by Hockey India and the High Performance Director David John will help bring a better understanding on how the team wants to play," he said on Monday.

"My first few days with the team has been about understanding each one of them. Of course, I already knew all of them by name and I was aware of the immense talent and energy they bring as players," the Dutchman added.

"I am now focusing on understanding how the team wants to play so I can set goals for the training sessions on where they want to improve."

Under Marijne, there will be a lot of emphasis on development of junior players. "It takes time for the junior players to get to the level of seniors and requires good match exposure to reach that level.

"But what I like is the internal competition and with a great set of junior players pushing the seniors for a spot in the team, I believe it will work for the best," he added.

The Hero Asia Cup will be Marijne's first big tournament after taking over the reins but that apart, he believes this tournament will reveal the areas that will need improvement moving forward.

"There is a difference between training sessions and playing tournament matches. While I am convinced with the efforts the team puts into training, the Hero Asia Cup is where I will get to see how the team reacts in match situations and where we are lacking and need immediate improvement," he concluded.

India feature in Pool A alongside Japan, hosts Bangladesh and Pakistan. They will start their tournament against Japan on October 11, before facing Bangladesh on October 13. The team will play their third and final league match against arch-foes Pakistan on October 15.

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