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September 6, 1999

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send this column to a friend Cedric D'Souza

Catch Them Young!

Grassroot development is what I will dwell on this time. But before doing that I wish to set the record straight. Some critics have said I have forgotten what hockey has done for me; I am not giving as much back to the game after all it did for me. I prefer to treat all this talk with utter disdain, because I do believe the IHF is shooting its mouth off without really knowing the facts. Besides, they are only confirming their usual methods of maligning someone who is not a 'yes-man'.

Ironically, this same federation which had said I was a hockey fanatic and a die-hard hockey buff, now feels I am selfish!

I wonder how they will answer this next question: Could not I have just accepted the monetary benefits the IHF was offering me whilst I was offered the national coach's job? Instead of accepting their money, here I am taking on their responsibility by investing my time, effort and money into a project that will ultimately help them and the cause of hockey in the country.

In my last article I mentioned I would brief you on what I am doing with my life vis--vis hockey. As promised, here goes:

I have plunged myself totally into the development of kids. This is my new passion -- a passion realised when I took on the onus of being a consultant for the coaching of 12-year-old kids in Jalandhar. I cannot describe the utter joy and satisfaction I have derived from these wards -- their enthusiasm, commitment, discipline, desire and willingness to learn has surpassed all boundaries that I faced during my coaching career. I must quickly point out this is something new for me too. It is the first time I am coaching children -- having been coach at the club, state and national level for seniors.

Let me very emphatically state there is no dearth of talent in the country. We have abundant skill but woefully lack in tactics, strategy, mental approach, fitness and specific game-related and result-oriented skills, like the drag flick, poaching and running without the ball.

As a national coach you get players in training camps who already have certain skills which they have mastered since their childhood. These skills might require changes, depending on the coach's plans and what he might want from his players. Learning a new skill is not that difficult, but it is the altering of old skills to suit the modern game that causes major problems.

What we have here is the unwillingness to change one's mindset because of fear of the unknown as well as the reluctance to change what comes naturally. The players cannot be blamed for this, as they have not been trained to accept change. This should have been taught to them at the very onset of their careers. It is my perception it is the system that needs overhauling and the only solution to tackle this problem is to focus and start at the grassroots.

Over the years I have realised that the most critical aspect of success is a firm base -- a good foundation where all the aspects pertaining to modern sport are inculcated and imbibed at a very tender age. This will ensure continuity, consistency and create a uniform and abundant feeder route -- something that is sadly lacking in our sports policy.

As a former national coach, I did interact with the world's elite coaches and administrators, and sometimes, over a glass of beer or meal, there were quite a few exchanges of ideas. Let us be honest -- we lack in both administration and coaching. My policy was to pick their brains and extract what would be beneficial to our cause. Therefore, if software is not available in our country due to lack of know-how, then we should be man enough to accede defeat, eat humble pie and procure expertise from abroad even if has a huge price attached to it.

I have now set up a company called Alchemy Sports Promotion Network, which will deal in all aspects of development of children within schools, institutions and academies at the junior level. These programmes or modules are not only for hockey, but a variety of sports and help ensure peak performance in all aspects of a child's everyday life.

Fortunately, I have been in touch with a lot of my buddies from the rest of the world and now have with me material towards development enhancement. It is really heartening to have so many like-minded people -- be it doctors, fitness trainers, physiotherapists, nutritionists, administrators, coaches, motivators, commentators from the international market -- join me in this project, ready to devote their time, effort and money.

Development, in my opinion, is synonymous with evolvement, growth, evolution, elaboration, expansion and progress. So, the nurturing of one's intrinsic talent, the stimulating of the mind to think, the motivation to perform beyond one's threshold, and the focussing on the physical, mental, psychological aspects become an integral part of a kid's developmental programme.

Most of our coaching is based on the old school of thought. Like yelling instructions and telling the players not to deviate form them. In all honesty, I have also been party to this style of functioning too. However, with the world having changed so drastically, one must also change his thinking to keep abreast with the world and impart what is modern and result-oriented coaching. These new ideas are based on a unique methodology of teaching during coaching sessions, which stresses on and incorporates the following:

1. Motivational teaching.

2. Interactive teaching.

3. Group teaching and dynamics.

4. Use of audio visual aids.

5. Positive reinforcement.

6. Potential enhancement techniques.

7. Increasing of loads.

We have to keep in mind that the only real chance of a medal at the Olympics is from hockey, apart from tennis. Thus, we must make a determined effort to try and ensure we bring about this new culture of professional coaching and systematic administration from the grass root level. Then only, my dear friends, can we realistically say there is still hope for hockey.

Cedric D'Souza

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