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How fair is this coach swap for the Women's Hockey Team?

How fair is this coach swap for the Womens Hockey Team?

Press Releases

Published: 1 May 2018 10:16 AM GMT
Two fourth place finishes in Hockey at the Commonwealth Games but with a stark difference- while one was heralded as an example of how far the team has come, the other one with all its glory leading up to the tournament was marked as disappointing. While the women showed spirit in their clashes, even defeating a major chunk of the team that won the Olympics, the lack of this fight by men had left room for quite a few questions after the tournament was completed. The questions mostly centered around Sjoerd Marijne, about why is appointment and his presence in India was deemed to be so important. If one is to take a short trip down the events of the recent past, it's really not hard to remember that Marijne had been deemed not good enough for the job when he was their coach before taking over the top job of the men's team. Apart from a win at the Asia Cup, a Bronze at the World League and a modest fourth place finish at the Commonwealth Games, there was not much that Marijne could boast of during his tenure which also included a disastrous showing at Sultan Azlan Shah.
Which makes the current move of reinstating him as the coach of the women's team all the more surprising. Even if, for a minute, we do forget about the fact that David John (The High Performance Director) had categorically spoken out saying that "Marijne's job is safe", the logic behind this ludicrous coach swap is indeed beyond comprehension. Musing upon David John's most recent statement, one cannot help but marvel at the blatant lie that came out on behalf of Hockey India, the country's governing body for the sport. For now, lets keep that one ridiculous thing aside for another ridiculous day and focus more on the issue at hand.
How long will the women's team be treated this way?
Firstly, Marijne was appointed the coach of the women's team in Fenruary last year only to be given a new role in September when he replaced his countryman Roelant Oltman's for the coach of the men's team. He had been on the cusp of building a competitive side with the women's team and under his tutelage, the team had reached the semi-finals of the Hockey World League. Heads were turned when Marijne was appointed for the job at the men's team given that the Dutchman had no prior experience with a senior men's side. Reports at the time had also suggested that he had been quite reluctant to take up the job. This current situation then begs the question.
How is a man, not deemed good enough to coach one National side, appointed the coach of another National side?
Is not the women's team on an equal footing priority wise when it comes to appointing people for the top jobs? Secondly, how right is it to make the Women's national team go through a change in coaches again? With Marijne being reinstated, there will now be an added pressure to unlearn all the progress that has been made in the very capable hands of Harendra Singh only to adjust to the strategy and mentality of someone who had been touted as not good enough previously. Thirdly, for a year that is this important for Indian Hockey, was this swap really needed?
Why was Marijne given the job at the men's team in the first place when Harendra Singh was positioned to be a much better fit for it, when the Dutchman himself was reluctant about it? What purpose did this 6-month experiment solve? And lastly, why undo all the progress that the women's team has made under Harendra Singh? Barely a few weeks into the job, Harendra's motivation was enough for the girls to win the Asia Cup beating formidable opponents in the road to victory. Over the months that Singh has worked with the girls, the progress and change in demeanor of the team has been visible and commendable. In several interviews given by key members of the women's team, they all had one thing to say- that they were comfortable with their coach, they bonded well and he made them a team.
Is it then right to make the women's team pay?
For the past few years, the administration at Hockey India has done remarkably well to understand that a game of Hockey is not strictly played on the turf alone- giving importance to other important and often ignored factors like mental health, physiotherapy and a strict monitored diet. But random goof ups like this are what end up undoing all that good leaving things in utter disarray. It might be too early to comment here but whether or not this latest decision adversely affects the women's team again remains to be seen. And if and when it does, we hope Hockey India will be ready with a feasible explanation as to why this step was considered necessary.
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