The poor performance of the men’s team in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, cost Coach Sjored Marijne his job and Manpreet Singh his captaincy. Despite these changes, however, there was one man who came out of this mess purely unscathed, the high performance director David John.
David John, former exercise physiologist and scientific advisor who did commendable job of helping Indian men team improve its fitness was made High Performance Director of Hockey India replacing Roelant Oltmans who took over from Paul Van Ass to become coach of Indian men hockey team.
The role of a High Performance Director is to lead and implement the strategies to ensure the sustained success of the game and that job requires high level of knowledge about establishing and implementing a high performance plan. That is something which comes with years of experience in this field and it is something that David John is not qualified to do.
Here are three reasons as to why we think David John is not the right fit as India’s High Performance Director.
The job of High Performance Director requires lots of experience and an understanding of the trends that are currently running in the sport. This is a place where David John does not fit the bill.
David John is an exercise psychologist and a scientific advisor. That job is only about improving the fitness of the players you are dealing with. David John, a fitness trainer does not fit the bill to be a High Performance Director and by having him in said position, Hockey India has seriously erred.
During the tenure of Roelant Oltmans who was made High Performance Director in 2013, the team did really well by winning 2014 Asian Games and getting medals in FIH tournaments. It was all because of his understanding of the game. As a HPD, Oltmans job was to prepare a long term strategy for senior, junior and sub-junior teams in addition to preparing the curriculum for the coaches.
David John is inept at these matters. To replace Oltmans as High Performance Directory, Hockey India should have brought is someone better, if not similar. But by bringing in David John, a fitness expert, Hockey India has really put itself in hot soup.
After sacking of Roelant Oltmans in 2017, David John spoke to the media and said- Indian men team should be number 1 team by the year 2020. The results under Roelant Oltmans was not good and the High Performance Development committee was not happy with the long term objectives set by Roelant Oltmans (Oltmans could not promise the committee that Indian team will Gold in 2018 Commonwealth Games.)
Sacking of Oltmans led to Marijne (who, prior to this, had never coached a men’s team) becoming the new coach of Indian men team and now after a poor Commonwealth Games, Marijne has once again moved back to his old position of coaching the Indian women.
Right from the statement from David John, to the decision of sacking Marijne as men’s coach really proves that David John has no vision for Indian hockey. Recently in an interview with a newspaper, Marc Coudron, the President of the Royal Belgian Hockey Association said the team will become World Champions and Olympics Champions by the year 2024.
This statement came after Belgium team who has seen rapid rise in world hockey from the year 2009, finished with a silver medal in 2016 Rio Olympics. Comparing David John’s statement on India becoming top team by 2020 to one given by Marc Courdron makes one feel that the David John has no clear vision and understanding of the Indian team’s current position in world hockey.
The role of High Performance Director is to build a strategy that will ultimately lead to achieving the goals set by the board. In India’s case, it is to win medal in the Olympics or winning a World Cup.
To achieve a huge goal of winning a World Cup or a medal in Olympics, the High Performance director will have to understand the team’s strengths and prepare a strategy to work on the weakness.
Ever since David John joined Hockey India in 2012, there is just one thing he talks about- fitness. No doubt that fitness of Indian team has improved considerably and it matches the top teams but fitness alone is not enough to win a game. You need experience in your side as well.
The team needs the right blend of players with skills, have players with experience in the squad.
For David John, any player who is over the age of 30 is old and is removed from the squad while on the other hand; players from his own country, Australia are playing till the age of 34-36 and winning medals for the country.
Top teams in the world do well because they have right balance of youth and experienced players, be it in any sport. Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United built his teams three times after the exodus of players but it was all because of his teams had the right amount of youth and experience. In an interview in 2017, David John said he wants the team to have a blend of both youth and experience while as soon as the player reaches 30 years of age or gets injured, they are removed from the squad.
A High Performance Director’s job is possibly the most important job of any sports federation and everyone, even the most experienced coaches, look up to the High Performance Director. It’s the HPD who gives the goals and visions and strategy of achieving the target of the federation. David John has not given any confidence as a High Performance Director with his rigid strategy and no vision and he certainly is not the right man for Indian hockey.