Indian women's football team head coach Maymol Rocky has attributed her side's improvements in recent times to the "introduction of strength training" into the players' regular regime.
Speaking about it at length on AIFF TV, Maymol referred to the period when she first introduced it in the team. "We were preparing for the Olympic qualifiers and I remember the meeting with (general secretary) Kushal Das sir and (national teams director) Abhishek Yadav. We had a long camp and that was where we first introduced strength training in our regime," Maymol said.
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"We had two physios, and both of them would be working 24-7 on different training exercises for the girls. We'd have one strength session in the morning, and a tactical session in the evening. We'd also have a video analysis session where we would show the girls where they went wrong and work on improving their games. These things made a world of difference. Girls also need to be strong on the pitch, and this unit has proven that. Along with the strength sessions, the physios also paid a lot of attention to the diet to "supplement the training procedure". It's all about knowing what to eat. They're used to eating the usual home-food when they go back from the camp. But I made it a rule that if anybody comes back overweight they'd have to do a lot of extra work during the camps. That has got the girls cautious," Maymol opined.
India made history as they qualified from the AFC Women's Olympic Qualifiers Round 1 for the first time. While the team's core strength, fitness and footballing aptitude was being formed at the camp, Maymol realised that it was a comparatively young and inexperienced side that she had at her disposal. While that meant a lot of enthusiasm on the pitch, she also understood that she needed a few cool heads who could guide the younger ones as per the demands of the situations.
Maymol identified goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan, captain Ashalata Devi, and striker Bala Devi as the three pillars of the team. "I have relied heavily on these three to keep the spirits high in the team. They are the three most experienced players in my team. They have really held the squad together," said Maymol. "Aditi and Asha were always around me letting me know how the players felt, and what they wanted," she quipped. "Asha has the bigger responsibility of guiding the girls as she is the captain. Aditi also knows when to be serious or when to lighten the mood."