Experienced defender Rupinder Pal Singh on Saturday emphasised that Hockey India ensuring a centralised training program for the national teams has been crucial in improving their performance over the years. He highlighted that only a few international teams have such a well-rounded set-up with support staff and players living on the same campus. "We are one of the few teams in the world to have a centralised coaching program where all the players from the core group get to live together, practice together and play competitive matches through the year," said Rupinder.
The 29-year-old, who made his international debut in 2010, said the centralised coaching program helps develop a consistent playing style. "This helps develop a consistent playing style and we are lucky to have a program like this through the year. Of course, this year has been different with no tournaments due to the COVID-19 situation. But having a national program that is scientifically-planned with regular coaching camps followed by tours has largely helped the team climb up the world ranking over the years."
One of the other factors that Rupinder believes has helped the men's team in particular is having events in India. "I feel Hockey India hosting back-to-back events in India has also been a contributing factor to our performance. Playing in front of home crowd is not just an incredible feeling but there's also a lot of pressure to perform. This exposure obviously helps us face greater challenges when we play abroad. Playing in India also increases our fan-base, gets newer spectators to watch the sport and people end up following us when we travel abroad too."
The drag flicker has been part of some of India's significant victories such as the 2014 Asian Games, Asian Champions Trophy in 2011 and 2016. While the past few months have been challenging for the team, Rupinder feels the lockdown period helped the team develop their technical knowledge about the game and also up their skill. "I always like to see positive side to any scenario and I truly feel the series of lockdowns helped us develop our technical knowledge base. We would watch a lot of videos, analyze matches, discuss video referrals etc while we remained indoors with no hockey allowed. We have also studied our opponents during this period and all these aspects will be beneficial for us in our preparations for the Olympic Games," he said.
He further highlighted that going back to basics when activities resumed in the national coaching camp has helped perfect their skills. "We have paid a lot of attention to basics when we resumed activities in SAI, Bengaluru. I believe this has helped the entire group perfect our skills. We will be increasing intensity this month onwards and we have built a solid base to take greater work load in the coming months," stated an optimistic Rupinder.