Hockey India’s High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans was happy to share his expertise with the SDAT coaches recently

Roelant Oltmans' success as a coach has been outstanding. The stalwart’s stints with the Netherlands men and women teams for nearly a decade have been noteworthy. He has coached the teams to a gold medal in the World Cup, apart from guiding the men’s team (for the first time) to a first-place finish in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

So, when the 59-year-old, now Hockey India’s High Performance Director, recently came to Chennai to conduct a four-day workshop for the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) coaches, it created a huge buzz. For the majority of participants, it was a wonderful experience getting to listen to every word uttered by one of the greats of the game.

What amazed Oltmans himself was the coaches’ passion for the game despite the lack of infrastructure.

“It is always great to share knowledge with people who show avid interest in the game. That’s fantastic,” he said. Sharing doesn’t mean just conducting a workshop and going back home, he said, adding, “It means understanding the problems the coaches face and helping them evolve ways to surmount them.” Oltmans lavished praise on the coaches who worked tirelessly with limited facilities. “I consider myself fortunate. I have so many (software) programmes to assist me. For instance, the equipment I use for match analysis is wide-ranging. However, some of the coaches here work with limitations; nevertheless, they do their utmost to get the best out of their athletes,” said the Dutchman.

Oltmans didn’t mince words about what ails Indian hockey. He said there is a whale of a difference between International hockey and how the game is played here. 'Total hockey' is the way forward for the Indian teams, according to Oltmans. “What I have tried to tell them is ‘everyone is an attacker the moment when we are in possession and everyone is a defender when we are not in possession.’ You have to make clear structures for that (total hockey),” he said.

“We’ve had coaches with varied experience here. If you teach them the right techniques, they are eager to learn. I can teach players something that will help them better their performance,” he said. Each of the 25 coaches learnt something new from the programme. Suresh Babu, Integral Coach Factory’s coach, said what Oltmans taught was useful as it involved “high intensive skills.”

Dinesh Kumar, YMCA coach, described the programme as “a global hockey package”. He said Oltmans used new terminologies currently in vogue, which were “very helpful to us. He taught us match analysis, planning and preparing a team for a tournament and the tools to motivate a team before and after a match,” said Dinesh.

For the Dindigul-based coach R. Siva whose district doesn’t possess a synthetic turf, the workshop proved to be a mixed blessing. “Our players get to play on an artificial turf during a State-level tournament. Otherwise they play only on gravel,” said the 33-year-old.

According to him, Oltmans’ lessons on how to receive and trap the ball may not be implemented fully for the players are used to playing on an uneven track. “But what he taught about body positions, follow-through and man-to-man marking made enormous sense,” said Siva.

Regular workshops involving seasoned and high-profile coaches will go a long way towards updating the knowledge of the local coaches, which in turn will prove beneficial for young players.

Not surprisingly, during the valedictory function, K. Rajaraman, Member Secretary, SDAT, announced that a Level I course (approved by the International hockey body) would be held soon.