Twenty-five-year-old Joris Oolsthorn, with a degree in mechanical engineering in hand, knows he has a bright future ahead. Only, the Dutchman is not sure if he wants it, enamoured as he is with hockey.

Oolsthorn’s Asia trip started in Hong Kong, where he joined a group of friends from Holland, before moving to India.

In the two weeks he has been here, Oolsthorn has coached underprivileged kids from government schools across Delhi in collaboration with One Thousand Hockey Legs, an NGO run by K. Arumugam, which aims to promote hockey in the country. “I just wanted to travel after finishing engineering because I have never been out of Europe. I play at and also coach a club called Concordia in Holland and since my travel coincided with the Hockey India League (HIL), I wanted to watch a few games as well.

But my interaction with these kids and their commitment to the game has been an amazing experience,” Oolsthorn says, keeping one eye on the nearly 50 kids playing at the Siri Fort Sports Complex.

Plenty of talent

According to him, the talent and skills he has seen here are simply not present anywhere in Europe. And, unlike most others, he favours youngsters starting out on grass before playing on artificial turf.

“One-two years on grass is very good for developing basic skills. For example, kids here are natural at hitting the ball and controlling it, which is necessary on grass turf.

“Some of them have far better skills than I. Back home, I have difficulty trying to teach because everyone plays on turf and they don’t know what a hit is.

“That said, the talented players should move to turf as soon as possible to develop their game to the next level. It is a fine balance,” he says.

Asked about the vast gap in teams at the international level, Oolsthorn credits the Dutch structure. “ In Holland, we have clubs at every level and our domestic structure is the strongest and toughest.”

HIL a boon

About the HIL, Oolsthorn believes it will help young Indians the most.

Oolsthorn is now planning to complete his Masters in teaching to have more time for hockey. “I know I can make very good money as an engineer, but I will have to quit hockey for that. I also know that teaching doesn’t pay much in Holland but it will give me more time for the game.

“Engineering is my choice, hockey is my passion. Tough call,” he says with a laugh.

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