‘HIL removes fear psychosis in Indians’

Cedric D'Souza feels that the opportunity to coach top class athletes from different parts of the world, and also get first-hand experience of the country, is what attracts foreign coaches to HIL.

Cedric D'Souza feels that the opportunity to coach top class athletes from different parts of the world, and also get first-hand experience of the country, is what attracts foreign coaches to HIL.  

Delhi Waveriders coach Cedric D’Souza says the league has been a fantastic platform for the development of young Indian players

Hockey India League (HIL) teams coached by Indians emerged champion in two out of the three editions (Delhi Waveriders in 2014 and Ranchi Rays in 2015). Do team owners appoint foreign coaches in pursuit of success and at the expense of capable local talent?

I can’t really tell what team owners think, but Delhi Waveriders has persisted with Indian coaches since the inception of the league.

What made Waveriders click in 2014? The team was filled with big international names and Indian stars. How did you develop a working relationship? Any incident or example from HIL 2014 to support your explanation?

The key was gelling, bonding and respecting one another. We also had a sports scientist, Robin Van Ginkle, who strapped every player with a heart rate monitor and monitored their fitness, recovery and the physiological aspects of each player. Our rolling substitution is strictly based on science. However for tactical purposes, we may overrule the systems.

Foreign coaches, some with Olympic/World Cup podium finishes, are drawn to the league. From your interaction with them, is the opportunity to be involved in an event broadcast live on television or the money an attraction?

I think the foreign coaches are all renowned and well-established experts, so franchises have gone for their experience and availability. I don’t think the coaches are involved in the league because of money. It is the opportunity to coach top class athletes from different parts of the globe, probably in one of the most talked about and gruelling tournaments in the world, as well as get first-hand experience of our country, that attracts them.

What benefits do you see from the HIL for Indian players?

The HIL had been a fantastic platform for the exposure and development of our Indian players, especially the youngsters. Where would they get this invaluable exposure to so many of the world’s best, either as teammates or as opponents? The fear psychosis and inhibitions get eradicated when you rub shoulders or spar against the cream of hockey during this league.

City-based leagues (like HIL, ISL, IPL and PBL) allow Indian players (international and juniors) to mix with world stars. Any thoughts on its effect on Indian sport?

A very, very positive effect on youth development, the creation of future leaders and stars which augurs well for the overall growth of experienced players. These leagues are thereby enhancing and increasing the quality and quantity of the player base.

Greece, at the 2004 Athens Olympics, was your first assignment with a foreign nation. How was the experience?

Greece was a very difficult task as it had to prove it was good enough to participate at home by winning against Canada in a three-match qualifier. I took over the team in June 2003 and played the qualifier in eight months. It was a very tall order, but a fantastic experience with endless hours of hard work, and great teamwork. Lifelong bonds were created. Although we did not make it to the Olympics, I was there for an additional five years working on youth development. All in all, it was an absolutely amazing six years in total.

Your next foreign assignment is Austria.

Austria has appointed me as national coach for four years till the 2020 Olympic Games. Structure, exposure and raising the profile of the clubs are the main areas I will be focussing on. The key is to fine-tune and manage the entire process, which will be a joint effort with the club. The focus will naturally be the national team, but equal, if not more, importance will be put into youth development. My dream is to once again walk at the opening ceremony at Tokyo.

As a coach moving up the ranks here — Air India to Mumbai to India — did the coaching philosophy of anyone in particular inspire you? Please explain why.

Horst Wein was my guru. His tactical acumen, methodology, reading of the game and foresight of modern hockey culminated in him writing so many brilliant books. The first book that captured me totally and hooked me on to coaching was ‘The Science Of Hockey’. It was my coaching bible way back in the early 1980s. Horst and I eventually met in 1995, and since then we have become great friends. Apart from him, there was David Whitaker, Frank Murray, Paul Lissek, Bernhard Peters, Thomas Tichelman, Marcus Weise, Ric Charlesworth and Barry Dancer. They were contemporaries, and through interactions have influenced my coaching ethos.

FIH is okay with rule experiments in HIL — a field goal is equal to two. Do you have any ideas of your own in order to make field hockey spectacular and popular?

The key is to make hockey spectator-friendly by encouraging more goals. As more goals are scored, more the cheering, connect and interaction with the viewing public. With the implementation of a field goal being worth two goals, coaches have had to think out the box and adapt according to the match situation. Another aspect that can be looked into is reducing the number of players from 11 to 9.

HIL is played in various cities on a home-and-away format. Your thoughts on how the crowd brings out the best in Delhi Waveriders?

The biggest crowds are in Ranchi and Bhubaneswar. Crowds do lift the home team’s performance. The home and away games logically does nullify any undue advantages. It all depends on how much support the home crowd gives by thronging to the stadium. My take on this is that both Ranchi Rays and Kalinga Lancers get the biggest and most vociferous support. Waveriders do not have any favourite city as we try and focus on aspects that we can control and not on those that we cannot. With the shift from the National Stadium to Shivaji Stadium in New Delhi, I am hoping the connect with the spectators will be much better due to the close proximity. Their support will be most welcome.

Mumbai players have made their mark in HIL, adjusting to different coaches and teammates, foreign or Indian. Your view on Mumbai hockey…

I can’t speak much about Mumbai hockey as I have been out of the country for quite a few years. I can talk about Mumbai players who are with us at Delhi Waveriders. They (Yuvraj Walmiki & Amit Gowda) are hard-working, very adjusting and want to learn more with each passing day.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 11:02:18 AM |

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